Gender Discrimination In Asian Cultures: Women Are More Than Passive, Stubborn Stereotypes

Gender and racial discrimination is something many women from Asian backgrounds face. It’s something we reluctantly and relentlessly put up with on professional and personal fronts all around the world.

Inequality. Favouritism. Sexism. Misrepresentation. These are the challenges women commonly face growing up Asian or living in a society where typical Asian cultural values, patriarchal norms and Confucian ideals are upheld.

It's time we recognise each other for who we are.

It’s time we recognise each other for who we are | Weekly Photo Challenge: I’d Rather Be…

As I wrote in this post Why Males Are the Favoured Sex In Asian Cultures, in many Asian cultures often women are seen as either passive or overbearing, and all round less capable than those who are born or endowed with certain contrasting biological traits. In many Asian cultures, ‘boys over girls’ or ‘man over woman’ is often how the mentality goes at home, at work, in social settings and countless situations in between.

Throughout my childhood in Singapore, Malaysia and Australia, this sentiment surrounded me in both subtle and non-subtle ways. As a kid I never agreed with this train of thought. At times I rebelled against it. These days I still don’t agree with it.

Being a woman of Asian background doesn’t mean one can’t have an opinion or achieve goals or do what one wants to do. A body with a mind and all its physical, emotional and mental attributes is a person who is their own individual. This is probably what many Asian women believe in; we believe in ourselves in the face of marginalisation.
 

Choosing and being proud of individuality

Traditionally a quiet Asian woman is seen as someone with no backbone, no voice and more of a submissive follower than a leader. There is the long-held perception within Asian cultures that it’s more honourable to be male rather than female. A kind of patriarchal responsibility comes with being an Asian male: the expectation to look after elders and carry on the family name and bloodline and this is a source of pride. On the other hand, traditional Asian families seek to marry women off – women are given away and seen as ‘not a long-term investment’ so to speak.

Given the freedom of choice to stand their own ground, more and more women of Asian background are constructing a sense of ownership around their name and who they stand for. When the 1950 Marriage Law banning arranged marriages was passed in China under the leadership of Mao Zedong, women rushed to register their names to have claims on inheritance. In many Confucian societies and places such as China and Malaysia, Chinese women (ironically) do not change their last name (with the exception of Japan where married women are required by law to take their partner’s surname). They retain their last names but might be informally known by their partner’s last name. Then there is rù zhuì (入赘) as Jocelyn Eikenburg of Speaking of China writes about, which relates to the instances where Chinese men ‘marry’ into a more-well-off woman’s family for a more practical future and perhaps take on a woman’s last name.

Taking on another name never appealed to me. Don’t ever intend on changing my name. To me, my own name speaks of who I am, what I’ve attained and carry on my shoulders today: an education, the lessons learnt from my ancestors, the places that I’ve worked, the money I’ve earned which is rightfully mine. My name speaks of my history, my present stories and experiences of being Chinese Australian. Every name is part of a generation, every name is a generation and a culture in itself, every name is a someone.

We all have the right to choose how we want to look, who we want to be.

We all have the right to choose how we want to look, who we want to be.

Consequently, women of Asian background are commonly stereotyped not just as submissive but having limited roles. The majority of Confucius’ five hierarchical relationships is centred on the family with an emphasis on women being compliant wives and mothers. Having biological children is regarded as sort of a currency – status and pride – in Chinese culture. On an Asian woman’s part, natural procreation is exclusive and sacred as it’s a sure means to preserve one’s heritage and name by blood.

The main Confucian text Analects dating back to the Classical Period in China echoes this, alluding to the virtues of filial piety and the notion that a good woman is an illiterate one. Women in that period were relegated to kinship roles and accorded with wishes of closely-related men.

With careful planning, thought, engaged action and hard work, there’s no limit to what any woman regardless of race can achieve. The more one works hard at something, the more opportunities one creates for themselves and the more one gets noticed. Since 2006 in China female registration at universities surpassed that of males and employment to population ratio of women stands at 73%.

Moreover, these educated women are increasingly choosing career over family today in the post-One Child Policy era – and they are increasingly termed ‘leftover women’ or shèng nǚ (剩女). To many of these women, shèng nǚ is synonymous with victory and marriage is companionship that one can get by simply cohabiting. As Autumn Asborough of West Dates East writes about being pressured to have a Chinese son in a Chinese family, there are many reasons to not have babies and stresses adoption is always an option.

Each of us has the power to make a difference.

Each of us has the power to make a difference.

‘Let your (younger) brother go first’ and ‘Look after Mabel’ was what my folks constantly said about my brother, to me. They also encouraged me to get a suitor the moment I finished university, preferably a Chinese-Malaysian guy. No comment about my love life on the internet. But I will say that despite constantly being told to sit down, shut up and play safe as a kid, I dreamt of being an independent, self-sustainable persona who climbed the corporate ladder wearing freshly pressed suits, confident at my job and doing it well while pursuing a creative passion on the side. After climbing out of phases of unemployment and writer’s block, today all that is a reality: affording my own way through life working a day job and outside of that writing a book which I have no idea when will get done.

It’s a scientific fact that different sexes experience different physical and emotional spectrums. In many parts of Asia, those with an uterus and who have periods are literally regarded as the weaker sex. Talk of periods and the side effects of periods here are generally taboo, regarded as unclean and unholy in the eyes of certain religions. Talk of or showing signs of distress is also regarded as a sign of weakness in Asian cultures priding on excellence in achievement.

Despite one’s limitations and the challenges faced physically and emotionally, there’s no reason why one can’t soldier on, put on a poker face and get the job done. Although menstrual leave is a legal right for women Japan, South Korea and China, many women choose not to take it due to social stigma and it’s usually not paralysing. Some have argued period leave is not necessary and it can lead to more inequality in the workplace, and not every woman gets a period. When China’s swimmer Fu Yuanhui admitted she swam on her period during the Olympics and felt tired because of it, Chinese media focused on reporting how a woman could swim – and she finished fourth in her race.

All of us have the ability to observe, reflect and achieve.

All of us have the ability to observe, reflect and achieve.

Honestly I’ve never felt awkward about talking about periods or acknowledging feeling flatter than a pancake when it comes. Never taken a day off because of it and just keep going about my day popping a stack pills (maybe I’m one of the lucky ones). Every man and woman and any gender in between will sweat, sneeze and get sick and feel not the best at some point. All of us have countless natural bodily functions, and periods are natural bodily functions, no exception.

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Labels don’t define us

Defining gender is complex. Gender isn’t confined to a box and commonly thought of as socially constructed roles and behaviours. Not all of us identify with being man or woman and might identify as genderqueer or ‘in-between’ third gender instead – which is okay since each of us are entitled to feel how we want to feel and love who we want to love. Traditionally gender fluidity has been frowned upon and unspoken in Asian cultures. However these days more of those of Asian descent identify with being queer and negotiate fluid identities within supportive LGBTQIA+ communities and queer getaways. Similarly, there are different waves of feminism and different forms of sexism – so talking about gender discrimination is undoubtedly a complicated and sensitive discussion.

Equality is a hard fight. According to the Oxford Dictionaries, equality is the state of quantities being equal; more broadly in the context of human rights, equality is about opportunity, freedom, empowerment and respect for all. As competition, the chase for wealth and desire to get ahead dominate society today, often the status quo prevails in favour of particular classes, benchmarks and outcomes. Christy Birmingham of When Women Inspire writes to be gender inclusive means to open for all, any gender, anywhere. In other words, no two people can truly be equal across different aspects but there is the possibility for equal opportunity for each of us.

Gender specific labels arguably perpetuate the power plays between the different genders. Long-standing honorifics such as ‘Mr’, ‘Mrs’, ‘Miss’ and ‘Ms’ and the terms ‘boyfriend’, ‘girlfriend’, ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ often have patriarchal undertones and are synonyms for ownership over another. Today many modern relationships see being a couple as two people having mutual respect for each other’s wants and individuality. Similarly, in Chinese culture a young woman is commonly addressed as xiăo jiĕ (小姐) and a married woman/head-wife tài tài (太太). That said, traditional labelling – which includes the words ‘woman’, ‘man’, ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ – has its place in today’s society: it reflects how different each of us are, the ideals some of us believe in and is a means to distinguish ourselves, traits and capabilities from each other.

In each of us there is a superhero.

In each of us there is a superhero.

To me, we are more than the salutations affixed to us. No one is better than the person next to us, no better in terms of personality and we can give and all learn from each other. It’s probably why I don’t like being addressed by ‘Miss’ or ‘girlfriend’ or ‘little girl’, much preferring to be called by my name in the first instance. In the context of relationships with two or more people, the words ‘partner’ and ‘friend’ sit fairly well with me as each word tends to recognise distinct individuals as whom they are on a level playing field. Personally I like being a part of something because of who I am, what I do and what I can offer to someone and the bigger picture.

In recent times, ‘Tiger mum’ is a common phrase used to describe Asian mothers with strict parenting styles, demanding their children focus rigorously on academic studies. As debated in the media, ‘Tiger mum’ conjures up the image that an Asian woman who isn’t all passive has the ugly potential be a demanding disciplinarian, hot-headed authoritarian. On the other hand in traditional Chinese families, the male breadwinner in the family is usually unwaveringly regarded as right in most instances.

I’ve always had a bit of a headstrong side to my personality. My folks have called me stubborn more times than I can count: I was called stubborn when I didn’t want to play with my Barbie dolls but with my brother’s Hot Wheels toy cars. Called stubborn when I refused to wear a dress to a family wedding. Called ‘no brain’ when I insisted on studying Arts at university. Each time I felt not only scorned but also in the wrong. Meanwhile my brother never seemed to get yelled at anything he did. Ironically, those who call others stubborn are in fact being stubborn themselves – and no one really comes out on top.
 

Speaking up is harder than it is

The capacity to speak up and actively engage in who we want to be differs across the world. Different beliefs are entrenched in different places. Educational and personal development opportunities differ in different places. Hence, the scale of human rights varies across the world. For instance, while women in Saudi Arabia are now allowed to drive they still need male testimonials if they want to run a business. As the abortion of female babies surged by 170% between 2001 and 2011 in India, maternity harassment complaints are on the rise in Japan.

Speaking up is a right for all of us.

Speaking up is a right for all of us.

Even in privileged first world countries such as Australia where there are vocal gender equality campaigns, subtler casual bias against women is prevalent. According to the Cracking the Glass-Cultural Ceiling report from Diversity Council Australia which surveyed over 230 culturally diverse businesswomen, Muslim women admitted corporate workplaces in Australia commonly see those wearing the hijab as subjugated and not capable to lead. Only one in ten respondents felt their leadership traits were recognised at work. In addition, Thai women who moved to Australia for a better life have silently suffered domestic violence and rape at the hands of their white Australian partners.

Therefore it has always been, and still is, a challenge for Asian women to speak up let alone make their mark in Australia. As Malaysian-born, ex-ASEX-200 entity CEO Ming Long said, in Australia Asian employees who don’t conform to being quiet are often labelled as aggressive and thus disliked. She also mentioned that employers prefer hiring someone on the basis of cultural fit and ‘merit is a trap. It really depends on who’s defining it.’

While it’s encouraging to see more Asian women speaking up, there is also nothing wrong with keeping a quiet demeanour and actually being comfortable with it. After all, the model minority myth is still prevalent like it has been for decades, there are still millions of quiet and studious Asian students all around the world and patriarchal value systems where woman are happy to play obedient housewives show no signs of going away in many parts of Asia. Just like how not all woman want to have children, not all women are comfortable with making their mark by speaking out loud or verbally but prefer flying under the radar and being quiet achievers. And being a quiet Asian woman and really any other woman – one who might actually dress looking like a China doll because of a love for that look – doesn’t mean one doesn’t have an opinion and doesn’t want to express it.

Some of us fit stereotypes and don't mind this. Each to their own.

Some of us fit stereotypes and don’t mind this. Each to their own.

Describing myself, I see myself as a woman of Chinese background living in Australia. Someone with a foreign-sounding accent, someone who likes to get things done while standing outside of the spotlight and a proud introvert. The way I prefer to articulate my thoughts isn’t in a space where everyone is debating over each other. The way I prefer to share my strengths isn’t in front of a big crowd. Rather an intimate arena where everyone is given a chance to say something but not required to do so or where ideas are articulated in written form is an arena where I feel like I can not only share but also somewhat feel a part of something.

Women come in all shapes and sizes and most certainly in all shades of colour and character. Some of us fit the stereotype, some of us don’t. And some of us might fit both stereotype and non-stereotype. Each to their own. Each of us has different ways of expressing ourselves. On recognising each other for who we are, author C. Joybell C. said:

 ‘We are all equal in the fact that we are all different. We are all the same in the fact that we will never be the same. We are united by the reality that all colours and all cultures are distinct and individual.’

Share. Stand together. Understand each other.

Share. Stand together. Understand each other.

Some might read this post thinking I dislike aspects of being Chinese and a Chinese woman at that, and dislike what Chinese culture is. Yes and no. While I like listening and being quiet and feel that’s important, to me sharing opinions is equally important when it comes to getting along and understanding each other. While I like being independent and standing on my own two feet, to me there is also much to learn from working, sharing and standing together with another and opening up to them. At the end of the day, each of us women is our own person with our own persona.

