Tag: women


Sep 2006

Hoes Before Bros (in Chinese)

Recently on ChinesePod we were developing a lesson that uses the expression 重色轻友. Literally it means something like “heavy sex light friendship.” The idea here is valuing one’s love interests over one’s friends. In translating this phrase, the immediate English translation that sprang to my mind was “hoes before bros,” a phrase I first heard a few years ago from Wilson (in an intellectual discussion on intersexual nomenclature, of course).

Obviously “hoes before bros” isn’t quite appropriate for our site. But really, it seems to be the only set prase for the phenomenon in English. Am I missing one?

Note 1: The word “ho” has always troubled me — and not just because it’s misogynistic in nature! As a shortened form of “whore,” “ho” just doesn’t look right to me. And is the plural “hoes” (which invites confusion with gardening tools) or “hos”? There are precedents for both.

Note 2: Another common example of the 重X轻Y pattern is 重男轻女, which refers to the cultural phenomenon of valuing males over females. Do you know any others?


Jun 2006

Mother-Daughter Chitchat

The other day in the subway I couldn’t help but overhear this mother-daughter “dialogue” as I was going up the stairs.

> Mother: 男人要胖。女人要瘦。 (Men need to be fat. Women need to be thin.)

> Daughter:

> Mother: 你胖得已经像男人了。 (You’re so fat you’re already looking like a man.)

> Daughter:

I couldn’t help taking a look at the daughter. She wasn’t skinny, but she wasn’t either obese or manly. She was probably not much above average weight. She also didn’t seem very bothered by her mom’s comments.

It’s more than just the food….


Feb 2006

V-Day Chinese Mail Order Brides!

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, direct shipping service of Chinese mail order brides has recently become avilable. Not only do they ship right to your door, but they arrive wearing the traditional qipao (旗袍). The clear shipping case ensures a few jealous looks from your neighbors as the delivery man sidles up to your door.


I for one applaud this all-out embrace of ultra-commercialized holidays. Not only do I love the over-priced Valentine’s Day rose bouquets, chocolate sets, and dinner deals that have become so common in Shanghai, but I love the Valentine’s Day mail order bride concept, which, for me, represents the ultimate in commercialized romance.

I think the shipping option pictured above may be a bit expensive, but here’s an insider tip: come live in China, and you save big on postage!

Even if you end up paying a lot in postage, remember: mail order brides are to be loved. Don’t abuse them.


Jan 2006

In China, Babies Sell DVDs

A scene I imagined, based on real events:

> The middle-aged woman knocked on the dingy office door. “Shei ah?” an impatient man’s voice cried from within. “What do you want?”

> “I was hoping I could get a job,” the woman replied. “I have experience selling on the streets, and my friend Xiao Li told me you need DVD vendors.”

> The door opened and the woman was admitted. “Yeah, we do. Not just any DVDs, though. These are adult DVDs. You know how to sell adult DVDs?”

> “Well, I know how to avoid the cops, and I know I should target young men…”

> “No kidding, genius. But do you know the key?”

> “Well, I do have a baby…”

> “Yes! Perfect! That’s it! How old is the baby?”

> “Only 6 months.”

> “Great. We don’t need him talking and screwing up sales. You just need him on one arm while you push these yellow DVDs with the other. Lady, you and that baby of yours were destined to sell my porn DVDs.”

OK, this may seem like a bizarre dialogue, but it’s true that there is a trend in Shanghai of woman holding babies selling adult DVDs. In a group of three women all selling DVDs, all three of them will be holding a baby! I really don’t understand it. I rarely see any other kind of vendor with a baby.

If I were going to buy adult DVDs, (1) I wouldn’t want to buy from a woman, and (2) I certainly wouldn’t want to buy from a woman holding a baby! And yet, on the bridge that crosses Suzhou Creek at West Zhoushan Road, I regularly see these women peddling porn with their babies, and I see men buying them.

Is the Chinese male’s psyche really that different?


Jan 2006

Beauty Parlor Fraud

My Chinese tutor was just telling me about a method some beauty parlors (美容院) use to cheat girls out of money. The shops have someone standing on the street outside the shop, luring in girls with an offer for a free facial. Girls just love to get that crazy facial treatment (做脸), so they go for it.



