Monday, November 15, 2010

台灣的查某人 Women of Taiwan

I grew up with the values expressed in this short docu-drama--selflessness, frugality, and unspoken love. Even though most of my female relatives never had to work like the women depicted in the film, they were discriminated nevertheless because they are women and/or because they only gave birth to daughters. My own grandmother's name is 罔市 which in Taiwanese sounds to mean "might as well feed her". She was the 4th daughter of a wealthy Taipei merchant. She grew up with servants, but my great-grandfather's obviously wanted a male heir very badly. I am sure that plagued my grandmother and her mother all their lives.

My own mother had 2 daughters and, to this day, she feels insecure about her position in the family (or that my father would have a legitimate excuse to have an affair) because she did not have a son. My mother is in her mid-70s and went to Taiwan University. Being a truly educated and modern working woman in the 1960s and 1970s did not change the way she thinks about the pre-defined roles of men and women in Taiwan. Just to set the record straight, my father remained a faithful husband without a son.

Even after we immigrated to Canada, my mother expected my sister and I to behave a certain way. Things didn't let up after we got married. When my mother found out I was expecting a baby girl, she told me I would need to have another baby, preferably a son, so my husband (and his family) would not have an excuse to divorce me. I told her if my marriage is based on me producing a son, then I would be the one divorcing my husband.

So getting back to this docu-drama, Director Wu's short docu-drama touched me in a different way. I think he was trying to examine the value system behind the role of a woman (or a mother) in a traditional (or even modern) Taiwanese family.

I would consider my own family fairly modern. We also live in the United States, thousands of miles away from Taiwan. But our value system remains the same. Children's needs always get priority. Of course, we no longer have to share a fish, but inevitably, the best part of the fish will be given to the children and the husband. Eating the tail part of a fish becomes second nature to me.

When I was single, I would not hesitate to spend NT$50,000 on a purse or an outfit. But now, I would think twice before buying a pair of US$50 shoes. No, my financial circumstance did not change, but I changed. The frugal aspect of my upbringing kicked in when I got married and became a mom.

Sure, many would criticize that Director Wu's docu-drama only represented a small segment of the Taiwanese population, but I believe the Taiwanese mentality have permeated all aspects of Taiwanese lives across the social-economic strata for over 400 years. Even those of us who have moved away from the island for over 35 years cannot get away from that so easily.

我是台灣出生的查某人。 雖然我大半輩子都是在國外生活, 可是卻逃離不了台灣女人的宿命。 結婚生子是人生必經之路。 可是在我二十八歲那一年,我的 “真命天使” 還未出現,在台灣工作的我面臨了我一生當中最大的挑戰。 之後,我花了五年的時間不停的相親。 一方面安撫父母親的焦慮, 一方面我也試著在調整自己的價值觀及信念問題。 一位有高學歷、高薪、及良好生活機能的三十歲女人需要因為社會的壓力而結婚嗎? 我不知道我去過多少廟抽過多少簽。 每個簽都說我沒有尼姑命! 叫我要晚婚。 所以我是相信命運的。 時間到了,緣份到了,也就嫁了。

婚後,定居美國,所以沒有台灣女人的枷鎖及負擔。 公婆是台灣人, 可是很開明, 我完全不用伺候他們。 他們只要我們小倆口高興快樂就好。 可是當人妻人母之後, 在那氛圍之下, 很自然的就知道要相夫教子、孝順公婆、省吃撿用。 我看到很多從臺灣嫁到美國來的媳婦, 每一位都是 "刻苦耐勞" (服語言障礙、容忍離鄉背井的、 很心的學習美國生活的一切一切、以及很操的做司機和台傭)。 所以住在美國的每一位台裔媽媽都秉持著台灣查某人的特質及毅力。 台美媽媽們加油囉!

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