«Visualising culture and gender: postcolonial feminist analyses of women's exhibitions in Taiwan, 1996-2003 This item was submitted to Loughborough ...»
According to its definition in the Dictionary, agriculture is men’s work, therefore it follows that using strength in the field means ‘being a man’.
For the word ‘woman’ [fig 5], the shape resembles a woman bending her body and kneeling on all fours, which is very different from the appearance of the character for ‘man’, who is depicted as standing upright.53 In the definitions of the Dictionary, women are defined as needing to stay at home to do their housework, therefore bending is the most common bodily position seen inside the house. Thus, Chinese culture has shown its opinion of gender differences by creating these characters whereby the woman is considered to perform a domestic role whilst a man should be working outside.
Apart from being known for its ancient tales and sayings, Confucianism (the main philosophy of Taiwan’s previous colonisers, China and Japan) is the other important element that has engendered patriarchal ethics in Taiwan.
Murray Rubinstein suggests that ‘Confucianism was a philosophy that made women into second-class citizens at best and into little more than chattel at most’.54 Confucianism contains a clear gender hierarchy, in which women The word, man, can be found in Hsu, Chung Shu (ed). Dictionary of Oracle Bone Scripts.
Cheng Du City: Ssu-Chuan Dictionary Publisher, 1989, p 1477.
The word, woman, can be found in Hsu (ed), ibid., p 1299.
Rubinstein, Murray A. ‘Lu Haiu-lien and the Origins of Taiwanese Feminism, 1944-1977’ in Farris, op cit, p 252.
M. Turner, © 2008 are not only given little choice and freedom but are also taught to accept this ideology. The statement below relates to the well-known Confucian treatise, Three Obediences and Four Virtues, which defines the behaviour to be
expected of a good and filial woman:
The Three Obediences required that a woman obeyed the father before marriage, obeyed the husband after marriage, and answered to the son after the death of her husband. The Four Virtues included attention to criteria that women had to meet to be ‘virtuous’: morality, skill in handicrafts, appearance, and propriety in speech.55 In Confucianism, there are distinct paths for men and women to follow: public discourse is for men whilst women are restricted to strictly domestic functions. Kumari Jayawardena has argued that ‘according to Confucianism, the most important social institution is the family: first because it provides the natural ground for training and second, because it forms the bridge between the individual and society’.57 Jayawardena also observes that society, in the view of Confucianism, is built on the basis of five
relationships, as follows:
[B]etween father and son there should be affection, between ruler and minister there should be righteousness, between husband and wife there should be attention to their separate functions, between elder and This text has been translated by Murray A Rubinstein. Ibid.
It is interesting to note that even in (relatively recent times) in the West, it was not considered appropriate for women to be seen alone in public, where such behaviour would be viewed as a sign of disorder. This phenomenon can be seen in Elizabeth Wilson’s words, which indicate that ‘[s]he [a woman in cities] may take the shape of the Victorian prostitute, of the red whore of the barricades […]. Women have fared especially badly in western visions of the metropolis because they have seemed to represent disorder’. See Wilson, Elizabeth.
The Sphinx in the City: Urban Life, the Control of Disorder and Women. London: Virago Press Limited, 1991, p 157.
Jayawardena, Kumari. Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World. London and New Jersey: Zed Books, 1986, p 170.
M. Turner, © 2008 younger brothers there should be order, between friends there should be good faith.58 According to the statements above, Confucianism demonstrates that there are separate functions and responsibilities to be fulfilled by men and women and the basic premise is that men should take precedence over women.
This kind of relationship is also in evidence in traditional Chinese cosmology in which heaven (yang) dominates earth (yin). ‘Yang’ means ‘sun, bright, positive and male’, whereas ‘yin’ indicates ‘moon, dark, negative and female’.