Then the beautician cleanses/treats half of the girl’s face and allows her to compare the “beautified” side with the untreated side. At that point, the beauty parlor will tell the girl that if she wants the other side done, she has to pay for it, and it will cost her several hundred RMB. Scandalous. The girls will often do it, because they think they’ll look like a freak if they’ve only had half the facial done, but in fact the visible effects of the facial treatment last less than a day.

Reminds me of the time my little sister went to Paris, and a guy wanted to braid part of her hair. She told the guy she didn’t want to buy anything, but he insisted. When he finished and she still didn’t want to pay for it, he cut that part of her hair out!

Play it safe: stay ugly.


Dec 2005

Promoting Plastic Surgery

The Chinese media is way too excited about plastic surgery. It’s pathetic. Time is writing about the Asian trend too, although this “news” is far from new. But it’s not dying down.

I don’t watch much TV or read a lot of Chinese news, but even I have seen quite a few “丑女变美女” (“ugly woman turns into a beautiful woman”) stories. Here are two sample shots from an online story that came out last week:

Plastic Surgery: before and after

In the “before” shot she’s not even that ugly! She’s clearly not wearing any makeup, not wearing nice clothes, and she’s purposely looking dejected. She probably hasn’t washed her hair for a few days just for this picture. According to the story, “because of her appearance, she was driven away when she applied for jobs, scared people when she went out, and didn’t have any friends.” What bullshit. It makes me angry.

Then in the “after” shot… well, all I can say is, congratulations, you’re now a clone of the super generic Chinese “pretty girl.” (The surgery was actually intended to reproduce the look of a certain Chinese star. See the story for pics of that.)

OK, so I’ll admit that she looks prettier on the right, but the actual difference is not very extreme. What would drive this girl to seek out plastic surgery? Well, the Chinese media hyping it for all it’s worth sure didn’t help.

I also saw a short portion of a TV special which featured another “ugly woman.” The woman in that special was a different story. She looked extremely odd — unhealthy. I strongly suspect she didn’t get the proper nourishment as a child. She was way too thin, and her voice sounded like a child’s. The way she talked seemed to indicate that she was of lower than normal intelligence, too. But she had definitely decided that the only way her life could be worth anything is if she got plastic surgery. The show was about her quest to get the surgery paid for somehow despite the fact that she didn’t have much money. It was basically a “look how ugly I am — pity me!” campaign. Really sad.

I don’t mean to judge these people. You can’t argue with quotes like this (from Time):

> “I always wanted to believe people were ultimately judged by what was inside,” she muses, her gaze hesitant and sad. “But I knew from my personal experience that this wasn’t true. It’s always the pretty girls who win the good things in life.”

I also don’t mean to suggest that this trend is China- or Asia-specific. I’ve just been seeing it here so much lately. The whole thing is just so sad. It’s the media that should be condemned. It really seems like the media has made some kind of promotion deal with plastic surgery providers. The hype is just everywhere.


Nov 2005

All Apologies

A Chinese story:

> At 8:40am I called her on her cell phone. “Are you headed off to work?” I asked.

> “Sure am!” she laughed back.

> Choking back a sob, I said to her, “Wen… I’m sorry.”

> After a moment of stunned silence, she replied, “why are you apologizing to me?”

> “It’s nothing,” I explained.

> “Xiao Nuo, you…” she started, but I quickly hung up.

> At ten minutes past noon I dialed her office number.

> “Why isn’t your cell phone on?” she demanded emotionally.

> Stammering, I finally got out, “I’m sorry…”

> She asked me, “why did you send me a check at work?”

> “Wen, I really love you,” I replied.

> Her voice suddenly rose in volume. “If you want to break up with me, just say it. Don’t give me some kind of breakup money!”

> After a few seconds of silence, I hung up.

> At exactly three in the afternoon, she answered the phone coldly. “Your feelings have changed?”

> I changed the topic. “I’m here with your parents.”

> She cried in surprise, “why are you meeting with my parents?”

> I simply replied, “I just feel I need to apologize to them.”

> She took a deep breath, trying hard to suppress her emotions. “Just what is our relationship to you?”

> I slowly replied, “I’m sorry. I hope you can forgive me…”

> On the other end she was all choked up. This time she hung up on me.

> At 8:40 in the evening my cell phone vibrated. I pressed the receive button, saying, “you’re home!”

