Last month I got into the spirit of celebrating women by interviewing various female bloggers who I find cool and who in addition to being cool, add something special to the blogosphere. I don’t remember how, but I had the good fortune to come across Emily He’s page “Grounding My Roots“, and in the subsequent months she has become my lil homey, my chinese lil sister which means if and when we hang she gets free foodstuff from me and if guys don’t approach her correct they may get the shit kicked out of them, provided they arent Triad Gangsters.
There is a deep sense of compassion that comes through Ms Emily’s writing, and a youthful exuberance I haven’t seen since I switched hands when I’m alone. It is because of her compassion and sense of humor that I make jokes as in the case of the preceding sentence. Im happy to interview her now, not as a fellow blogger, but as a fan.
TheMaryOne: What has the experience of grounding your roots in China shed on both the role of women in society and male female relationship in our times compared to times before
To be honest, I came to China expecting a huge gender gap–women being the inferior. To my surprise, this isn’t the case. At least not visibly, and not in Beijing, the developed, wealthy capital of China. From daily observations, women in Chinese (Beijing) society are on an equal economic and social playing field as men. Men are not considered “breadwinners.” Women work as hard and make as much income as men, if not more. Still, however, women since Madam Mao do not make appearances in politics except as the wives of so and so, but in greater society, they still enjoy a lot of power.
Just a few years ago, I had to sit at a table with all the women and children at a dinner party. It was smaller in size and off to the side while all the men and their cigarettes and bottles of Maotai shared a gigantic round table laughing, chatting and clinking glasses in between each bite of food. By the end of dinner, the men were drunk and the women were exhausted from entertaining the kids, and me, I got nauseous from all the cigarette smoke and food I stuffed in my face for the past 3 hours. To put it simply, it was not good times. I haven’t experienced such segregation since I moved to China 8 months ago, but there have been instances where I was really shocked by my family friends’ behaviors.
My parents have old friends who gave birth, after many complications, to their only child in their 40s. To make sure NOTHING would ever happen to her, the mom gave up her music career to care for her daughter full time. Of course it was a choice she made, but 16 years later, she complains that all her life consists of is making sure her daughter does her homework, cooks breakfast, lunch and dinner for the family, and house cleaning. Her job is to make her family happy. Then one day, at dinner at my house, the husband and wife start to bicker about something and he spits out, “Who are you to say anything? You’re a women. You can’t just say whatever you want!” The spoiled daughter echoes her father daily, telling her mother, “Don’t speak, aiyoo, shut up!” Not only has this poor women become the family maid, but she has also lost their respect.
Machismo still lingers, but one thing Mao did get right is that women actually do hold up half the sky. Without women, China’s economy and general well-being wouldn’t have thrive as much as it has in recent years. I’d like to repeat, though, that these observations are solely based on life in Beijing. I think women’s roles in rural provinces are much different as they are allowed to have more children, are generally poorer than those in the city, and are not as frequently exposed to foreign media (which I think has a lot to do with the changing roles of women in this country).
There is so much to be said about this topic, and I’ve only offered the first things that come to mind when thinking about women’s roles and female male relationships in Beijing. It’s a very general overview of my daily observations. And keep in mind, a large part of Chinese culture is keeping face, or not losing face, so perhaps what I have just described to you is actually just a show when in reality, things are much worse. The Chinese are very good at keeping things secret.
TheMaryOne: Are there any female figures in your family that you draw inspiration from and why?
First and foremost my mom. She grew up during the Cultural Revolution, a time where most children like my aunt, my dad’s older sister, were not allowed to finish school and were sent to the fields. My mom, too, was sent to the countryside, however, her musical talent distinguished her from others. Luck had something to do with it, but most of all, it was commitment and passion that made her rise above the rest so that she could be where she is now. What makes my mom so inspiring, above all, is her passion for music. It is her first and most genuine love. It is what keeps her going on (besides me of course, duh). It is basically her religion. She isn’t very good at expressing her emotions through words, but she she as hell can sing it like she means it. I hope I can find something to be as passionate about as my mom has.
TheMaryOne: What do you think is the special contribution you make as a blogger to the blogosphere?
I think I offer a unique insight into life as a very Americanized American Born Chinese (ABC) in China. Yes, I’m sure there are tons of those out there (like Susan, oh my word is she HILARIOUS! I love her blog) , but what makes mine so special? Wellllllllllll, I’m really honest? I make funny jokes once in a while? I put up awesome photos of myself and of the places I’ve been? You’ll have to read it and tell me.
TheMaryOne: Can you tell us why do you like pandas so much, and why do you ignore how dangerous they can be ?
Anything as cute and cuddly as pandas cannot POSSIBLY be dangerous. All they do is sit and eat. They love food. I can relate. I would be pissed and claw your eyes out too if you tried to take away my lunch.
TheMaryOne: How much MSG is too much MSG ?
You know there’s too much MSG when you drink a small pond after your meal. Otherwise, there’s no harm. Chinese people have been eating it for centuries (Idk if that’s a fact), so I don’t know what all this sudden Western allergy to MSG is about. Just another fad I guess.
