Sat, Dec 15, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Johnny Neihu's NewsWatch: Election 2008: The 'sissy factor'

By Johnny Neihu 強尼內湖

There I was again, back off the wagon and sucking down Taiwan's finest ales at 3am at a crap nightclub that not even a Combat Zone mama-san could love. The mutt Punkspleen had been heavily sedated with a toxic dose of China-made dog chow. And I'd gotten Cathy Pacific off my back about my weekly benders with the promise of a full spa treatment in Wulai (烏來).

Meanwhile, I'd just made the acquaintance of yet another naive big nose -- we'll call him "Jimmy Waiguoren," fresh off the boat to learn advanced Chinese in a place he mistakenly thought was China. As usual, the talk had turned to Taiwanese politics.

Jimmy Waiguoren had been stumped by what he'd seen on local TV news. How is it, he asked, that a bug-eyed, bespectacled and emotional education ministry official with more than a passing resemblance to a frog could become -- nearly overnight -- a pro-independence celebrity and arbiter of Taiwanese masculinity?

Upon which I turned to him, exhaled a bilious cloud of Long Life smoke, and said: "Welcome to Taiwan."

Yes, these are strange days again on Ilha Formosa, with identity politics hotting up faster than a Lust, Caution sex scene and public officials who just don't know how to shut up when the cameras are rolling.

The official in question was Ministry of Education Secretary-General Chuang Kuo-jung (莊國榮). Chuang was the government's face as it moved ahead with removing the characters dazhong zhizheng (大中至正) -- a reference to ol' Peanut himself, Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) -- from the front archway of the Memorial Hall Formerly Known as CKS.

And what a public face it was. One day it was overwrought, neck-vein-bulging appeals for "transitional justice" in which Chuang looked about ready to burst into tears.

The next day it was a verbal blitzkrieg against the pan-blues. Chuang called Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) a xiao naonao (小   , "wimp") and a niang (娘, "sissy"), and said he couldn't understand why so many women thought Ma was so shuai (帥, "handsome").

According to the China Times, Chuang even mentioned a German female friend, who asked him how such a wussy guy like Ma could be so popular with Taiwanese women. Then -- perhaps after drinking too many schwarzbiers the night before -- he said Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) so tightly "embraced" Chiang Kai-shek that he seemed gay.

Hau-on-Peanut action? Even Ang Lee (李安) wouldn't make that movie.

But Chuang didn't stop there. Per the same China Times dispatch, he later called journalists to apologize for calling Hau a butt shark, saying he had nothing against ass jockeys or pigu pirates per se (okay, so those weren't his exact words).

As for girly-men like Ma, he clarified that he had nothing against them either, and that if he'd offended anyone he was sorry. In fact, he said he himself had many feminine traits, which he'd picked up from listening to female students talk about their feelings at school.

Long before this point, one of Chuang's aides should have passed him a paper slip saying "Stop talking. Now."

But this being Taiwan, he just kept digging. And the more he dug, the more adulation he received.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators showed up at the education ministry to present him with flowers for having the LP (that's an English abbreviation of the Hoklo word for "cajones", I told Jimmy Waiguoren) to go through with removing the inscription.

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