> She asked, “Where are my mom and dad?”

> I answered guiltily, “Wen, I’m sorry!”

> She roared back, “I don’t want to hear ‘I’m sorry!’ I just want to know why!

> Feigning calmness, I said to her, “I apologized to your parents because you’re their dearest baby girl, and I asked them to allow you to marry me. I apologized to you because I know I can’t be without you, but I’ve never been good at looking after people, so I hope that in the days to come you’ll be with me, looking after me. I’ve given you all the money I have left. I’m making the down payment on our new home, and your parents are helping us pick out the furniture. Wen, I’m sorry. Please marry me!”

> To my amazement, her attitude immediately softened completely. “Xiao Nuo, where are you?”

> Full of joy, I answered, “I’m right outside your door.”

> I later married Wen…

> But that day I proposed, I verified one other thing: it really does hurt to be whacked upside the head with a broom.

This story was originally posted in Chinese. Yes, it’s a cute story, but I have to say… not only does it strike me as a very un-Chinese way to propose, but it seems downright cruel! What guy could do that to his girlfriend?

I let my girlfriend read the story. There’s no way she would put up with that crap. No question. I wonder how many Chinese girls would think it’s romantic. I don’t think any American girl could.


Nov 2005

The Woman Taxi Driver

The other day I got in a taxi to discover that my driver was a pleasant middle-aged woman. Female taxi drivers are not exceedingly rare in Shanghai, but they’re not common, either. I was feeling gregarious, so I started chatting her up. (That’s one of the things I love about China… barring language barriers or extreme psychological blocks, foreigners can talk to pretty much any Chinese person about anything, and that person will be happy to respond.)

First I asked her a linguistic question: “Can I call a female taxi driver 师傅?” (I was pretty sure I could, but I still get a very male feeling from the word, so I wanted to confirm.)

“Sure,” she said. “Why not?”

With that warm-up out of the way, I got right down to it: “As a woman taxi driver, what challanges or difficulties do you face on the job?” I imagined all kinds of responses… getting ribbed (or mocked) by male taxi drivers, getting rejected by passengers who don’t want a woman driver, etc. It turns out my speculations were all a little silly, I guess.

Her reply: “The only thing that makes it any harder for a woman taxi driver is that it can be hard to find a bathroom when I have to go.”

Wow. My guesses were a bit off the mark. Disappointed by the near complete lack of social insight her frank answer provided me, I decided to try again.

Compared to other Chinese cities, are there more female drivers in Shanghai?” Shanghai is arguably the most modern city in mainland China, so you might expect women in Shanghai to have gotten into more jobs traditionally held by men.

“There are fewer female drivers in Shanghai than other places,” she told me. Then I thought about that. I thought about some of the other cities I’d been to in my travels. Thinking it over, I realzied that even in my own limited experience I could remember seeing more female taxi drivers in other places such as Shandong, for instance. I also realized that considering how so many Shanghainese girls just want to act like princesses, they’re probably not eager to take on jobs like cab driving. Being “modern” by no means need include “socially progressive.”

Then she continued: “Female taxi drivers usually take day shifts, though, because it’s not safe for them to drive the night shift.” I reflected on that.

Sensing that I was out of questions, she looked at me with that gleam in her eye that I knew so well. Then I proceeded to dutifully answer her questions about where I’m from, how long I’ve lived in China, how old I am, what my job is, how much I make per month, if I have a girlfriend, where my girlfriend is from, and if I like Chinese food.

I think I lost. I should have had more and better questions.


May 2005

Laowai Will Like You Too!

I bought this book a while back solely because of its title: 老外也会喜欢你 (“Foreigners Will Like You Too”). The author was a twenty-something Chinese woman and, judging from the book’s cover (oops), the intended audience was Chinese women. It seemed likely that the laowai referred to in the title were male ones. Like me. This was going to be entertaining, I thought.

I was very wrong. Every time I tried to read the book, it failed completely to hold my interest. I demoted it to “bathroom book” status, figuring I’ll read anything on an extended visit to the commode. But even as a bathroom book, and even read in the “open to a random page” fashion, the book was utterly uninteresting. I was intensely disappointed. Of the few sections I did read, I remember virtually nothing. I vaguely recall a few ridiculous generalizations.