At the end of the day, it’s a right for each of us women to not be judged so quickly. Most importantly it’s a right for all women to have the opportunity to make the choices we want to make, and ultimately be who we want to be.

Have you encountered or seen gender discrimination?

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225 thoughts on “Gender Discrimination In Asian Cultures: Women Are More Than Passive, Stubborn Stereotypes

  1. You said it in the end. While highlighting the problem is one thing, being who we want to is another.
    Just yesterday, I filled a form that said Mr,Mrs and Miss. quickly my brain went to the fact that they could have used Mr and Ms. no need to really show up on the form if the woman is married. But that’s the problem. Women are considered to be either father’s or husband’s. Saw what I did? Made women an object. Whether it is commercials or real life, the perspective still needs a change. The preference of boy over girl comes from the lineage. When a girl is married off, she goes to ‘belong’ to another family. For the new Family she is outsider. So nobody cares. I’m surprised to know China has a no arranged marriage law. I think that’s a good thing. I’m India, matches are made and again men choose who they want to marry. Great post and like you can see, I can’t stop talking,
    I’m an ambivert and I also never stopped sharing my opinion. I’m who I’m.

    Liked by 5 people

    • I think you said it much more better. A problem is one thing, solving it and being who we are is another. The form that you filled it certainly points out the divide between all of us today, and you are very sharp to observe that the form objectifies women. Most forms in Australia I’ve seen these days include ‘Ms’ and it’s interesting to hear that the one you were filling out didn’t.

      ‘For the new Family she is outsider. So nobody cares.’ This is such an emphatic statement, and very true for quite a few Asian families. Because it’s the norm and everyone is accustomed to these hierarchies, many keep quiet about it. While these days in China there is no arranged marriage law, matchamking between families is still prevelant – but it does seem people are moving away from it. Maybe as time goes on, this will change in India and women will be able to make their own choices more. From your blog you have brilliantly showcased many women proudly working in the jobs that they do and that is such an encouraging sign.

      Keep talking, Parul. What you have to say is important 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. What an inspiring and positive post Mabel! The pictures you have posted speak eloquently about gender equality, which Asian women have been trying to snatch for many years now. There is no doubt that all of us have the ability to dream, reflect and accomplish whatever we wish for! We have traversed many miles away from the age-old boundaries created around us but a lot needs to be accomplished yet.

    I agree with your clarion call that “labels don’t define us” but Asian girls are still raised with constant reminders that they have to adjust, they have to submit to authority, cook food and look after the family. It is ridiculous to submit to the dowry demands even after sending the daughters to the best of universities! Modern and educationally privileged societies may have changed a little in providing equal opportunities to women but the moment they get married, they are expected to fit into traditional roles of a dutiful daughter-in-law, an obedient wife, a dedicated mother and a perfect role model for the family, attending to all religious and societal norms even if she is professionally qualified and eager to pursue her career goals, which are considered secondary!

    Laws hardly help as societal pressures and parochial attitudes are the unwritten laws that guide patriarchal societies of Asia. Mothers and mother-in-laws have an important role in raising their sons and daughters with equal respect to root out certain discriminatory practices, which are blindly followed by them. I have written about traditional compulsions here:

    https://balroop2013.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/of-traditions-conservatism-and-giving/

    Liked by 3 people

    • What a positive comment. Also what an insightful post you wrote about Indian marriages and traditions on your blog. I always marvelled at the lavishness and colour of Indian marriages, but while np doubt it is a happy occasion for many, there is also more than meets the eye. My favourite line from that post is ‘The brides in India still belong to antiquity!’ From what you wrote, it sounds like there is so much giving on a woman’s part in India to find acceptance, and even that she might not feel comfortable with it.

      You also bring up such an important point: in some cultures women may have the privilege of getting an education but the moment they get married they are required to step into traditional roles and her other wants and needs most likely become secondary or no longer an option. It makes you wonder what a woman can do with her education, and attaining and education is itself a lot of work. Then again, the more educated women are, the more they will come to know the options available to them and what they are really capable of.

      ‘Laws hardly help as societal pressures and parochial attitudes are the unwritten laws that guide patriarchal societies of Asia.’ So well said, Balroop. Thank you for chiming in as always, and for speaking up about choices for all in your writings 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Spot on. I have a similar background to you, and I do remember being ecnouraged as a kid to be the quiet one, to have ‘nice’ friends (i.e. the studious sort who wouldn’t lead me astray) and to not hang out with the ‘hip’ crowd (because who knows what sort of lifestyle they will lead me into). But when my brothers wanted to do the same, they were fine.

    I’m definitely not a stereotypical quiet Asian female. I will stand my ground and speak my mind, and heaven forbid if you’re a fool because I do not suffer fools lightly.

    Also, I didn’t change my name when I got married. I am who I am and being married doesn’t change that, not to mention the process is too complicated.

    Liked by 4 people

    • It sounds like you have been a strong person all along, and still are. I also was encouraged to have ‘nice’ friends, preferably friends of similar cultural background and personality. These days like you, I have friends and know people that are so different compared to me.

      Sounds like you know how to get your point across. That is great and I hope no fools get past you 😀

      Sometimes changing your name can take ages and there is so much paperwork. A name is a name and we are all entitled to keep our names.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Well said Penne. You sound just like my wife, who is also “not a stereotypical quiet Asian female”, doesn’t suffer fools and didn’t change her name when we married (nor should she!).
      Hold your head high and be proud of who you are.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for the shoutouts! Very kind.

    Great post and good job standing your ground. Like you, my older sister refused to even consider taking her husband’s name, saying, “Are you kidding me? After all that work to get DOCTOR in front of my name, there’s no way I’m changing it now!”

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Well, seen and experienced enough gender discrimination. For sure, if a woman speaks strongly and is tough she is viewed more negatively as a bitch by both men and women. The key thing, is to exert firmness without visible anger…which can be tough in the workplace.

    As for Chinese women in China today…I perceive them being far freer to express themselves and their strengths visibly and in public vs. Japanese women. Menstrual leave…geez. Not all women feel such pain to that degree. Anyway, I only knew of 1 Mennonite white woman who was in such pain she nearly collapsed when I was walking beside her. She was later in surgery for advanced endometrosis.

    Though gender slights exist with only a few brave Asian North American women in the workplace challenging any overt sexism, I still rather be here in North America vs. Asia.

    Liked by 3 people

    • ‘exert firmness without visible anger’ Agree that can be challenging because firmness comes with an opinion, and not everyone will agree with that opinion. Hopefully you have had workplaces that valued your input and opinion over the years.

      Menstrual leave is such an interesting phenomenon. On one hand it acknowledges periods but on the other hand it is not an illness. Some women will experience it more painful than others, and for that we should acknowledge that.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. As I closely follow your progress as a serious blogger, I am extremely happy to see that you have already reached a point where you can identify yourself as a matured writer.

    Being part of a social enterprise which works in areas to address gender issues and developing models which ensures gender equality, I can totally relate to your thoughts.

    I am so happy for the incredible posts from you and truly appreciate all the effort behind it.

    I am really sorry to miss many of your recent posts and thank you so much for being an inspiration as a relentless blogger and all your support in my bumpy journey 🙂

    Have a beautiful day, Mabel 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • What a compliment. Thank you so much for following for so long. You don’t know how much I appreciate it 🙂

      Wonderful to hear that you are a part of something that works to address gender issues and working towards fairer opportunity. It’s often easier said than done, so I applaud you for doing what you do 🙂

      No need to say sorry or apologise. Sometimes life gets tough. I’m sure you’ll get back to blogging and even more photography soon. Your photography has inspired me over the years, as well as your constant use of the smiley emoji. Have a lovely day, Sreejith 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. “A proud introvert” – I admire the confidence there. Salute.

    First off, I was unaware of this: “…instances where Chinese men ‘marry’ into a more-well-off woman’s family…and perhaps take on a woman’s last name.” It’s funny and I’m grinning, as this bit of reverse-custom perhaps throws into focus what it feels like to take a spouse’s name after marriage. Not that I condone that a man should take a woman’s last name or vice versa. My wife takes my first name as her last, but if she tells me that she wants to go back to her maiden name, I’m fine. I am pro-individuality. Each to their own, yes, as you rightly mentioned.

    But things take time to change. We may want this urgently and now, but the majority of the world’s population, and we speak of Asia here, is so heavily/morally/thoughtlessly invested in a patriarchal set up, that to reverse it, shall take a collective and relentless struggle. #AlterThePatriarchalMindset

    In fact, even if 25% in Asia wholeheartedly believe that patriarchal system must end, the push will swing the pendulum to favor the gem that individuality is.

    After all, we came out of a womb individually and will leave the planet individually.

    #IndividualityRocks #PatriarchyShocks

    Liked by 2 people

    • Don’t think you are the only one not too familar with men taking their spouses’ name when they get married. It’s not a common custom in the West, and even in Asia it is not common and can be hard to come by. Pro-individuality. You said that well. Pro-individuality means pro-choice, and we all should have a choice on who we want to be and a choice our name. There may be instances when a man or woman or anyone in between might change their name because they want to for a certain reason, for instance wanting to distance themselves from their own family or just having negative associations with their name. It is their choice to change their name.

      Very inventive hashtags and they roll off the tongue nicely, and so poetic too 🙂 It will take time for a more open-minded world, and acceptance of different beliefs and values. If one believes in patriarchy, so be it. But it’s important to remember not all of us will agree with it.

      Always appreciate your comments, Mahesh 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow Mabel, this is an amazing post. You have written a really great exposition on current Asian culture and being a woman of Asian background. Your experiences from home as well as growing up and living in three countries really comes out here. While I do see the situation as you describe it in Australia, I think the situation is changing for the better. As a man of Asian background but having been born here and raised as sort-of Asian while being exposed to a rapidly changing Australian culture, I can identify with the statements you make about men being expected to lead and ‘take’ control. I think one of the good things about working in health and especially medicine is that at least for my generation and cohorts after me, the culture has had a much stronger influence from women, especially in my chosen subspecialty. I really enjoyed reading this.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I was still finishing this post last night at 1.30am 😞 But I think it turned out okay.

      Have to agree with you that the situation is changing for the better in Australia. Slowly but surely many workplaces here are recognising each individual for the skills that they have and what they can do. It is so encouraging to see occassions like Women’s Day and mental health awareness week being acknowledged. For you as a man of Asian background, it is great seeing you achieve what you have achieved in your line of work in Australia. It sounds like women in your field are treated with a lot of respect.

      Also I know you are big into cooking. On a side note, funny how traditionally women are relegated to the role of cooks at home but it’s mostly men who take the honours of top chef in the professional arena. Through blogging it is great to see so many women sharing their love for food and cooking too – and we can all learn from each other.

      Always look forward to your comments, Gaz. They are always so structured and wise 😃 This one went straight to Trash 😃😃

      Liked by 1 person

      • Haha, I like that WordPress analysed my words and filed them…
        Thanks, Mabel, you are very kind. I am fortunate that I have memories of Mum and Dad cooking and so while Mum did most of it, I never thought that cooking was for women only. I benefited also from having a mother who was a domestic science teacher, so she taught me many lessons because she could tell I would need to look after myself 😃

        Liked by 1 person

        • It is great you have memories of both Mum and Dad cooking. For me, I grew up in environment where it is women in the kitchen, men outdoors at work or in front of the TV.

          Cooking is a science. If you get the the ingredient ratios right, the dish will taste right. That science background of yours must come in handy for cooking 😃😃😃

          Liked by 1 person

  9. This was so wonderfully written my friend and so fitting to publish it during Women’s History Month where we remember empowered but oppressed women that made a difference in the world. I really like how you said you would keep your name if married. I too decided to keep my maiden name as I am not a traditional person and didn’t see why I had to take the man’s name. I feel like you that it is a part of me, of who I am and to change it would be to let go of that part of me. You definitely don’t need to find a suitor unless you feel you want to. You are so independent and inspiring and play your own tune. It’s amazing to see. Thank you for writing this post on behalf of all women. I feel lucky to know you xxxx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Had no idea this month was Women’s History Month! What a lovely tie in. Your name is such a beautiful name, and it is so empowering to see how proud you are of it and your heritage that comes along with it. It is a great thing being independent – you learn to rely on yourself and become so much stronger for it. But it’s also a great thing finding someone to be with you because of you – you are stronger not just for yourself but also stronger for another person. Thank you for supporting my friend. It is such an honour to know you xxxx

      Liked by 2 people

  10. A great post Mabel. It makes me think of the many stereotypes of Asian woman being submissive, shy, passive, exotic and there’s been a regular advertisement on a bus of an Asian woman dressed like a china doll. I’m quite a soft spoken person and I just tend to be more quiet, but I think that comes down to my personality and nothing to do with my ethnicity.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks, Katie. So true many Asian women are depicted as exotic and looking like a doll. While nothing wrong with looking a certain way, it’s the mentality that many assume that can be an issue. Like you, I am soft-spoken and it’s because of my personality and the fact that my voice is not loud. You are right. Sometimes the way we are is because of our personality and just that.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Allo Mabel.

