Hsinchu Discussion Transcript: Grandmothers, part II

Participants: Robert Wilson Vina Jason Angela

Old women in US, they say the older, the more invisible. You have to work really hard to be noticed.
In my shorthand version of Western history, I think of it like this: In pre-christian times women were the healers and the one who knew how to use the herbs. The Catholic church was uneasy with women having so much power, and so in the 13th century there was a massive campaign to demonize them as witches. And later the church even forbid its priests to marry, and became a male-only organization. And the shadow of the Catholic church, of all the Christian churches, over western culture is long and deep. We’re still completely informed by Christianity, even if we consider ourselves secularized. And Christianity is fundamentally afraid of the power of women, turns us into good girls and whores, and invisible old women. So I brought this up, this topic of old women, because you guys grew up in Chinese culture, it’s completely different from what I know. So I want to know what’s the Chinese viewpoint of old women? I know Chinese culture has a reverence for old people, but in literature it only seems to be in the context of old men. So how about old women?

But the reality will be just like what you said. Like how they treat Lu Shiulien. [VP of Taiwan for 8 years] They don’t appreciate her intelligence, her wit, her contributions. They see an old woman. Most people will say they do cherish an old women, but they won’t get really high respect in society.

You mention sexism, right? But it’s kind of you care about the sex, the male or female.

Maybe.

But what I found, is that if a woman cannot help others, she is useless.

That’s why your mother-in-law is afraid not to help.

Right, in Chinese culture, her value is for what she do for others. We respect old women because what they contribute to others, not herself, the personal achievement. The value system. You will get high achievement as a male, but we are more focused on the contributions of women, not her own achievement. Do you see the difference?

You mention two words, contribution and treatment.

Achievement.

You say contribute to others, most of the females will help their partners,

No I mean, for old men, we all focus on his own acheivement. But for old women, we focus on her contribution.

It’s a stereotype.

So the truth is, we say old women is very important, but if she could not help others, the truth is she is not really important. In most common feelings. Not talking about your mother! We all agree that, we will all say your mother or your wife is very good etc, but OTHER women?

It’s difficult question, because, maybe since I am a man I can’t experience, I can’t maybe know what’s the, you say I can help other people, if I can’t help other people, even though I have achieved some successful business, I can’t get the respect from other people. But you say in Taiwan the status of the women. My opinion, I’m not sure it is true or not. Maybe, just I say, the acheivement for men, maybe we can evaluate the men, he fulfils the dream of a good business is a acheivment, or his goal is to teach some young kids, so that’s his achievement, but he can’t get any help from his wife, so his wife is not helpful for him to achieve his goal, but his wife is a successful woman, she can have another achievement. To that me the achievement and contribution is not related.

What do you think, do you agree with me?

It’s very hard to comment.

Because we are men.

Forget about this, just think about the question.

I really think that what the elderly can do for our society partly depends on our attitude toward them. If put them in the right place, they always contribute.

So is there any difference between elder men and elder women?

I don’t feel any difference for me.

Not your own parents, just the whole society. If we represent Taiwanese people to answer Angela’s question, is there a difference?

From my view, yes.

How about you?

At first I don't think there’s any difference, but after Angela mention this, I think there is. So when we value old men, we value their achievement. But we value old women, if she didn’t contribute to others, then we don’t value her.

She must have done something for her family?

Yeah.

So the problem is, how do we evaluate the success of the women? What is the basis? My opinion is like to evaluate man is different, it needs to have some difference. The difference comes from the because, for what do you want to evaluate, what’s that target you want to devaluate. It’s not men or women, it’s valuation metrics. If you want to evaluate a woman has a successful business, or she is successful in taking care her family, the evaluation factor is not same. So if you say the men and women, you want to evaluate the men and women, you use the same evaluation basis, it’s not fair, they are radically different.

But what is the difference, what is the criteria?

You need to know what factor or criteria you use to evaluate men and women?

So what are the ones you use?

So to evaluate a man, you have to consider that most of his goal is to establish his business or his company. So if you use how much he pay attention to his family, it’s not fair. But if you ignore how much he take to take care of his family, totally, it’s also not fair. You have to balance. How much he take care of his family, and how much he take to establish his business. So for women, you have a different factors.

So that’s why the same situation, like Lu Shiulien, or Shi Mingde, go to prison, but the appreciation received, it’s quite different, even the same reason, but the appreciation is different. [They were both jailed for activities in the democracy movement when Taiwan was still under martial law.]

But you will say the same situation, they are politicians, they are perform the political activity.

But they do the same thing!

But Lu, she is our vice president, and Shu is our party leader, so they are the same.

She was elected to be VP doesn’t mean that she is respected. Just because she’s chosen as the partner. For the common society, for the common feelings, I don’t think she received much appreciation for what she did in the past. I thing others receive more. Maybe it’s personal, we don’t like her personality

[Laugher.] [Because Lu’s personality is often criticized in the press]

Maybe it’s the stereotypes for the old women. I don’t know the answer, I’m just curious. What do you think?

You take the Lu Shiulien example, she is not a, she cannot, you cannot use she as example and see if the whole society respect old women, because she is a politician. So it’s more complex. So we should think about if we met an old woman or old man in the street, do you respect the old man or the old woman, what does their, when you saw them in the street, do you more respect the old man than the old omwan/? I don’t think there’s that much difference. So Lu Shiulien is not a good example.

Okay how about male and female branches of Tsu Ji, they’re treated equal!

But that’s really not easy to see, beaseu you’re bringing religion the mix. Also, the spiritual leader of Tsu Ji is a woman, so this might affect how women are treated in the organization.

So there’s a common stereotype in society, for male and female, it’s complicated, because you want to eliminate stereotype its not easy.

But think, old and ugly man, and old and ugly woman, people will treat them different.

But you can’t say that.

Okay but the American president race, if palin were old and ugly?

Oh, that’s the thing that bothers me the most about the race, it’s that because she’s beautiful, and ‘fuckable’ she’s a better candidate? Wow, because if you can fuck someone, you’ve got power over them, so they’re saying, we’ll only let those we can control in?

But Obama chose an old ugly man, but nobody talk about that!

[Laughter]

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