TheMaryOne: What is the dating scene like in china compared to the US, I imagine things are different there as neither Wesley Snipes nor Method Man are around
I haven’t gone on a single date since I’ve been in China. And I’m not ashamed, thankyouverymuch. But, again from my very general observations, dating isn’t much of a big thing here. Most people get into relationships right away, and then get married and have children. Early 20s is considered a good time to get married and by your mid-late 20s, you’re already getting close to birthing complications. People in rural areas get married even earlier. No wonder little kids already call my mom, who’s in her 50s, grandma. I’m still getting used to the fact that they call me “Ayi,” which is how you address women of your parents’ generation.
Back to dating, as Beijing keeps modernizing, so has the dating game, mostly involving the youth as they are the freshest and most exposed to new media. I notice a lot of high school couples these days, once totally forbidden. In fact, my student’s dad made him break up with his girlfriend when he found out about it by looking through my student’s cell phone. Also, there are a lot of foreign men in China on the hunt for hot Chinese women.
Anyway, I wish I could tell you more about dating, but I’ll just have to get back to you once I get my dating game back.
TheMaryOne: A lot of my Asian friends love hip-hop and rap yet dont drink Malt Liquor or dwelling in the vacuous spaces of hopelessness. How come ?
Actually, this is a very interesting and timely question because I’ve just been thinking along similar lines recently. A lot of young Chinese people are super fashionable, and dress in particular styles like punk, hipster, Dior, or hip hop. But even though at first glance you might think they are punk–shaved head, tattoos, tacky shoes–they’ll start singing Chinese pop songs at Karaoke, with their EYES closed. People don’t live the lifestyle that is portrayed by their clothing (and why should they have to?) as we see in America. They just like the look and dress however they feel. Though funny at first, it’s actually quite admirable. Reminds me of your post on Trayvon Martin where you discuss the significance of our clothing and how it is used to stereotypically identify individuals. In China, this isn’t so.
TheMaryOne: Do you feel the roll of women in society is changing much globally or only in certain places
Only in certain places. Even in China I think it’s only changing in certain places like Beijing and Shanghai where it’s developed and modernized. Overall, I think there is more acknowledgement of the fact that women globally do not share as many rights, or have different rights, than men do, but only in some places are things actually being done about it. I can’t tell you where all these places are exactly around the world, but most notably perhaps Burma (Aung Sun Suu Kyi- a first step), Japan, Israel, and America. These places I think show more significantly the change, or beginning of a change, of women’s roles in society, but there are others places where awareness (very different from activism) of gender inequalities is on the rise including Bangladesh (due to the power of the Grameen Bank), Thailand (sex workers), and even in religious Saudi Arabia (women drivers).
Maybe there are more changes in women’s roles in global society because of the Millennium Development Goals (not that close to enough has been done about it), increased access to information, or more schools, but whatever the reason, whatever is going on still isn’t enough to get women on equal playing fields as men.
TheMaryOne: I have always felt that the feminist movement addressed the right of a certain type of women, not so much the struggles of a minority women or immigrant women. What are your thoughts?
Hmm, considering the “feminist movement” was started by a white, middle-class American woman, I’d say you’re right. And it probably only came to light after the eventual integration of black women, who had to battle two fronts–civil rights and women’s rights–at once. Of course, the silver lining of the feminist movement is that such a thought for women’s equal rights even surfaced (post-suffrage) but like most major events in history, nothing is done comprehensively. Change is never made holistically as it should and would effectively be done. Instead, it takes far too long before anyone realizes, “Oops, I’ve left someone behind,” if that even ever occurs to them. This brings me to the greatest questions of all time: Is it better to have started some good even if it brings some bad, or would it be better not do anything at all? That wasn’t eloquently put, but maybe you get the idea.
TheMaryOne: Do Mongolians take offence at the term Mongoloid? I think we should start a campaign to address this issue?
I should make some friends with Mongolians and I’ll get back to ya! I’ve been wanting to visit anyway. I hear it’s BEAAAAAUTIFUL!
Questions for Mr Mary
The Lovely Ms Emily, has listed some question for me to answer and I shall do so in devastating fashion, I will leave no stone unturned, and there won’t be one social etiquette I won’t have my way with. Here are the questions for you to peruse so that you know whats coming.
1) What inspired you to begin these interviews with women?
2) Even though you’re male, do you feel you relate more to men or to women? I, for example, have a male friend whose best friends, including me, are female. And he has way more female friends than male.
3) Do YOU think the role of women is changing globally? If so, where?
4) Do you have an answer to my “big” question (from your question 9) about whether it is better to do something even if it isn’t the best way, or is it better to do nothing at all?
5) Who is the most inspirational woman(women) to you?
6) Being a male in America, how do you think your male peers treat women in general? With respect? Disrespect? If disrespect, what do you feel you can do about it, or have already done about it? Do you feel there IS anything to be done about it?
- Celebrating Women: Talking With my old Friend Ms. SexyTime (1/3) (aspoonfulofsuga.wordpress.com)
- Celebrating Women: Talking With my old Friend Ms. SexyTime (2/3) (aspoonfulofsuga.wordpress.com)
- For Chinese Women, a Basic Need, and Few Places to Attend to It – New York Times (nytimes.com)
- The Female Factor: Chinese Women’s Progress Stalls in Varied Standards (nytimes.com)