    I admit I wasn’t keen to write a comment on this at first, and even less so after my original reply was destroyed in a black-out (substation nearby is unstable and drops out every few months or so). As a man, I imagine I can be seen as being ‘part of the problem’ which makes it difficult to talk constructively about things like sexism. I’ve also seen lots of discrimination (not necessarily against myself) done in the name of so-called anti-discrimination – in all kinds of areas, not just gender. While I’m certainly not discounting the undue hardship many females around the world face even today, it can be hard for males to grow up in this kind of adversarial environment, particularly for boys where there’s no good father figure to teach them, especially in the area of sexual conduct. As you say, it’s not good to label people and the ‘us vs them’ mentality it engenders is not helpful in the least. I hope you’ve seen I at least try to honour everyone in our common humanity, for we are all created in the image of God irrespective of race, gender, or nationality.

    Our current western society preaches that everyone is the same, whether man or woman. Given our past conversations and what you’ve written here I suspect you might disagree with me, but while we are all *equal* before God and each other, there are still many differences between us. And that’s not a bad thing! I see these differences – and they’re not necessarily always so sharp and overt, sometimes they’re quite subtle – as complementary. A husband and wife are more than just two people coming together, their differences can serve to complement their strengths and uplift each other’s weaknesses. In the rush to preach the new religion of gender ‘equality’ by enforcing gender *sameness*, I think these differences have been lost or suppressed instead of men and women both being celebrated for who they are.

    Sadly sexual discrimination is hardly unique to Asian culture, but perhaps it is all the more noticeable in things like the one-child policy in China. While perhaps an admirable attempt to curb over-population, given the cultural bias towards males it seems it only exacerbated the terrible tragedy that is female infanticide. For myself, if I ever have the privilege of having children, I think that I would like to have a daughter – I grew up in a family of a mum, a dad, and two boys, so I think it would be nice to have a girl in my future family. Of course, I would be grateful for any child or children either way, and a son would certainly be no less loved.

    The issue of family names and whether or not a wife should take her husband’s is an interesting one. I’ve had differing opinions over the years. An interesting case is one of my cousins in Canada – maybe I misheard or misunderstood her but she told me it’s legally enforced (or maybe just customary, I don’t know) for a wife to keep her maiden name. Even so, I often see her go by her husband’s name in unofficial communications, which I think is cool because she married an Italian. A Chinese woman with a French first name and an Italian surname, what could be wrong with that? 🙂

    The topic of family name is also one that has been discussed among my extended family. Like most people from a Sino-Mauritian background, I have an unusual family name due to misunderstanding or miscommunication when Chinese migrated to places like Mauritius. While my extended family is quite large even just considering aunts, uncles, and first cousins, I count only six male cousins (myself and my brother included) among the uncles on my Dad’s side – in other words, those who could carry the family name. Three of those have already ‘corrected’ their surnames to the original single-word form. Of the three that haven’t, none of us (yet) have children, although the one cousin who still keeps the Mauritian family name just got married last month. As much as my unusual name has caused me grief and difficulty in bureaucratic affairs, I don’t feel like changing it because it speaks of my Mauritian identity instead of being just another one of thousands, if not millions, of Chinese with the same name. I’d understand if my future wife didn’t want to take on such a complex name, though.

    Maybe it’s just with the hindsight of a modern perspective, but I’m sad to read of how Confucius thought good women should be illiterate. The Apostle Paul is often condemned in modern society for writing that ‘a woman should learn in quietness and full submission’ – but of course, this forgets or neglects that this radical teaching was given in the environment of a deeply patriarchal Jewish society that did not even consider the testimony of a woman to be admissible as evidence in a court of law (which makes the listing of two women as the first recorded witnesses of seeing Jesus alive after his death all the more remarkable!). There’s also the famous Proverbs 31 passage from Hebrew scriptures (or the Old Testament in the Christian Bible) which describes a woman of ‘noble character’ with a great entrepreneurial spirit and is loved and respected by her husband and children. Such a wise woman does not come about by being illiterate!

    I find it puzzling that your parents commanded you to let your brother go first. While I’ve said before that my family is not exactly typical Chinese, I do remember being taught to respect elders. But that’s the only distinction – those who are older. Not uncle over aunt, not male cousin over female cousin. I also think that anyone can show maturity by speaking sensibly about personal matters such as menstruation – it’d be sad to be in a culture which can’t even acknowledge such realities of life. On biological differences, I remember the MythBusters investigation over pain tolerances between men and women and while the sample size was small, they did find that mothers who had endured natural childbirth had extraordinarily high tolerances to pain compared with men and other women. As Adam Savage comically put it, ‘In your face, men! Oh…’

    On the topic of speaking out, it’s ironic that those who shout the loudest for so-called equality seem so deeply committed to silencing those who disagree with them – in effect creating their own standards of inequality. In the post-modern push to enforce a relativist view of society, those like myself who understand that there is such a thing as absolute truth and absolute falsehood are often discriminated against – and I’m feeling this all the more as Australia becomes increasingly pluralistic, increasingly judgemental of those who reject the new religion being preached. While I will seek to honour those around me, this is why I despise the faceless, politically-correct activism and ideologies that surround us today telling me what to believe, what to think, what to say. I suppose this is just another sign that while we’ve grasped for the knowledge of good and evil collectively we still have no idea what they really are – this is why I believe that there is a standard of good and evil beyond what we can see and think and hear and decide for ourselves. Because we obviously can’t!

    But please don’t think that I am in any way ranting against you personally. As I said before, I’m deeply appreciative that we can talk through differences of opinion with care and respect. I’m sure I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I admire what you’ve accomplished here and also that you’ve reached many of the goals that you seem to have worked so hard for – Chinese or not, woman or not. Once again I’ve written far too much – but I suppose that speaks of the depth and breadth with which you engage your public audience.

    With respect. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I also thought this post might not sit well with you given our different values of beliefs. But as I’ve learnt from chatting to you, again you have shown yourself to be very accepting of others as you stick by what you believe in. Hopefully power and internet is much better now – and that you saved your comment previously! I tend to do that before posting comments just to be on the safe side.

      As I was reading your comment, I was wondering if my points came across clear in this post. This was a hard post to write for me as I didn’t want to come across as preachy or shutting down anyone’s views, and topics like this one have so many perspectives to consider and reflect on. I was also still writing this at 1.30am the day it was to be published 😞 The point I really wanted to make was all of us aren’t equal in terms of strengths, skills and personality but all of us deserve a fair opportunity.

      Like you I see differences as a good thing – sometimes I see them as complementary especially when it helps us see different points of view and get a better understanding on different situations. Other times our differences are just so different we might be better of just acknowledging that and moving along on our own way. I suppose in short, I don’t believe there will ever be equality in that in certain instances some views might be more practical and beneficial others, but there can be fair opportunity. And I do agree that at times our differences can be suppressed in this day and age. For instance, the way the media paints the picture of Islam and representation of Christianity and God’s word is often sensationalised, centering around certain incidents.

      I also have seen women use their partner’s name in unofficial settings, for instances at social gatherings. Family is something that is not just important but the world to quite a few of us, and perhaps that’s a reason why some of us don’t mind taking on a particular name when it comes to joining another family. It is lovely to hear that you are proud of your unique name and it may be something that makes you more memorable than others in some instances despite the grief it has caused you 🙂 Hopefully people haven’t been all too intrusive of your background when asking about your name.

      Like you mentioned about Apostle Paul, I think Confucious’ thoughts about women also centred around society and its ideal as it was back in the day. Thanks goodness times have changed, and it’s also good that these bits of history aren’t forgotten.

      It is one thing to respect elders and another to be told what to do. Respecting elders often involves listening and trying to see their points of view. In order for respect to work, though, I reckon there has to be a two-way listening street. It can be hard to respect someone when they downright don’t want to listen to another’s opinion. You don’t have to be older to have a correct opinion, and likewise you don’t have to be younger to have the most innovative idea.

      You touched on such a great point. ‘it’s ironic that those who shout the loudest for so-called equality seem so deeply committed to silencing those who disagree with them – in effect creating their own standards of inequality’ Totally agree with this. Some of us might be shouting loud because we’ve never been able to shout and it’s easy to be carried away. I don’t know if and don’t really believe in a standard of good and evil, that one is the best over the other. Rather, I think some standards will work better for others, some better for society as a whole in different parts of the world. In Australia, I do think certain ideologies still dominate after so long but for most part, most of us are becoming more open to accepting and living side by side with each other of different ideals – which I feel is happening at the grassroots level.

      Not sure if I have reached everything I have wanted to achieve so far…I don’t think all of us will to be honest. This was such an insightful comment and thank you for it. In no way did I see it as a rant. As always, your thoughts are much appreciated and I do hope you always feel welcome here. If not, you can always let me know 🙂

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      • Thank you for once again being so gracious and accepting. The initial topic you discussed – that of Asian women being stereotyped and facing challenges perhaps unique to Asian culture – I don’t have a problem with. Sorry, I should clarify: I *do* have a problem with any woman – Asian or otherwise – being mistreated or otherwise negatively discriminated against, just for being a woman.

        What I mean to say is that I don’t have a problem with discussing that subject, but rather the direction in which the latter part of your article dealt with the current socio-political climate that we find ourselves in. But that’s not your fault, that’s mostly because of the discrimination, hostility, and vitriol I face on-line, in secular interactions, and in the workplace just because I have a different world-view to what current mainstream Australia has. Thank you for at least trying to understand my perspective as we talk about what is for many an obviously very sensitive and personal issue.

        Power is fine now – otherwise it wouldn’t have been practical to write the first response at all. I just made the mistake of saving my response in volatile storage (it was only supposed to be temporary) – in other words, it’s lost when power is gone.

        I don’t think I felt particularly offended by what *you* personally wrote, perhaps I was only upset because it brought up for me the harm I’ve been seeing in currently accepted thinking on gender ideology. Your words were only a reflection of that current thinking and what is and isn’t currently acceptable to believe. Perhaps writing so late at night (or rather, early in the morning) might not have helped either. Do you set yourself hard deadlines to publish things? I thought a personal site like this one would be able to follow its own schedule. Or maybe you just wanted to get it done and published because you’d worked so hard on it already. 🙂

        I’m glad we seem to at least agree on the ‘equal opportunity’ angle (although even that phrase has political connotations in the way it’s often used). Perhaps the Aussie way of saying it is ‘fair go for all’. That’s the kind of idea I was meaning when speaking of being equal before God and each other. I suppose I object to the ‘equality’ idea that insists on everyone being the same, which is often impractical but is politically-correct to pursue. I’m glad you seem to recognise that we (men, women, different races/cultures, etc) have differences and we can agree that these can be for good.

        Thank you for also recognising that secular media portrayals of ‘religion’ is often inaccurate or distorted. I can’t speak for Islam, and I might not be able to easily convey to you the joy I have in being in relationship with God rather than following ‘religion’ (ie accepting his grace rather than feeling compelled to do ‘good works’ to win his approval). But I can convey that I know a God who made and gives all things for our good and has a good purpose and order for how those things are to be used so that we flourish rather than harm ourselves.

        A good and loving God that our current environment (and people throughout all history, really) calls evil. There was a time not so long ago when the ‘church’ (the institution, not necessarily the people) was sought out in times of distress because it was known to be a good thing in society, even if some people only approached it (eg sending their children there) for good morals (not that Jesus was ever about mere morality). Nowadays it’s seen as ‘backwards’ and ‘out-of-touch’ – basically evil, and that same thinking is applied to God himself. God doesn’t change, but it seems our understanding of him does.

        With respect to my family name, perhaps grief was the wrong word to use. I only meant that it often causes me trouble on administrative forms and the like – as one example, people will often mistake the first two words as my ‘middle name’ and take the third word as my actual surname, which is incorrect. Perhaps that’s why some of my family hyphenate it to make it clearer, although my name isn’t hyphenated in official documents like driver’s licence and passport. It’s sometimes troublesome on on-line forms that don’t permit spaces!

        I’m sorry, my point about Paul was that while modern society misunderstands him to be oppressing women, he was actually upholding them in his patriarchal society by declaring them worthy of being taught. I see this as a *good* thing in the cultural environment he was in. It’s basically a given in our current cultural environment, at least in western society – though as you say, some countries or cultures still don’t allow this today. In contrast, I’m not sure how Confucius saying women should be illiterate could be a good thing.

        I see a comment below by Leya that seems to share this misunderstanding of Christian thinking of men and women. While it’s sad that many men have distorted the Bible to oppress women – and I’m finding this right now as I support a couple of friends where the wife revealed to me a troubling history of psychological and physical abuse from her father, an ordained Christian minister – I maintain that men and women are equal in God’s sight. While a husband/father might have ‘headship’ in a family, it is not headship in the way the world understands it but a life of loving sacrifice to his wife and children in the same way that Jesus sacrificed himself for his people. Leading by serving, not ruling. It can be especially hard to see this if you only see the failings and wrongdoings of Christians, or those who profess to be Christian, like my friend’s father.

        I see obeying elders as part of showing respect. Most of the time, being older affords them experience that we do not have and so we take their advice or instruction on how to behave or act in a certain scenario. Of course, as we grow older we are better able to judge the worth of their instruction and see that sometimes they may have things wrong. Of course, there are also countless times where we might think they are wrong and only with the benefit of hindsight we see that they were right after all!