In Chinese philosophy, nature tries to preserve a balance between both yang and yin but their relationship is based on a fundamental inequality. We can observe the influences of Taiwan’s patriarchy deriving not only from Confucian and Chinese philosophies but also from the traditional culture of the Taiwanese.59 In Women and the Family in Rural Taiwan (1972), which was the first English-language publication concerning Taiwanese women,
Margery Wolf proposes that:
A woman can and, if she is ever to have any economic security, must provide the links in the male chain of descent, but she will never appear Ibid., original emphasis maintained.
Here, it is essential to address the differences between Taiwanese and Chinese culture as they both originate from Hans. However, owing to the fact that Taiwan is an island separated from the mainland, it absorbs foreign cultures easily and gradually develops its own culture rather than a ‘purely’ Chinese style. To demonstrate this point further, I need to cite
Wachman at length:
It is evident that Taiwanese differ from most Mainlanders in that they speak a different dialect, worship different deities, have cultivated a self-referential literature, perform distinct forms of folk opera and puppetry, and practice different funeral and burial customs. What some Taiwanese refer to as Taiwanese culture is most easily characterised as the transported culture of Fukien Province (from which most Taiwanese families trace their roots), leavened with bits of other southern Chinese cultural ingredients and flavoured with the peculiar historical experiences of Taiwanese interactions with Japan and the West.
Wachman, op cit, p 102.
M. Turner, © 2008 in anyone’s genealogy as that all-important name connecting the past to the future. If she dies before she is married, her tablet will not appear on her father’s altar; although she was a temporary member of his household, she was not a member of his family. A man is born into his family and remains a member of it throughout his life and even after his death. He is identified with the family from birth, and every action concerning him, up to and including his death, is in the context of that group. […] There is no such secure setting for a woman.60 Men and women are valued differently by society and it is still rare to see women’s names on family gravestones.61 On the tombstones, there are only male family members’ names, as if women are unseen and unmentioned, even though it was them who have prepared all of the food and materials for the ceremony during the Tomb Sweeping Festival.62 This illustrates the fact that Taiwanese culture emphasises the importance, above all, of having a male member in the family whilst women are not given equal appreciation or status. According to a Taiwanese saying, a married daughter is like spilt
Taiwanese values, married women are expected to maintain their husbands’ families’ offspring and also to carry out housework with their sisters-in-law.63 Wolf further states that ‘Taiwan is a place where much of life is carried on in full view of the neighbours’.64 Thus, religious and wedding ceremonies need to be practised in full view in front of one’s house in order to show conformity Wolf, Margery. Women and the Family in Rural Taiwan. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1972, p 32.
In Taiwan, people put male family members’ names on their ancestors’ gravestones to show the number of males in the family, as a sign of strength.
The Tomb Sweeping Festival, a national holiday, is a traditional Chinese festival held on 5 May by the Chinese calendar. On this day, most Taiwanese families go to the cemetery to clean and tidy their ancestors’ tombs and worship their spirits with gifts of flowers, fruit, meat and paper money.
It was very common for the whole of a large family to live together in the same house.
Those with several sons would bring their wives and children to the family house and it was those women who married into the family who shared all of the housework.
Wolf, M., op cit, preface.
M. Turner, © 2008 to traditional values. Most people do not challenge or try to change these values because they would be criticised by their neighbours and other family members. For most people, especially those dwelling in rural places, their lives are limited by a specific framework of morals, styles of behaviour and ideas, which has made the ideology of people living in rural places more difficult to change.
The Taiwanese are accustomed to being patient and tolerant, hence their way of life keeps repeating itself with little change and they consider the bad or negative elements to be their ‘fate’. Most Taiwanese (in both urban and rural areas) go to Buddhist and Taoist temples to seek good luck and directions from the gods for leading their lives more successfully. It is on account of this kind of traditional and religion-bound ideology that I classify (rural) Taiwan as a part of the developing world. However, Taiwan is not evenly developed and there is a large gap between the cities and rural areas. When travelling from major cities to rural places, one travels from a place where you can receive the most up-to-date international information, where there are dozens of high-tech modern buildings, to places where conservatism and religious control are deeply entrenched in people’s values and where poverty and
profound as the difference between the developed and the developing world, yet these people with varied life styles and ideologies live together on the same island.65 Although the exhibitions I have selected to discuss were held in three major cities (Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung), I cannot ignore Some evidence to describe this kind of unbalanced development of the island can be seen in Chapter 2, where I demonstrate the different living styles of Taipei city and Sinjhuang, Taipei county.