Please keep in mind that this is not a book review, because I didn’t read the book. I did, however, look at the pictures. Thoroughly. They were pretty.

In keeping with an incomplete treatment of the book, I will loosely translate the table of contents:

1. Where there’s a will, there’s a way
2. Where are the laowai?
3. No barriers to communication
4. Using charm in communication
5. Etiquette when getting to know each other
6. Communication’s visual etiquette
7. Dealing with a foreign boss
8. Foreigners’ taboos and customs
9. A beautiful mood
10. Foreigners have something to say
11. My view of foreigners

OK, now for the pictures. As I said, I found them the most interesting part of the book. I like the style. The question, however, is: what do these illustrations communicate to the reader?


Dec 2002

Earth-shattering Poll Results!

So many people have been writing me begging for the results of the next poll that I couldn’t wait any longer to post them. (Yeah, riiiiight…) Anyway, I find the results of the latest poll very interesting. Maybe at least one other person out there will too. My latest poll had three parts. I’ve got the data all tabulated and represented prettily in nice graphics, but I’ll just release one result today (ooh! Suspense!). But worry not — it is definitely the most significant poll thus far.

The question was: “Who is the greatest person in 5,000 years of Chinese history?” These college kids have to study a lot of Chinese history throughout their educations. They’ve learned about many a historical figure. They’ve also been subject to quite a bit of propaganda. Given these points (particularly the last one), I fully
expected a landslide victory for Mao Zedong. The guy is still a national hero. He’s still talked about. He’s on every bill now (100, 50, 20, 10, 5) except for the one. (Seems kinda insecure of the government to go that far in promoting the guy, doesn’t it?) He seems the natural choice. In asking this question, I didn’t feed them any answers. I let them come up with the list of people to choose from before I started counting votes. I left the qualifications for being
“great” completely up to them. Anyway, without further ado, here are the results:

Earth-shattering Poll Results

For those of you that don’t know, Qin Shihuang was the first emperor of China. He united China but was a completely ruthless bastard to do it. He’s credited with the Great Wall project and the Terracotta Warriors were made for his tomb. Li Shimin was a great emperor of Tang Dynasty China — China at the height of its ancient glory. Wu Zetian was also a leader from the Tang Dynasty, but she was an empress. I noticed she only got girls’ votes. A vote for her is a vote for Chinese feminism, maybe? Anyway, I’ll let you all draw your own conclusions. If you know who these people are, then I’m sure you’re very capable of that. Post your comments…


Nov 2002

Women and Children

My blog entry entitled “Ghost Alien Love” got quite a few interesting comments related to love and women in China. I have also discussed love/women issues with my Thursday night advanced conversation class, and I learned a few interesting things about Chinese law and society:

1. It is illegal for a woman to have a baby out of wedlock in China. An unmarried woman is required by law to get an abortion if she somehow gets pregnant. (But that couldn’t happen in this conservative society, now could it?) Well, until recently… (see below)

2. If a married woman is pregnant, it is illegal for her husband to divorce her until well after the delivery.

3. If a married man is found to be cheating on his wife, and the wife doesn’t want a divorce, she can force him by law to give her monetary compensation for his infidelity. (Yeah, I’m sure that gets used a lot. No colossal loss of face for the woman or anything…)

Kinda crazy, eh? But there’s this new law in Jilin province (way up north) that allows unmarried women to have a baby through a legitimate fertilization clinic. I’m wondering why?? Is there a big demand for that up there?? And it’s not like this is a democracy, so even if there was a big demand, that doesn’t guarantee results in legislation. This is still a rather conservative society on the surface, so I find this bizarre. I couldn’t find any English news on this, but here’s a Chinese link if you can handle it: [Yahoo News China, Nov. 11, 2002].

As crazy as I thought all this was, though, a Chinese friend recently told me about a female cousin in Shanghai, late twenties, who wants to have a baby on her own. And get this: not the Jilin way. She’s out looking for “Mr. Right” to do the deed and plant the seed, and then she’ll just raise the baby on her own! You may not find that outrageous, but you have to realize that an illegitimate child in China has a hard life. They can’t be properly “registered,” and so aren’t eligible for schooling. There are all kinds of headaches. Not something you choose, if you can help it.

But hey, this is China. It’s changing fast.