        But in all of this, obedience to elders assumes that the elder acts out of love and best interest for the younger. If an elder is being rude and arrogant by not listening to the concerns or questions of the younger, I would argue that elder is in need of correction him/herself. (Hence the need for a standard of good beyond what we decide for ourselves.) Nonetheless, that does not preclude me from showing respect to them even in their own fault. And likewise, as I become the elder to my nieces and nephews, I need to show the same care and concern for them as I would want from my own elders. Just another part of showing real love to others, not just lip-service.

        Maybe not all of mainstream Australia believes in the extreme views of those currently shouting the loudest. Maybe not everyone believes that the ‘archaic’ idea of man and woman and marriage should be destroyed. Maybe not everyone really believes that we are equal through being the same and that it is good and right to teach our children that gender is an artificial construct to be rejected. Maybe not everyone believes that God is evil and that freedom of worship should be abolished in order to pursue this humanist ‘ideal’ of gender fluidity. Maybe not everyone thinks it is stupid, or even wrong, to hold to a ‘traditional’ idea of marriage. But there seems to be an awful lot of people who agree with some or all of these thoughts.

        I don’t expect people who don’t believe what I believe to live in the way those beliefs say is good and right. But does that mean I should have to conform to the new religion that we now have in western society, to call what I believe is good evil and evil good? Some might say no, but the current legal and political environment in Australia makes this a challenge, to say the least. That we can accept each other and live side-by-side as fellow Australians, as you describe, rather than persecuting each other and tearing each other down. 😦

        Well, you’re right, there will always be something we aspire to, while we live and breathe on this earth. I was referring to you writing of your dreams and aspirations while your parents had different ideas – and you wrote ‘today all that is a reality’. That’s why I wrote that you seem to have achieved *many* of the things you have wanted to achieve. Keep on striving to more and better things as you see fit – ‘continuous improvement’ as we talk about at work. And if you ever feel dissatisfied with what you have here and now, I am willing to listen if you need someone to talk to. Likewise, thank you for continuing to welcome me in spite of our differences. I don’t disagree with people just to be disagreeable but because I want all of us to flourish and be our best. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Mistreatment of woman and really any man and anyone is a problem. Mistreatment and discrimination are often topics many of us shy away from talking about, and it’s great that you are open to discussing it – even with everyone’s differing views here. It does seem many have their own opinion, and it’s so interesting to read and reflect on.’

          Writing late at night is the best time for me to write: I feel most creativity alert, most honest but well, with work the next day (in a few hours) there was a sense of urgency. I do have a publishing schedule that I stick too, and have blog topics planned out until the end of this year. Never do I ‘just (want) to get it done’ for the sake of it, be it with writing and anything I do. In anything I do, I aim to do it above and beyond.

          I am sorry to hear my words brought up the unpleasant moments for you. But you are certainly brave enough to admit that and highlight how long we have to go towards fostering cultural tolerance and respect towards each other. It is true that current thinking is leaning towards one way and seems more prominent than ever – which has never happened. As you know, I don’t oppose this. But I do oppose shutting down other ideas and people. Maybe after this wave we will talk about other trains of thoughts still existing and we will walk away more mutually understanding of each other.

          Thank you for sharing your thoughts on your faith. We all need a place where we can seek refuge, and it is intersting to hear that a church can be seen as something as other than that, especially ‘backwards’. Maybe many still share the faith but are finding different ways to connnect with a higher power these days. I do know a few friends who follow Christiniaty but don’t go to church but they do read the Bible.

          It does sound troublesome filling out your names on forms, especially on some online forms you had to fill out. Hopefully there are enough boxes to actually fill out your name. It’s important to get your full name recognised in official documentation 🙂

          Leya does seem to have a different view from you, and I am sure she is not the only one too. Sorry to hear what your friends are going through. No one deserves abuse. Notably, incidents like these have arisen in the media over the last few years, and these are the incidents that can probably lead many of us to think another way of Christiniaty and other religions too. One bad egg doesn’t mean the whole basket is bad.

          ‘Most of the time, being older affords them experience that we do not have and so we take their advice’ At times I don’t agree with the idea that being older means we have experience. Many situations are different these days and often each of us wants to achieve a different end result. Of course, no reason to be rude to someone who is simply providing an opinion to us. It is very nice of you to provide guidance to your nieces 🙂 For me, I generally don’t like providing advice…maybe it’s because I’ve always felt I had to fend for myself. Maybe it’s because I feel that if someone wants advice, they should ask for it. Maybe it’s because I don’t want my advice to be ‘right’ when it is only one perspective. Hence why I try to showcase a variety of views here.

          There is no need for you to conform with what others want you think, Simon. What you think, what you believe in and who you are is up to you. It can be tricky when it comes to your faith and people can and will be opinionated about it – and if they do, it also doesn’t mean they are a bad person. For a moment there, they would have listened to you. Next step is to accept these different means of living as a part of life. Which is easier said than done. But the more you stick to your beliefs, the more this is actually possible.

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          • Well yes! I’m glad you’re willing and able to say that because if I, a man, say such things some people will say something like ‘that’s just another example of men not wanting to own his responsibility towards women’. Again, falling back to the ‘us vs them’ mentality instead of forging relationships for the betterment of everyone, as you seem to be so adept at doing yourself. (The latter, I mean.)

            Heh, I’m often a night owl as well – like you that’s often when I’m most alert. Completely appreciate the dismay at noticing when arising for work is only mere hours away. I suppose that makes sense for you to make haste if you want to stick to a posting schedule though I would have thought a leeway of a day or two wouldn’t be disastrous… would it? Anyway, I’m glad that you have your plans for the year – I remember not too long ago you seemed to be a bit stuck on what more to write about.

            Perhaps not your words directly, just the subject matter. As I’ve said time and again (and that doesn’t make it any less remarkable) you have a gracious respect for everyone that I just do not see anywhere else on-line. Yes, we happen to disagree on this (admittedly very important issue) but the fact is you remain patient (even with my own faults) and don’t let that get in the way of good, constructive conversation. I don’t know what the appeal is for ‘social’ and secular media to be so toxic but if you can see that I and others like me aren’t ‘phobic’ or ‘bigots’, why can’t others see that?

            I wonder why your Christian friends choose not to go to church – maybe they’ve had bad experiences like my friends I mentioned (we are all still broken people, after all), but I had the pleasure of having them visit my church last Sunday after they realised how isolated they were for not going to one for a while. I believe a good church community will welcome everyone who wishes to come regardless of beliefs or background (though they might not necessarily find the affirmation they might desire, that only comes from God) – just as Jesus welcomed all who came to him honestly and earnestly.

            I’m sure you also did those multiple-choice tests in school where you filled in blocks or ellipses with pencil and the sheets were scanned and read by computer. Sometimes I’d still be in the middle of filling in my name when the teachers say we can start. XD But yeah, there’s usually enough space for my name – it’s ‘only’ 18 characters long! (Well, 27 for everything on the passport, including Chinese name.)

            No, Leya is by far not the only one, I’ve definitely heard that misunderstanding before, just as I was explaining to you earlier. If I knew her in person, I’d be keen to sit down with her and read the Bible together, because often when people say ‘oh the Bible says this’ or ‘the Bible says that’, they might not be seeing the full picture from having not even read the passage for themselves. Which is not to say I’m an expert by any means, but the thing about the Bible is that nearly anyone can read it in their own language and wrestle with it for themselves – that’s the privilege we have today, which the Roman Catholic Church (which would have been the established ‘Church’ of the time in the 1000s that she refers to) did not even permit people till the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s (disclaimer: I’m not Roman Catholic).

            No, one bad egg doesn’t mean the whole basket is bad… except Christians recognise that without God we are all bad through and through (or at least short of God’s standard). That’s why we seek Jesus’ grace because we know we can’t fix ourselves by ourselves. 😉

            Sorry, I didn’t mean to say being older means you’re always wiser. Being older does afford more experience, and having more experience often means you gain wisdom from those experiences, for better or worse. But it’s not always so – so many people younger than myself are smarter and/or wiser in various areas than I am. I’d include you in that number as I’m sure I have a few more years than you do. 😉 Just as the Apostle Paul wrote to his student Timothy, ‘Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young… (but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity).’

            I appreciate that you think there’s no need for me to conform… but there’s a huge amount of pressure to do so out there even right now (and not just for me, for many others in Australia too). I’m grateful that I don’t (yet?) have to fear losing my livelihood or my liberty or even my life because I will choose to follow Jesus over mankind (where they conflict), but that time may soon be coming – yes, even to Australia. But for now, I’m grateful that people like you will be patient enough to bear with me even though we may disagree, because we have that mutual respect as fellow people.

            Regards.

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            • At the end of the day, forging relationships and respect towards others is challenging because many of us like our security, what we’ve always been comfortable with. As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The last thing anyone wants is to upset anyone. But sometimes that is necessary towards understanding each other – talk it out, admit harsh realities, acknowledge them and then learn to work together.

              For me a leeway of a day or two is disastrous. For me it is stand and deliver, on time, on song. No excuses 😀

              You are very kind with your words, Simon. Thank you. For a long, long time, I felt that my opinions weren’t heard. I know the feeling, and it’s a horrible feeling to not be acknowledged at all. So all comments and opinions are welcome here so long as none of them are shutting anyone down or attacking anyone personally. In the fight for fairer opportunity, a tolerant sphere is so important because that is what helps us see that we can benefit so much more through interacting with others. The world is not our island, but those around us are often our island.

              My Christian friends who don’t go to church haven’t had bad experiences like your friends. Their reason being would be they aren’t able to find a church to connect with. Don’t get me wrong – they do think the communities at the churches were very nice, very welcoming. Just that they lacked a connection with these spaces overall. They see nothing wrong in not attending church but still following God’s word day in, day out. In fact, they could probably actually have a much more constructive conversation on Christianity with you compared to me! 🙂

              Filling out those ellipses in school! Those were so fun! But not fun for you since you lost time filling out your name 😀

              Certainly anyone can read the bible. ‘anyone can read it in their own language and wrestle with it for themselves ‘ I suppose that means some of it is open to interpretation as you apply the words to your life (feel free to correct me if I am totally wrong). Over the years I’ve heard people telling me that one should be careful in choosing which Bible to read as there are different ‘forms’ of Christianity and really faith in general. Too often I have been followed down the street by missionaries (of Asian background, male and female) trying to preach the Bible to me. Going back to the subject of gender equality/discrimination, I do get the feeling they target me because I am a short, petite girl of Asian background who looks like she doesn’t bite. Most times I feel annoyed, but I do get they are allowed to share their opinions and faith openly.

              Anyone can help anyone at the end of the day, older or younger. It can one experience and we can help someone else. I do hope you continue to live the life that you want to live. If you believe it, then you believe it and I am sure the closest around you do too.

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              • Hmm, on one level I could agree with that. I like my ‘safe zone’ and people who threaten that safety, or security as you put it, make me uncomfortable. On a deeper level, though, I think it comes down to the fact that everyone – and I mean everyone, including myself – is inherently selfish. Some people get a kick out of hurting others but even if you’re not like that, we are naturally inclined to gravitate towards what pleases us first rather than what is best for others. It’s part of the human condition. Some people try to fight against it through sheer will, I can only do so because of what I have seen God has done for me first.

                Good on you for your commitment, then! I was just concerned for your health that you chose to finish it off so late at night.

                No thanks needed, I’m only stating my opinion – I think you’ve seen by now that I’m honest with what I share with you here whether we agree on something or not. 🙂 For myself, I agree with what you say here except I would perhaps phrase it as ‘a willingness to respectfully listen to each other is important’ – the over-use of the word ‘tolerance’ in public discourse makes me think too much of the politically-correct version where I feel more often a case of ‘I will only tolerate you if you agree with what I say’. And there are limits to tolerance as well, no? For example, no-one would be criticised for being intolerant towards people committing acts of violent terrorism against them. 😉

                I understand that mentality, but I feel that Christians flourish best when in community with others. It’s very difficult to grow individually – though it’s a reality for many Christians around the world in countries where they are overtly and violently persecuted. If there is opportunity to meet like in Australia (at least for the time being) I think it should be taken. Of course, ‘church’ is not the building, it’s the people, so if there is opportunity to meet together – even if only 2 or 3 – Jesus promises he is there with them, and that can be considered to be a ‘church’. And don’t discount that just because you don’t consider yourself a believer that our conversation is somehow irrelevant or not constructive. Of course, if you think your friends could benefit from talking to me I’d be happy to be in contact. 🙂

                Ah, it wasn’t too bad. I did find those tests/quizzes fun too.

                Well, yes, I suppose that is part of the confusion: that there are so many denominations out there. It seems to me that some differences are just due to styles of worship. But there are also differences in beliefs – some of them quite serious. I don’t think any one group has it ‘all right’ – for God alone is the source of truth (‘I am the way the truth and the life’). For my own church background, the focus is on the Bible as the inspired word of God – Bible-believing Christians are often referred to as ‘evangelicals’ in church circles. That’s why I mentioned that I’m not a Catholic, for whom the Roman Catholic Church bears authority, often more so than the Bible and perhaps God himself. I could go into church history and the broad groups of denominations but I’m conscious that I don’t want to make this an off-topic essay particularly as you’re not that interested in the subject yourself.