M. Turner, © 2008 consideration of the rural part of Taiwan, the majority of which still remains bound by tradition and religion. I suggest that Taiwanese society, as a whole, is still described as developing because of the difference in wealth distribution around Taiwan.
The term ‘Third World’ has been defined by Chandra Talpade Mohanty as referring to the situation of ‘underdevelopment, oppressive traditions, high illiteracy, rural and urban poverty, religious fanaticism and over population’, of which ‘oppressive traditions’ particularly applies to the rural areas of Taiwan.66 In her essay, Under Western Eyes (1991), Mohanty further indicates that ‘[T]hird [W]orld women lead an essentially truncated life based on her
feminine gender (read: sexually constrained) and being “[T]hird [W]orld” (read:
ignorant, poor, uneducated, tradition-bound, religious, domesticated, family-oriented, victimised, etc)’.67 To sum up, although some major cities have joined the developed world ‘club’ by dint of Taiwanese government’s policies, Taiwan even now is classified as developing and less-advantaged in the global environment.
Here I should emphasise that I have avoided adopting the term, Third World, to label contemporary Taiwan’s society even though Taiwan fixes into some characteristics of the term. Therefore, I shall delve into how this term has been used in literature and how to ‘characterise’ it; I then address how I use Mohanty, Chandra Talpade, ‘Introduction: Cartographies of Struggle. Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism’ in Mohanty, Chandra Talpade, Ann Russo and Lourdes Torres (eds). Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism.
Bloomington and Indianapolis:
Indiana University Press, 1991, pp 5-6.
Mohanty, Chandra Talpade, ‘Under Western Eyes’ in Mohanty et al (eds), op cit, p 56.
M. Turner, © 2008 this term in my research.68 It is impossible to completely define the developmental condition of a region with a single term, as ‘development is a complex economic, social and political phenomenon’. 69 Moreover, even within the same category, no countries can be identified as identical as different social, political, customs
O’Hare demonstrate how different terms have been used to indicate the
region, which we now see as ‘developing’:
Many of the earlier terms such as ‘colonies’ and ‘territories’ used in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and ‘primitive’, ‘backward’ and ‘underdeveloped’ used in the 1930s and 1940s are no longer in general use. Conversely, some more recent descriptions which are less harsh, less Western and less superior in tone, for example the ‘underdeveloped’, and the ‘less developed’ countries, together with the ‘South’ and the ‘Third World’ itself, have become increasingly popular.71 Barke and O’Hare’s argument above suggests the fact that the ideas of development have a long history, albeit, being generated in the West. The term, Third World, provided a third route between the capitalist (First World) and communist (Second World) ‘protagonists’ of the cold war after the Second James Mittelman and Mustapha Kamal Pasha have declared that ‘[t]he Third World is easier to characterise than to define’. See Mittelman, James H. and Mustapha Kamal Pasha.
Out from Underdevelopment Revisited: Changing Global Structures and the Remaking of the Third World. New York: St Martin’s Press, 1997, p 19.
Barke, Michael and Greg O’Hare. The Third World: Diversity, Change and Interdependence. Harlow: Oliver & Boyd, 1991, p 2.
Barke and O’Hare argue that ‘no Third World countries are exactly alike [as] [t]hey are diverse from one another in cultural condition, economic level and social and political structure’. Ibid., p 3.
Ibid., p 2.
M. Turner, © 2008 World War.72 David Drakakis-Smith explores how the term was founded and
used, and it is worth citing him at some length: