- Registration time
- Last login
- Online time
- 248 Hour
- Reading permission
not every woman in china is asked to follow the tradition right now, at least not me. my family is quite open and cares much about my career rather than my relationship.|
How ironic that Chinese Lunar New Year and Valentine's Day coincided this year. With the lunar and Roman calendars coming into line as they did on February 14, we celebrated a millen-nia-old tradition which keeps women in their place, and then openly showered them with love and affection.
This cultural contradiction made me think of the plight of the current generation of Chinese women, who remain pulled by tradition while striding into a culturally undefined future. During the Year of the Ox, I've been shocked by the ossified behavior of some men and overly-traditional parents.
At a dinner party last week I was reminded of the ugly American phrase used by men 50 years ago at the dawn of the Western women's movement, that they wanted their women barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen. My host for the evening was at least wearing slippers.
After a decade in Europe, she returned to China barely a year ago and not exactly of her own free will. She had earned a Master's degree, had a job and nice apartment and went out with friends at night. It was her mother who compelled her to return.
My friend said, without a hint of romance, that it happened so fast it's been like a dream. After being introduced online by her mother, she first laid eye on her future husband when he met her at the airport. Within three months they were planning their wedding and now she's seven-month pregnant.
She repeated several times that her husband is really sweet, but just so darn traditional. Right on cue he called for her to refill of the water jug. Ever dutifully she didn't hesitate, but added she never wants to eat another egg, the only thing he has deigned to learn to cook.
They've had serious discussions about resuming her career but he's postponed that decision until after she's had a second baby. He doesn't understand why she would want work when he makes more than enough money to pay the fine for a second baby and buy four vehicles and an apartment.
She finally sighed with resignation, and insists that she will willingly fulfill her duty because it pleases her mother, but blamed an impenetrable tradition for sealing her fate.
Sadly, many other women have told me similar stories from slightly different angles. One of the most famous entrepreneurs in Beijing's foreign community – think foreign groceries – has made her dreams of financial success come true, but without the help of a partner or encouragement from her family.
Beside one of her thriving shops, she told me how she started 20 years ago when, as a teenager, she planted seeds brought to her by an Italian diplomat and filled the need for fresh lettuce in the foreign community.
She then had to beg to borrow 200 yuan ($29.28) to move from a shared market stall to her own little shop. By the time she was 30 she had bought a million-dollar property that has likely more than doubled in value. All along the way she faced skepticism and questions that would never have been asked of a man.
She told me she finally realized her potential and flourished in business after she ditched her man. He walked around all day with a long face, she said. Again traditional values meant her success somehow threatened his manhood.
Younger women I've worked with this past year also told me of having their career ambitions chocked by traditional family expectations. Two incredibly competent and hard working young women told me their families have little interest in their careers. All their parents want to know is if they have found a boyfriend yet.
Raised with traditional values, these mid-20-something women are deeply conflicted as they want to do the right thing, which pretty much dictates that their first relationships must also be their last.
This has made them lonely and wary of getting close to someone for fear of instantly being caught into the marriage cycle.
These women are not overly ambitious or unapproachable. Mostly they don't want to be stuck with someone who refuses to hold up half the sky or becomes a wreck if the woman in their life does well.
While my colleagues would never impose their pending fate on another, they dread being stuck with a traditional Chinese man.