                With respect to variations in interpretation I hold to something called ‘Biblical theology’, or in non-jargon terms, that the Bible *as a whole* reveals God to us and is consistent within itself in spite of being written across generations with many different authors. So when I see/hear people cherry-pick this verse or that to argue a certain point I often wince inwardly because I can see they are not reading and interpreting the Bible as a whole. An example of this is so-called prosperity theology or prosperity gospel – you might have seen/heard of it stereo-typified in the (often American) televangelist. These people try to draw people in with promises of material blessings if you ‘believe in Jesus’ and ‘give to my cause’ but it’s a false gospel – yes, God blesses us immeasurably when we come to him but often it’s not in the way we (at least in western society) want or expect: with material wealth, health, and a licence to do whatever we please. In reality the blessings we receive instead are far better and greater – if we can look beyond our immediate physical reality.

                Sorry, I realise I’m writing too much again – but I suppose we all write the most about what we are passionate about! With respect to street evangelism, I’m sure they try to engage with anyone who is willing to listen. Maybe you feel targeted because you are small and/or Asian and/or a woman, and maybe that’s a factor in their thinking, maybe not. But don’t worry, I usually avoid street hawkers of *any* sort, so don’t feel bad if you get annoyed for being engaged outside of what is convenient for you, it’s often frustrating for anyone.

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                • That is such an important point, that everyone is inherently selfish. And because of that, perhaps that there will always be some degree of inequality around. We all like to do what pleases us because that makes us comfortable, makes us confident, makes us safe.

                  It is an interesting perspective that you have on tolerance, which is a complex word in itself. Tolerance may constitute listening, being calm, being accommodating and at least attempting to be understanding – which you and I both seem to agree upon that it is about being okay to disagree.

                  In general, I think society sees being in a community as more beneficial than being alone or in one’s own small cliques. You said it, that for some people church is not a building but more of a connection between a higher power and like-minded believers, whether they are right beside you or geographically distant.

                  True. There will inevitably be different styles of worship and beliefs and what is right or wrong is a matter of perspective. Some of my Christian friends are Catholic and some belong to the Orthodox churches – but like you, they also have a focus on the Bible as opposed to what ‘group’ they belong to. However, I do know some who like to pick up phrases from the Bible and focus on interpreting it around the context that might have been written or said…which in a way I suppose can be argued as looking towards the broader picture and what Jesus stands for.

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                  • I think the mutual respect bit is important. That’s why ideals like ‘tolerance’ doesn’t work with terrorism, because there’s no respect – or love or care – given.

                    ‘Church’ comes from the Greek word ‘ecclesia’ – it basically means assembly or gathering, in other words, it’s referring to the people not the building such meetings happen in. 😉

                    I didn’t mean to say all Roman Catholics blindly follow their Church authority – I’ve been in Bible studies with some remarkable Roman Catholics. It’s just that, at least in my experience, the ‘average’ Catholic doesn’t even open his/her Bible because it’s interpreted for them by the RC Church.

                    In the end, I believe being a Christian is living for Jesus in *response* to his saving grace (as opposed to attempting to earn it, which is religion). As part of that it means living for others first before myself (contrasting my natural selfishness) – and to tie it back to your original topic, that includes the women around me. Again quoting Paul writing to Timothy, ‘Treat… older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.’ Any man who does this, I think, will go a long way to stopping the negative discrimination you wrote about here. 🙂

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                    • It is interesting to hear how different Christians see and interpret the Bible. Most whom I know have their own interpretation in some way but always go back referring to Jesus and his grace.

                      I think that quote you shared is a respectful way of thinking about women – in terms if purity (but not in terms of mothers and sisters). All of us have something to offer and I like to think that all of us, any shape and person in between, do have kindness and respect in all of us no matter our roles.

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                  • That’s the central unifying force that brings all Christians together irrespective of differences – Jesus!

                    My point is not that we think of all women as literally mothers and sisters (I can hear the mocking taunts of ‘incest’ already), but that it’s another way of thinking of the second greatest commandment: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ 🙂

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                    • It is very refreshing to hear you speak openly about your faith, and link these sayings to the topic at hand. This always makes your comments and reflections one of a kind. Thank you so much, Simon 🙂

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  12. An interesting post on your reflections of gender discrimination in Asian cultures, and in the Australian situation, Mabel. It is certainly a rich post with much to contemplate. I think patriarchal societies are the way of the world. Fortunately that is changing, if slowly. It is taking strong voices like yours to show what is and what could be. I think you summed it all up in the end of your article with the advice to be who you want to be. Well done.

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    • It is really encouraging to see the Australia and the world being more open-minded to different values, beliefs and ideals these days. No system or society or person is better over the other, and we shouldn’t be shutting each other down. I really like how through your writings about making classrooms conducive and inclusive environments contributes to this sentiment. Thank you for speaking out.

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      • Your post is very appropriate for Harmony Day on 21 March. It’s about being inclusive, respectful and accepting of others. The perspectives you offer contribute much to those ideals.

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        • That is right, Harmony Day on 21 March. Rebecca Rossi in the comments earlier also said this month is Women’s History Month. Such a reflective month and a reminder that all of us no matter gender, faith or background, we all can share and learn from each other.

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          • I read Rebecca Rossi’s comment. I wasn’t aware of Women’s History Month, but International Women’s Day was on the 8 March too. We need an all inclusive day for everyone. I guess that’s what Harmony Day is aiming to do.

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            • Very kind of you to read and like the other comments Norah 🙂 Harmony Day is great in that it encompasses all demographics. I do remember the teachers telling us about it in school, but these days don’t hear much of it in the working world. Days like these are important in that they remind us to celebrate differences.

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              • We should hear more of it in the working world. How wonderful would it be for each workplace to make at least one day where they celebrate the diversity in their staff, and customers. It would be an easy thing to print some Harmony Day badges and give one to everyone who walks through the door. 🙂

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  13. It’s funny. I don’t see Asian women as weak or submissive. They may act that way, but the public and private persona are quite different in my experience. I feel like many Asian mothers hold the family together and the favoritism towards males in Asian culture has a tendency to produce weak or ‘babied’ men. At the same time, I feel like Asian boys are under a lot of pressure to ‘hold up the family name’ and provide for the family.

    Meanwhile I feel like I have more freedom. Now, yes, I’m suppose to ‘take care of my mom’ in her old age, but I’ve been quite lucky in that she’s in excellent heath.And this was something my brother and I discussed ages ago. Which reminds me of how much I think sons and daughters today are rebelling against stereotypes and precast roles from yesteryear.

    As far as abuse, that’s another issue all together. Asian men can be abusive towards their wives as well, not just Australian men. In fact when my BF was in China he witnessed a few public displays of domestic violence. But since he’s a Westerner, he intervened. It sickened him to see it while the general public did nothing.

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    • You are spot on in that there there is a public and private persona. Some of us might be quiet on the outside in public because that is our way of staying calm. But behind closed doors where we feel at home, we might act a bit more outspoken.

      Freedom does depend on circumstances. It’s great to hear that health is on your side and you and your family can openly discuss how to support each other when need be. More families should be like that to facilitate communication. But when you have one person dominating the conversation in the family, that will always be hard.

      So true domestic violence happens everywhere. In many parts of Asia domestic violence is seen as something private, a family matter and no one should intervene – even if the display of violence is in public. What your partner did was brave and he would have put himself at risk of harm.

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  14. Encountered gender discrimination every day when working at the bank few years back…all the high ups were male and full of themselves. I remember when a woman who had worked many years as a consultant and was hired to help the bank to get out of the red numbers the “guys” were just laughing her ideas off and told her that they know themselves better what to do / that she is just a little girl and should do a more suitable job…I never felt so embarrased to be a male when sitting there (had to be there as part of the team to enforce the changes – it failed by the way)
    Except this I realized that discrimination of women got less over the past decades but it is still on unacceptable levels.
    On the other hand I have witnessed also a lot of discrimination by female teachers and professors towards male students. Oh well I guess I could go on and on regarding this matter but I guess you grasp my idea and feelings towards this topic

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    • I still remember you were writing about working at the bank on your blog. It seems like such a long time ago!

      It is interesting to hear of that work environment in Germany in places like the bank. Wonder why they would hire the woman when they didn’t want to listen to her in the first place. It seems like a waste of her time and hope she went on to another job that appreciated what she could offer. It also sounded very hard for you in that environment.

      That last point you raised there is also very interesting – discrimination by female students towards male students. Now that you mention it, I had a female professor at university who always gave attention and time to my male classmates I wonder why 🤔

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      • The woman was part of an external company specialized in getting companies/ banks back on track. Sadly the bank I worked in had too traditional structures and people in high positions only thinking about their own benefits.

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        • Yeah, it’s common for people in high positions to think about their personal gain and how to stay in these positions. These days it’s still a reality to see the same people or same demographic of people at the top for so long. It will be a while before things change.

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  15. I am honored by the mention in your post, Mabel. Yes, I am all for equal opportunity and recognize there is still a ways to go across this vast globe of ours. Your discussion of periods struck me in particular as I know people who blush at the mention of anything to do with it yet I see it as a part of a woman being healthy (I went through months without it when I was underweight when younger). I would have been cheering that female swimmer on! Hugs.

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    • When I wrote this post, I really wanted to quote women who were outspoken and outspoken respectfully on the subject of equality. Thought of you! It is so true that periods mean that a woman (or for most women) is healthy – sort of like going to the toilet regularly each day.

      Your blog is such an inspiration to women all over the world! I was actually hoping to quote you on the topic of fair opportunity (which I feel is different from being equal given that we all can’t exactly be equal), but couldn’t find it on your blog but found your progress article fitting 🙂

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  16. What a terrific breakdown of the gender stereotypes for Asian women, Mabel. Your words are so beautifully paired with your photos. As I was reading this, I really felt a recognition in my own culture of gender expectations, and the patriarch beliefs. Interestingly, the stereotype that Chinese or perhaps Japanese women are more submissive than European, or North American women is alive and well here in Canada.

    It comes down to our individuality rather than our gender which you’ve made very clear here. We need to be appreciated as people not solely women, or girls. That said, we do get taught to be nurturing and submissive to a certain point (not allowed to show anger or ‘wear the pants’ as some people in my family would say).

    I guess what I’m thinking is that we’re not all that different here in our Canadian culture, than Asian women in how we’re raised. I smiled at the thought of you rejecting your Barbie dolls. My daughter did the exact same thing. I didn’t have a problem with that though. I do wonder if boys preferred to play with dolls instead of hot wheels, would their parents care? Some do, I think. Sorry my comment is so long LOL.

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    • Thanks so much for your kind words, Lisa. No need to apologise for the long comment, lol. It makes me so happy to hear that this post resonated with you. Interesting to hear that Chinese stereotypes still prevail in Canada. I’ve never visited Canada but I’ve heard it is a very open, welcoming and accepting place. Sometimes stereotypes exist because we just don’t know better or don’t have the opportunity to know better.

      Personality is something that many of us forget these days about a person. I have to agree with you that women are more often than not taught to be nurturing and submissive especially at home and in the context of having a family. However there is only so much we can learn from just focusing on one thing, one mindset.

      It is lovely to hear your daughter being open to play with toys other than Barbie dolls – and you gave her a choice to be who she wants to be. It’s an interesting question you posed there – whether boys would like to play with Barbie dolls. Funny how many parents shy away from giving Barbie dolls to boys to play but when it comes to stuffed animals, that is more acceptable. Once again, thank you so much for chiming in 🙂

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  17. Well Mabel, I fear there is a bit of generalizing in your approach on this one. I was fortunate to have a father who did not believe women should be restricted to lesser roles in the world. He taught me that I could be anything I wanted to be. When my mother insisted I go to secretarial school my father encouraged me to go to college instead, which I did.

    When I wanted to marry my boyfriend he told me of course I could do that but only after attending 1 year at university. Then if I still wanted to get married I would have his blessing. Of course there was no chance I was doing that after I experienced the world outside of my home town. Which of course he fully expected but I know he’d have been good to his word if I’d chosen to go the other way. At his funeral a woman I’d never met came up to me.

    She worked as a successful saleswoman in the company where my dad was VP of sales. She told me he loved all of his children (I have 4 brothers) but he was proudest of me and I was the one he talked about the most. Maybe she told my brothers that too, but I prefer to think not :-). It’s up to us to make the most of who we are.

    Yes, I’m sure it is much more difficult if you are raised in a culture where women are not viewed as equals but hopefully that is changing as women like you and your contemporaries challenge the stereotypes on a daily basis. But try to assume that the men around you are not necessarily seeing you as anything other than an equal and they may or may not prove you wrong. You won’t know until you try!

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    • This was a challenging post to write, and even I felt I was generalising in quite a few parts lol. Your father seemed to be someone who is very open-minded and valued each individual for who they are – and encouraged you to go above and beyond for yourself. Education is important and glad that your father guided you towards it. How lovely of that successful saleswoman to come up to you and say that your father was proudest of you and talked so highly of you. You must have been so happy to hear that 🙂

      For me I feel like all of us will never be equal but we can be given the same opportunity. Times are changing in Australia. In quite a few places where I have worked, women are valued for who they are and for their skills. Trying is always an option. Try, and who knows, you might succeed. Thank you so much for such an honest comment, Tina 🙂

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  18. First of all, your photos of the street art women went so beautifully with your post. I also had never really thought about the dual and opposing view of Asian women in some parts of society: the submissive/passive one and the overly aggressive Tiger Mom-ish one. It’s hard enough to fight one stereotype, let alone two, but you’ve taken a valiant stab at it!

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  19. First – I love the street art in this article. It was like bling for me and a total (gorgeous) distraction so I had to go read your beautiful words a second time 😊 It was, as always, a very interesting read.

    Second – Your stubbornness has and will continue to get you very far. You are unstoppable

    Third – I have not experienced much gender discrimination. I pretty much have always been independent and felt like I could do anything in this life that I wanted. Great parents I guess, and the time/culture I was born in, and my mind set, and because I want my way 😉. In reality, I’ve always thought that it is easier to be a woman than a man. I would love to live in a world where everyone is equal and can be anything they want to be. That is my ultimate dream.

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    • Lol street photography is like bling for you. A very apt way to put it 🙂 However you are the one that blings it all round with your street art photography, anytime, any day.

      What a compliment on my stubborness. Thank you so much. So humbled 😮 🙇

      It is great that you have always been independent and living your life as you want to. Mindset is so important and with a strong mind, everything is a possibility. Keep sailing and travelling, Lisa ⛵🌊🙉😊💙

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  20. ‘Taking on another name never appealed to me. Don’t ever intend on changing my name. To me, my own name speaks of who I am, what I’ve attained and carry on my shoulders today: an education, the lessons learnt from my ancestors, the places that I’ve worked, the money I’ve earned which is rightfully mine. My name speaks of my history, my present stories and experiences of being Chinese Australian.’ – I vehemently offer my support for you on this. A friend asked me before whether I would intend on taking on my husband’s last name if I’m married. Like you, Mabel. I want to preserve my history and the challenges that I endured to get to where I am in, say, 5-10 years time. If I remember right, you have to take on the husband’s last name after marriage – not sure if I am willing, but if there is a legal requirement, then I guess I cannot override it.

    ‘The way I prefer to articulate my thoughts isn’t in a space where everyone is debating over each other. The way I prefer to share my strengths isn’t in front of a big crowd.’ – that sounds like me!

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    • I think a woman taking their husband’s name is more of a Western phenomenon. A name speaks so much of an individual, especially if you have worked hard to get your own name to where it is today. Marriage is also a choice, not compulsory…and many of us should be more open to this.

      Lol sometimes I really wonder if there is a way to articulate my thoughts apart from writing.

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      • That’s true… the friend who asked me is an Australian, so I guess he wondered why I was unwilling to take a husband’s name. I reckon that marriage is only suitable for certain people – if both parties have mutual understanding and agreements on it. I’m personally open to the idea of marriage (maybe because I’m still young and a bit traditional when it comes to that) BUT I don’t agree with marrying for the sake of it.

        Perhaps you could give acting a shot? =D

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        • That is interesting to hear the friend is Australian. Most of my Australian friend – of Asian and Western background, male and female – don’t see a need for a woman to take someone else’s name. You are very wise on marriage. It is not for everyone, just like how not all of us want to be not married forever. Each to their own.

          Well, writing is hard. But lol I will never ever want to take up acting if it means me being in front of the camera. No thanks 😃

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          • I still can’t understand what made him asked that question, but I guess only he himself knows. I’ve seen too much about relationships and heard too much about marriage to arrive at that stance. I mean, what’s the point of marrying with someone who is not suitable for the sake of it and end up in a divorce? It would be better to remain single than to take that gamble.

            I’d prefer to be in front of the camera than writing, lol. I find acting easier because I can be someone whom I don’t know.

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            • Yeah, only your friend would know why he would ask that question. Relationships, romantic, platonic, working, social, all kinds of relationships really, are complex. Everyone will have their own opinions.

              Lol I never imagined you wouldn’t mind being in front of the camera. Well, if you say so, you can step right in front of the camera and play someone else…and maybe in the process learn a new perspective 😀

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  21. Interesting as usual, Mabel, and well written. I think my contribution here will be something about the #metoo movement. I don’t know how much impact it has in your country, but here in northern Scandinavia it is substantial.
    As you say, and many commenters agree on – it is on its way, but it will take time. It is a sloooow process, for us to reach the same position as men have had as long as we can remember. Old traditions. But, if we think of times before Christianity, in many places women were greatly respected. In fact Christianity told women to keep quiet and let the men rule. And many of them did.
    Now to #metoo – finally men have started to listen, and now they are afraid not to do the right thing. Everyone here, thousands of women, from dentists to teachers to artists – to any profession – have united and let their voices be heard LOUD and CLEAR. About the daily abuse they are treated with. Verbally or physically. Several famous Swedish men have lost their jobs or appeared in papers and media to publicly offer their apologies if they have intentionally or unintentionally offended women in their jobs or friendships.
    But – we have a long way to go.

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    • Dear Leya.

      I just wish to convey to you the sorrow I share in seeing women oppressed in the name of Christianity. I don’t know what you have heard or experienced for yourself to believe that Christianity teaches that men come before women. As a Christian I strongly disagree with this and believe men and women are equal before God, and that we both ought to love and serve each other as we would want to be loved and served. I know that many have twisted Christianity for their own gain – this is inexcusable and they will be called to account before God for this. Real men lay down their lives in service for their wives, they don’t rule over them. I hope you might see this in the people around you some day.

      Warmest regards, from Sydney.

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      • Dear Simon, I agree with you that today there is no difference. What I was referring to was what I know happened for example on Iceland, where women were just as important as men – before Christianianity arrived around year 1000. After that, the women were not allowed to learn to read for example, and lost their important position in society. Also the Bible said that the women should not speak in the congregation.
        So – I do not say there is something wrong here – it is always how the readers of a religion interpret the word. I hope you understand my point.
        All the best,
        Leya

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    • #Meetoo has been gaining a lot of coverage here in Australia, which is so encouraging. You are so right in that it is a slow process and old traditions still dominate. That is such an interesting bit of history per-Christianity era. Might need to look it up.

      Some may see #Meetoo as an attack on men, but really it is a movement that is pointing out what has been going on for so long. No more hiding anymore. It is amazing to hear of the impact it has had in Sweden – and I always thought of that place as a very safe place. I am sure it is. But sometimes with people – and any place really – you just never know what is going on unless someone speaks out.

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      • O – it is a safe place, but here the main point has been where people work and what it takes to advance. Actors for example (just like in America…), lawyers, fire fighters, any profession. Women are being bullied or having difficulties to prove how skilled they are – always men in the top positions. Now women dare to speak up, because they have understood that they are not alone in this.

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        • ‘having difficulties to prove how skilled they are’ Sadly this will probably go on for a while. But the more women speak up, the faster this will become a reality. Thank you for speaking up and adding your voice, Ann-Christine. You are a force to be reckoned with.

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  22. I remember when I was living in South Korea for the first time, a Korean man telling me that there were “no gay men” in Korea. Wow, at the time I thought, no they are mostly hiding because it is hard to stand against the ingrained notion that there is something wrong with homosexuality. It also made think about how open am I really to people who are different than me? It can be difficult because stereotypes can seem to be an easy way of thinking, but I think the more we can be open to individuals living in a way they see fit, the happier and healthier we all will be.

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  23. Whilst I admire your stance, Mabel, discrimination in one form or another is nothing new. We’re not so very far from being emancipated, even in the west. Man had a vested interest in keeping us under subjugation and the attitude prevails in many places. Fortunately there are enough ‘strong’ and able women to prove our worth. Like yourself 🙂 🙂

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    • Discrimination is definitely not new at all and you are very right on that. Women are still treated as objects these days. You are also a strong woman, Jo – going about your walks each week and going wherever you want to, living life as to how you wish 🙂

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  24. Lovely post, Mabel. What you pointed out is right. In India, women change their surname after marriage. There are some exceptions and variations too. in some communities, women use the first name followed by their father or husband’s name. You are right Asian communities are male dominant societies and follow the paternal system. However, a lot is changing with nuclear families and more and more women joining the workforce. Now they are not just homemaker rather they make their own decisions. But yes, it will take a long time to change.

    By the way, your pictures are befitting the topic of the post. Loved all your clicks. Looks like you have hunted these down as they seem to be in alleys and lanes.

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    • India is an interesting country today. As you said, women are required to take on someone else’s name when they get married. Yet you hear a lot of Indian women are proudly and independently pursuing their careers – at least that’s what I’ve read here in the blog world. Time are changing. Maybe some tradition will stay; we all need some of that to stay grounded. But also we need to be more progressive.

      Thank you so much for your nice words, Arv. I took these photos over the last few years, all down different alleys that I walked through 🙂

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      • I’m happy that women are taking a stride forward. It’s important for making that change. You took these pictures over a period of time? Great! Your are a great photographer, Mabel. 😃😃

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  25. Some of my father’s family a few generations back in Taiwan have done the ru zhui tradition. I’m unclear if it was his grandfather’s sister or his female cousin because my dad has told me it was either a sister or cousin. Lol I will have to ask him one day to clarify for once and for all which relative she was. What happened was the woman had the surname Huang (黄, the word for the color yellow) which is also the surname I have. She married a man of another surname but depending on the gender of her children, some carried her surname and others had her husband’s. I have no idea if this is the typical way to do ru zhui as I always heard ru zhui meant the children all took their mother’s surname. From this branch of the family tree, at some point the woman’s grandson inherited the surname Huang and so his two daughters have it now too. I think it’s interesting that they would’ve had a surname other than Huang if ru zhui didn’t take place. I don’t know the circumstances of why the tradition was upheld for that branch in the family though.

    The Chinese tradition of a nuclear family and the woman assuming the pious, motherly role is not one I identify with at all. I do identify as straight though I can also say my sexuality probably does have some fluidity to it. I’ve felt curious about women before and even felt a mixture of attraction and admiration for some, though I can’t see myself being in a romantic relationship with a woman. It’s very confusing.

    I also hate being called xiao jie. It sounds awful to my ears. I hope you don’t mind me correcting you, but the chinese characters used in parenthesis for the word is incorrect and should actually be 小姐. I have also read (but I’m not entirely sure) that in some region of China, xiao jie is a euphemism for a prostitute? Another thing I dislike is when people shorten my chinese name and give me a nickname. I don’t mind it when my parents do it, but I dislike it when other people do. For example, the last character in my chinese name is wei (薇). My mom calls me “wei wei”. I don’t understand why female names in chinese become double like that. I notice in China, it is common for girl names to be the same character but in other places like Taiwan that doesn’t happen.

    I do wish I had grown up with more assertive and empowering influences. Knowing the culture my parents came from, both of them likely were shaped in good and bad ways because of their experiences. That stuff, whether they intended it or not, carried over onto me in some aspects.

    I do not have much experience knowing the traditional roles of what is expected of a man and a woman in chinese culture. My main influence seeing depictions of that was through chinese dramas, lol. Dramas, I have recognized after seeing various in modern and historical settings, is that the fictional characters are always a particular way in their personality or attitude that is supposed to appeal to the audience. I find that a bit tiresome because people in real life are not black and white like that, and that’s why I don’t really watch dramas anymore because it’s a lot of recycled characters being reused.

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    • So interesting to hear that one of your family members did the ruzhui tradition! I heard that there is no typical way of the tradition – and the base of it is just a man marrying into a woman’s family that might be more well-off or of a higher class in society. In some instances all the children in this kind of family arrangement take on the mother’s name like you suggested, but maybe not which is what happened in this branch of your family. Maybe each ruzhui arrangement is a personal and unique thing within each family.

      Like you, I have also wondered about attraction towards woman. It is a strange feeling. On one hand, we see other women as attractive in terms of differing looks and personality. On the other hand, we probably can’t love a woman like how we can love a man in a romantic relationship – that feeling with woman is just not there.

      That is interesting to hear xiao jie might actually be an euphemism for a prostitute. Wonder where it actually came about. It’s a term that often assumes a girl to be nice but naive, especially like in many Chinese dramas and films I have watched. Your mother’s nickname for you ‘Wei Wei’ sounds very demure, almost cutesy – and many Chinese parents want their daughters to be feminine. Thank you for correcting me! I will look up xiao jie again and fix up the typo 🙂

      If your are watching dramas from say, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and really made-in-Asia dramas, chances are they depict traditional roles for men and women. Like you, I don’t watch them anymore because the story lines are so predictable.

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      • The attraction to women definitely feels different from my attraction to men. It’s like those “women crushes” people talk about. It might be different depending on the individual, though.

        “Wei wei” does sound super feminine. Coming from my mother, I don’t mind it because she’s my mom but those two words coming from other relatives who choose to address me as such rubs me the wrong way and makes me perceive they’re treating me like a child. My dad has never called me “wei wei” and he just settles for calling me “mei” (the word for little sister in mandarin). I am also similarly disgusted when extended family seem to prefer to use “mei” on me instead of calling me by my name. Ugh!

        The dramas really do stereotype men and women. The protagonist is almost always timid and naive, but I’ve seen variations of this, in that if she’s not timid, she’s tomboyish and loud, or some other characteristic that serves as a major contrast to the secondary female protagonist, who usually has what the primary protagonist is lacking. Also, the male protagonists bother me. A lot of times I ended up rooting for the secondary male lead because the main one was obviously pegged in the drama as the better choice but real life doesn’t work that way. XD

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        • Yes, women crushes! You nailed it. I feel that way about some woman…it’s like you want to be like that woman, but not be with her. Towards men the feeling is definitely different.

          It is interesting to hear how you like being called ‘wei wei’ and ‘mei’ by only your mum. Traditional Chinese families are meant to be close, so maybe your relatives feel it okay to call you by these names.

          Lol, you described the stereotypes of Chinese dramas so well. Also I notice that at some point there will and must be a love plot or love interesting between two characters, and also someone getting hurt – which is usually a strong tomboyish women being loud and tough.

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          • Yeah… the tradition of Chinese families being close is one that feels more superficlal in my experience, in that I share blood with lots of relatives but having the same genes doesn’t make us close. I wouldn’t say my mom and I are best friends, but I do feel a kinship with her (and my dad) that is closer to any other relative because they’re my parents. So I guess I feel close to them in that way. But for other relatives, it grosses me out when they call me “wei wei” or “mei” as I am only comfortable letting my parents refer to me as such.

            Ew I hate love triangles (or love squares, for that matter). I can’t understand how people make money from filming those type of tv series over and over.

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            • ‘the same genes doesn’t make us close’ You could know someone not related by blood and random and by chance and you feel they completely understand you. ‘Wei wei’ make you sound very feminine xD

              Love squares. What a great phrase. You really know how to write 🙂

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  26. Gender bias is a cultural thing. Luckily my mother has a mind of her own and treated everyone equally. No gender bias. Now her brothers really look up to her. To break away from this old age ‘tradition’ starts from you. There are men who will support women in every aspect. There are many many women that are well known for who they are.

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  27. Mabel I want to stand and cheer for you and this post. I love that on your blog you bring attention constantly to readers about perception and stereotypes. You are role
    Modeling for many the ability to stand up, to be yourself, to speak out. As to taking a husband’s name when I was married 35 years ago I just did it because that is what everybody in my area did. I never even thought about it. It would have been a very different decision today. Yet my daughter took her husband’s name as she saw it as a name she liked better. I love that she felt no pressure just the freedom to choose.
    As I often say aftervisiting Mabel you give me a great deal to reflect on. You are good for my brain, and my heart too. Xo

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    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Sue. I am humbled. Once again you are very kind to share part of yourself and your perspective here. It sounds like you proudly took your husband’s name – nothing wrong with that and going with the flow. You two are still together after so long 😀 You said it: freedom to choose is so important. So long as two people are happy together with the names they choose, that is what matters ❤

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  28. Pingback: I’d rather be ….looking at the reflections – What's (in) the picture?

  29. Wonderful post Mabel – wonderfuller than usual! A (un)favorite sore point one that has me ranting for pages and pages. In the initial days post marriage, my husband exhorted me to keep my father’s name though my FIL wasnt too happy about it. I even have a couple of scientific publications with both names but ultimately the gesture somehow felt how and irritating – having to explain, my husband wasnt going to take mine, my child wouldnt also take mine (and was that even mine – that was just my dad’s but not my moms’) so and so forth I dropped the additional baggage.

    But there are other and possibly more important ways to stand your ground and be counted. I am lucky enough to have been supported by both my parents and my partner (not that he had much of a choice) but there are far too many who have no say and even dont know that they have no say. Despite being educated, employed, they have no financial independence and I do wonder (despite all the exhortations not to blame the victim) whose fault is it?

    But I agree with you that aggressive women particularly in the work place are immediately singled out for either PMS, post-menopausal, ambitious, or a frustrated spinster. When men blast in the office they are of course being the steering force for the team. Grrrr. Just yesterday I got a video clip from a TED talk of an experiment on two monkeys aptly shows how unequal pay affects us. I will put the link in a separate comment box (I dont want to disappear in the spam world because of one tiny link).

    See that’s how I am – if you can’t beat them work around them 😀 I am quite put off with Women’s Day celebrations (I will celebrate when there’s no need for one) and with all the exhortations for women to become empowered, my question – is the societal structure empowered to deal with empowered women? The day women become truly empowered the institution of marriage will collapse. At least in my country it will. Enough rant for today 😀

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    • Wonderfuller! What a compliment, Dahlia 😀 Wow, scientific publications with two names. You are very smart…almost like two people smart combined together! So from the sounds of it you took your husband’s name in the end. If it made life easier for you, then it made life easier for you.

      ‘there are far too many who have no say and even don’t know that they have no say’ This is so true. Even with an education doesn’t guarantee one can find a way to speak up and support themselves financially. Sometimes it is just someone who doesn’t know or it can be tough luck. And so who to rely on is their family and partner. Some can still be mollycoddled by family as they pursue education up until and throughout university. The world post-education is the true test of survival in this world.

      You hit the nail on the head on how many outspoken women are seen in the workplace these days. It’s like one excuse after the other as to why women are trying to ‘step on’ someone’s toes when in actually fact they are being every bit the team player.

      I do think there is a need for celebrations such as International Women’s Day – it is a way we can continue to speak up for our rights. HOWEVER. I do agree that so long as we are celebrating it, it means there still isn’t fair opportunity. The more we celebrate events like these, maybe the more division it will cause, who knows. Maybe society isn’t ready to break away from traditional norms yet. So many of us seem to disagree with each other and want their own way.

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  30. Wow, Mabel. This was dense. You hit on a lot!! I briefly mentioned gender discrimination in my last post. Ugh, the whole thing is so stupid, but yes, it exists everywhere. Why it has to exist, I have no idea. Women are every bit as smart and capable as men, if, sometimes physically weaker. (It depends on the man and woman, lol.) I’ve never let having a period slow me down. I believe we all ought to let go of stereotypes and let people — in this case, women — show us who they are. Everyone has something important and valuable to bring to the table.

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    • I also felt this post was dense…probably the densest – and longest – I’ve ever written. I actually had more to say, lol. Many another post.

      You said it, that ‘Everyone has something important and valuable to bring to the table’. And do deserve a seat at the table. Why the gender equality discussion has to happen s sometimes baffling to me too. We’re all human, we’re all people and we can all help other out. Giving someone an opportunity isn’t that hard of an idea…but implementing it maybe. Hopefully one day the world changes for the better.

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  31. Gender discrimination still exist. You have great points on Asian cultures here. I notice the expectation towards women to be passive and less educated than the men are still existed to present day. Some (Asian) people I have met actually pointed out that highly educated (Asian) women will be difficult to get married. I remember I was told that it would not be easy for me to find an (Asian) husband who will be gladly accepting me as a postgraduate. In short, a wife should have lower education status than her husband. Somehow they can accept if the wife is richer but not the one with higher education level..

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    • You raised such a great point yourself, Indah – that in some societies a woman fits in if she has a lower education status than her partner, that it’s intimidating if she has a well-rounded education. It is sad. So glad to hear you live your life as who you are, proud of what you do and the people you surround yourself with.

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  32. Oh gosh, you didn’t pick a simple subject, did you? 😉 Gender discrimination even happens for white women, believe me – it happens to women all over the world.

    If one goes back to the primitive, one observes that men were gobsmacked to see a woman bleed. Then women gave birth – and men had No idea how that happened! So women were, quite bluntly, to be greatly feared and sometimes (even secretly) revered. Since the advent of Patriarchy, no matter race or religion though that certainly adds layers upon layers, for sure – women have been marginalized by society. It is ridiculous, because biologically, women’s brains lend themselves to multitasking, for example, where men’s brains do not. And what would we do with a dearth of women in the world? Who would complement the males among us? Instead of appreciating and encoraging differences, the dominant paradigm still overrelies on the Warrior archetype, and that negates many of women’s natural proclivities toward peacemaking, harmony, community. Which is a shame, if you ask me. Aloha, Mabel.

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  33. Fascinating post, gender is very complex these and your nuanced writing takes up these topics well.

    I really find the stereotype of submissive Asian women to be unfortunate, and more and more inaccurate as time goes on! Those certain men who are into that are really getting it wrong as Asia continues to modernize and society evolves in positive ways…

    All in all, girl power to you!

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    • So true that Asia is modernising, especially China and at such a rapid pace too. Quite a few Asian women are more than ready to speak up.

      Haven’t head ‘girl power’ in a long time! But we do need more of that!

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  34. Hahaha, I saw Ray’s comment above and I have to laugh because I was also going to say “girl power”. We are the Spice Girls generation I guess xD Discrimination sucks and it is so ridiculous nowadays. The world is not “owned” anymore by the tribal chiefs who are physically stronger, so why continue to consider women “less”? These days, I find hard to believe that some traditionally minded people in China still prefer sons over daughters… HELLO, if you are so worried about continuing the family line, have a daughter, as she will have many more potential partners! And also, if you think having a daughter is wasting money… well well, these days in China women get married “by the face” while men have to invest a lot of money buying apartments, a car and things for the bride. (I am completely against this, but it should be something for those minds stuck in the 17th century to consider).

    I also find very curious that western women are ok changing their surnames. In Spain we don’t have this tradition, and neither in China as you know, so for me it is very strange. Do you become a completely new person after marriage? Do you stop being who you were? Not to mention the insane amount of paperwork and troubles it must bring. Besides, your parents (in Spain we have both our dad’s surname and our mum’s surname) will always be your parents, but your husband will maybe not be your husband in a few years! So I think our system is the best, haha.

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    • Lol I think we are the Spice Girls generation indeed. Haven’t heard ‘girl power’ too much these days, but growing up that was a phrase I heard a lot (yes, because of Spice Girls XD )

      So agree that no own owns the world, and no one has the right to own each other. Marrying ‘by the face’ is something I’m completely against too. It outright means some faces aren’t worthy or good enough, or of no value in some instances. A person’s worth is so much more than their looks and what they possess materially.

      I think some woman change their surname after marriage with their (future) kids in mind – that they want to identify with their kids in terms of last name. Then again, no reason why someone can’t have a different surname from their children.

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  35. Mabel, this is such a well-written piece. You have addressed every possible challenge an Asian woman has to face since their birth. Every nation has their own part of challenges for a woman. And woman fight against all such odds to prove their calibre. By why does a woman need to fight for every basic thing? Probably this is the big question.

    Recently I was on a tour to Bhutan. There I really enjoyed seeing the fact that even being a small nation there is no gender inequality. Women enjoyed every right that a man enjoys. In most part of Bhutan matriarchal society is followed traditionally. I have seen maximum woman empowerment. I do agree that being a tourist I could not see the challenges that they have to face but overall I was pleased to see them in a better condition than women in other parts of Asia.

    But things are changing along with time. Being a citizen of India I personally feel a lot has changed in the thought process of people and society now. Women are in much better condition than they were before. And I hope the next generation will definitely see a better tomorrow with gender equality.

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    • Thank you for your kind words, Sarmistha. You bring up such a great question, in why does a woman like to fight for a basic thing like choice and opportunity. It’s such a confusing question and that question in a way frames women as being captive in this patriarchy-dominated capitalist society today.

      I read about your tour to Bhutan on your blog. Such an eye opening experience to see women over there working and having the same opportunities as men. More of Asia need to follow suit.

      Over the last few years I hope many women in India are more keen than ever to get an education and job, and most importantly to stand up for their rights. I hear IT is an industry many want to get in…dull and routine industry or not, it is a start 🙂

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  36. Want me to introduce a good Malaysian Chinese guy to you? Haha. Just kidding.

    Yes, as an Asian female, I’ve labelled not only by male counterparts but female ones as well. I think females are even quicker to judge each other. And that’s sad. Instead of helping each other, we discriminate the very sex that is always facing discrimination.

    I actually used gender discrimination to my advantage plenty of times. Particularly to trip up my clients and later over-impressing them. If they think I’m useless at my job, I’ll prove it to them by making sure I’ll knock their socks off. Yes, a girl doesn’t have to go that far to prove their worthy..heck, why do we have to prove our worth at all? But I always relish a challenge and love seeing a client to eat his / her own words when I can produce the best results in half the time than the colleague they favor the most.

    Cheap ego booster, I know. Hahaha!

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    • Hahaha. You can introduce me to whomever you want but then maybe some people around me might not be happy lol 😃

      I think that is so true females are quicker to judge each other, especially if they are after the same thing. It’s similar to how many women see certain bodies are more ‘acceptable’ over others.

      Amazing to hear you used gender discrimination to your advantage, and that it was by smarts and not looks. Some women I’ve encountered have used their looks to ‘get past’ gender discrimination (like dressing up really, really nicely during a job interview to impress)…which I feel is actually playing right into gender discrimination.

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  37. You’ve experienced the culture and society of three different countries and, that enrich your writing always. The different religions here in Asia also plays a pivotal role in maintaining the position of women in the society. I think, no culture or society is lenient towards women lib, it’s the determination and persistence of women that made them equalize the position to some extent in the western countries. Asian women are not weak, but financial wherewithal is a must when we fight for our rights and many women are not financially independent even now. But, yes, they need to speak up for that’s the only way to make the society aware of their oppression, either in the household or in the workplace. I really dream of a day when women won’t be infantilized or looked upon as inferior to their male counterparts.

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful post, Mabel. The pictures are so meaningful and relevant! Loved them… 🙂

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    • Interesting proposition there, Mani, that it is the determination and persistence of women that create more fairness and opportunities for them. To a large degree rightfully so because if we sit back, maybe the world will think we are okay with just keeping quiet. Some women are still not financially independent because they have not gotten the opportunity to make a living for themselves, and worse have say in how their lives should be run. Maybe one day the world be a better place for all but for now, let’s keep sharing our voices.

      Thank you so much. Glad you liked the photos Had so much fun putting them together 🙂

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  38. ‘Women come in all shapes and sizes and most certainly in all shades of colour and character. Some of us fit the stereotype, some of us don’t. Each to their own.’ Loved the post, particularly these powerful words.

    Submissive, weak, quiet are some of the stereotypes that have been labelled against women in most patriarchal societies. I think the gender bias would have stemmed up from the need to exercise control over resources. By giving preference to a male child over a female child, by not giving a share in the property or by limiting the nature of work that a woman can do, societies essentially subjugate the status of women. While inside the confines of her house a woman can be a Tiger mum, but outside she is expected to act meek. Strangely, women also have an equal role in propagating these stereotypes and discriminatory practices.

    Also, you are very right in pointing out that even in the privileged first world countries subtle gender bias exists against women though these are not as pronounced as female infanticide or driving only in the company of a male family member etc.
    Kudos to you, Mabel for sharing such a balanced perspective and summing it up so well.

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    • That is a great reasoning, that gender bias stems from the desire to control resources – which means control of territory, space and power. I have to agree that women do have an equal role in perpetuating this stereotype. At the end of my post I do suggest it is okay to propagate these stereotypes if a woman is really comfortable with it. That is fine but it is also important to remember not all women are happy to subsume these roles – and if they want to speak up, they should be given the opportunity to do so.

      Women have many roles and are very much capable of juggling all of them. No reason why they can’t be firm at home and also be firm outside, and achieve what they want to achieve all round. Men have long been aligned with this image and no reason why a woman can’t have similar skills and qualities as anyone else.

      Thank you for such a reflective response, Somali. I always look forward to what you have to say on here and on your blog.

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      • Yes Mabel it is okay to adhere to these roles if a woman is really comfortable with it. However, to insist that others also follow similar ways works against those who think and act differently. That is where the problem arises. So, I like it when you say that different women may have preference for different roles, and I agree with you.

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  39. A very thorough treatise. We are all individuals yet we all at some point in our lives are categorised into stereotypes or discriminated against for one reason or another. The problem becomes even greater for certain cultures/races and worse still for women. Until mutual respect is practiced by all this will be a problem for generations to come yet, despite laws and policing.

    You seem to be adapting well to your environment and are leading the life you want to live as a result, but not all women can experience the same. Please continue to speak out on this issue.

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    • ‘treatise’. Love that description. Thanks, Dragon. You are spot on. Mutual respect needs to be practised more. It can be challenging in the face of the status quo but the more we speak out, the more recognition these issues will get – which in turn might inspire other generations.

      Everyone’s lives consist of ups and downs. I am lucky to lead the life I lead. Hopefully more posts like these in the future. This was a challenging write but it felt so good to write this piece.

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  40. Mabel! I always “save up” your post to read when I’m not feeling rushed. This post is wonderful, as usual. I’m so amazed at the breadth of your article, at the wide and varied places you take us to. My favorite place in this one (there were many!) is “With careful planning, thought, engaged action and hard work, there’s no limit to what any woman regardless of race can achieve.” I think this jumped out at me because it is an explicit statement of support for women in any role, all roles, across ethnic and racial stereotype lines. Saying it, that we can achieve our goals, and how – by planning, though and action – is huge. There is a gender-related thing in engineering education, where women who have a setback (like a disappointing grade or unexpectedly difficult course) think, “I don’t belong here,” and self-select out, where males tend to think, “Oh, it was just a bad exam,” and keep going. So much so that they started an intervention program a few years back at my school, the Univ. of Washington College of Engineering, to target the middle-level female students, who tended to drop out as they progressed, with message, “It’s okay to be good enough. You don’t have to get the top grades to be successful in engineering.” Saying it explicitly helps us all recognize the truth of it. Thanks, Mabel!

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    • Thank you so much for taking time to come back and reflect on my posts, Theresa. It is very kind of you 🙂

      I’ve heard that engineering and programming industries are pretty male-dominated, and for you to succeed in your field of science must have come down to the strong can-do mentality that you have 🙂 I like the distinction of common thought you brought up there between men and women. I’ve heard women tend to overanalyse things at times…then again, they seemingly better multitaskers.

      So true. We are good enough without top grades and a goal medal. As ourselves and sharing part of our true selves, we are simply good enough.

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  41. Mabel, I think women in general, especially those from my generation (growing up in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s) have been fighting against bias from day one. I cannot stand the way most men from my generation look upon women as if we are inferior to them. I have been fighting all my life to make sure I am seen as a smart, unique woman, every bit equal as any man. When working as a teenager I suffered sexual harassment on the job, because at that time nothing was done or said about it. Women were looked down upon and it has taken me a LONG time and a lot of effort for me to learn to stand firm on MY ground, demanding I be taken seriously for who I am. I still to this day come up against attitude because I am a woman. So it is just not Asian culture that has this “social dis-ease”. Times are changing, thank goodness, and women today have come a long ways demanding they are equal to man. Admittedly, men have characteristics women don’t, and vice versa, yet to be embraced equally without thought one sex is better then the other, YES!

    GREAT POST, dear friend!!! Thank you!!! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

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    • So sorry to hear you are a victim of sexual harrassment and to hear the attitude of some men you have encountered. You are very strong to keep fighting and despite the contrary opinions around you – and when no one wanted to listen. It takes a lot of courage from within to do so. Indeed times are changing but there is quite a bit of work to do. No person is better than the other and all of us need to understand that.

      Thank you, Amy. Keep being you 💖

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  42. A complaint I used to hear fairly often from black women in North America back in the 90’s but no so much since, is that they felt they were not considered part of the feminism movement which was quite dominated by Caucasian women. Black women expressed having exactly the same social, political and economic concerns as any other woman in North America but also found their concerns were not taken seriously by the same Caucasian women who would periodically proclaim that feminism is inclusive of all women.

    As I mentioned, this perceptions seems to have abated but have you or other Asian women ever experienced this in Australia or anywhere else?

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    • That is very interesting to hear about black women feeling left out of the feminism moment. Short answer to youe question, no. I’ve never been an avid support of feminism…but I also don’t oppose it entirely either. While the whole concept of it brings to light how women are marginalised. some feminism movements seem to paint women as victims and that those who don’t speak out aren’t feminists. Even the term feminists itself connotes segregation…but I guess majority of women who want fair opportunity can relate to the underlying aims. Personally I feel that to bring about fair opportunity, it takes work every, through plenty of everyday conversation and at least an attempt to respect each other for who they are and what they can offer.

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  43. Hi Mabel,
    As an Aussie bloke, I’m often embarrassed by what some neanderthals in our community think is acceptable. Please don’t assume that all men are equal in their thinking. The bogan element, while I appreciate their national pride, are often very ignorant of what lies outside their own tiny sphere of experience. They see how their Dads treated their Mums and assume that’s how the world works. Thankfully it isn’t!
    Quite a few of our female friends in China are choosing to remain unmarried, whereas the single guys (dogs!) are all madly looking for a wife. The latter is probably due to family pressures. Maybe this is partly why the TV show 非诚勿扰 is so popular. I haven’t noticed this phenomenon here, but it quite pronounced in China. Are you aware of this shift in how Chinese girls view marriage?
    Thanks for another great blog!

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    • Some will always be adamant that each of us have specific roles to play in society, and I’ve come across quite a few Australians who think that way. If someone wants to fit the stereotype so be it – but it’s worth remembering not everyone fits a box and vice-versa.

      Certainly Chinese girls’ views on marriage is changing, just like their preferences for a partner be it man, woman or anyone in between. Shows like 非诚勿扰 do highlight unrealistic expectations some Chinese women may have when it comes to finding a suitor… Looking at this from a positive perspective, at least they are being honest.

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      • “Shows like 非诚勿扰 do highlight unrealistic expectations some Chinese AND FOREIGN women AND MEN may have when it comes to finding a suitor… Looking at this from a positive perspective, at least they are being honest.”
        I’m not sure about the overall level of honesty on dating shows. It might be fun entertainment, but hardly ‘true to life’.

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        • Those shows do have an entertainment appeal to some audiences. Agree, probably not true to life at all and there are so many realistic factors to keep in mind when getting into a long term relationship.

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  44. What an incredible discussion you have Mabel, many different thoughts as I read your post and the number of great comments you inspired. You mentioned something that shook me a bit, even though I have heard and read about such beliefs with Asian families, and that is the thought of daughters/sister basically being given away as they are not seen as “a long-term investment.” Such beliefs, especially within certain segments of society is such a waste of incredible resources (looking at it from a strict view of efficiency and economics) and then, of course, a great waste of simply building a great community.

    Since the culture I grew up with is such a far cry from this belief system, it is hard for me to imagine, which makes your writing so much more powerful for me and all the others who have read and commented. A great dialogue to have and made important because while I may not have grown up within such stereotypes, I see them all around me in my travel and work. What also makes this piece so perfect, is the incredible artwork you have produced throughout this post – incredible, and each speaks volumes. I very much like the quote near the end of your post “We are all equal in the fact that we are all different…” Wish you a great weekend Mabel, take care.

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    • Each one of us are capable of so much, and it really surprises me how some societies still see women as best fit for a certain role today. I think the ‘women not seen as a long-term investment’ idea is very much alive today – and it is unspoken. You are very observant to note such stereotypes in your travels and work, and I hope it hasn’t bothered you too much. Some just accept this way of life, some are happy with it, some are not. Choice is what needs to be advocated more, and the fact that while some of us live the stereotype, some of us are so much more than that, some of us both.

      Dialogue is so important because it helps us understand each other and see each other for what we can do, and most importantly who we are as people. As someone who grew up in a culture where a lot of the time dialogue is one way traffic, initiating conversations is still something I’m learning.

      Thank you for your kind words, Randy. These shots were taken over the last few years. So fun going into the archives to see what I’ve got 🙂 Wishing you a good Spring and stay safe.

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      • A few years ago, traveling with my sister in Myanmar, we were both stunned by the women basically doing all the work we could see: road work, construction, etc… and we asked our guide about this and his comment was priceless “the men are in management.” A good thing we figured, as the women really were the ones who got things done (and done correctly!). Wish you a great day Mabel 🙂

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        • I remember a post you wrote about your travels to Myanmar, and you titled it Men in Management. No matter where we are in the hierarchy, there is an important job to be done. Certainly we can’t be expect to do every single job, but respect for each other is necessary to bring about fair opportunity.

          These days you wonder what ‘management’ really is…maybe a lot of talk and discussion and shouldering others around in Myanmar and in other parts of the world. We’ve got a long way to go.

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          • Ha, yes, very good memory – seeing this in Myanmar really did make an impression on me. Our guide even explained it as such, saying men really respected the women, knowing that if something needed to be done, putting a woman in charge would get it done. 🙂

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  45. I have learnt a lot reading your post Mabel . I did not know that about Chinese law about name changes etc.
    And you are right to be proud of the name you have.

    I totally agree with you that there is no limit to what women can achieve, and reading your paragraphs on the menstrual cycle of women I am in agreement with you. Though I do know some suffer more than others.

    As for labels, we live in a society where everything has to be given a label. And I worked my own way up the ladder in the textile industry from the bottom up. With the same attitude as you have, that no one is better than another. We are all equal. If we have respect for each other, it goes a long way to help bring about good working relations.

    I think it is important to independent thinking.. While some may call it being headstrong or stubborn.. I much prefer someone to think for themselves than to follow the herd blindly being led, just because that is the way it has always been done.. So well done Mabel for being Yourself!
    We all have a voice and have a right to use it.
    Each of us are individual.. And Unique.

    I really enjoyed your post Mabel, I learnt a little bit more about you and while I have been aware of discrimination of gender in the work place.. I have never encountered it myself.

    Wishing you a wonderful Easter Weekend Mabel ENJOY!

    Like

    • We all should be proud of the names we have. Names speak of who we are and what we stand for. Nothing to be ashamed of and no need to give it away if we don’t want to. It’s a choice.

      It sounds like you learnt a lot in the textile industry and everyone was given a part to play, and respected for what they could offer. It is often good relations that help us tackle problems and make life so much more pleasant – be it during a routine day at work or a relaxing day off.

      Independent thinking as equated to headstrong or stubborn. That is a good pickup there, and I agree. Thinking on your own two feet you learn how to deal with life on your own and once you are able to help and take care of yourself, then you can help others.

      It’s great that you haven’t encountered gender discrimination but lovely to hear that you don’t mind speaking up for others too. Thank you for being so open, Sue. Sending lots of love your way ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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