Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has put the party’s 10-year policy guidelines at the center of her presidential campaign. Tsai is Taiwan’s first female presidential candidate and one expects the platform to reflect a woman’s perspective on the issues it seeks to address.
This is not to say that the female and the male approaches are entirely mutually exclusive or that the two stand in opposition to one another. Rather, it is to say that a woman can bring a fresh perspective to the discourse, with a woman’s concerns, experience and standpoint, and a willingness to put these into practice. For example, a female politician can approach the prevailing male monopoly on a range of issues that touch upon matters of state-to-state war and peace — from national security, national defense and military affairs, to diplomacy and national sovereignty — from a more emotionally engaged, more altruistic and softer stance than her male counterparts.
In addition, female politicians tend to be more concerned with matters above and beyond the aforementioned so-called high-level political issues, extending their focus to include lower-level political matters, such as economic development, social movements and environmental protection.
In particular, the mainstream discourse on national development, seen from the perhaps typically male perspective of economic rationalism, tends to ignore women’s activity in the private sphere — including unpaid labor, such as bringing up a family and taking care of the home — and the contributions such activity makes to society as a whole. Furthermore, in terms of the economic division of labor under globalization, capitalists have come to rely on cheap female labor as their preferred strategy to drive costs down, often disregarding the working conditions and workplace safety of female workers.
Female politicians are more likely to be sensitive to such issues and indeed have a duty and a responsibility to address them.
Taiwan’s female politicians might also be able to approach two major issues from a wider perspective: There is the cross-strait issue and the deconstruction of the myth of the centrality of the state, breaking down the distinctions between international and domestic, the public and private spheres, and the state and the market. The public needs to be made aware that there are more solutions to the cross-strait issue than the purely pragmatic and that this approach can be replaced by ideals such as social justice, human rights and humanistic concerns, using a bottom-up rather than top-down approach.
There is also the question of how to approach the inherent tensions between globalization and localization, initially with an exploration of the underlying social inequalities — of gender, class and ethnicity — behind economic growth and how those inequalities can be addressed within the context of the globalized market to ensure that the economic benefits are more fairly distributed.
In terms of globalization, a woman’s perspective can bring back an identification with the local, a return to local values, promoting the implementation of globalized ideas in local areas to reinvigorate local economies, protect local ecologies and ensure sustainable development.
Whether seeking a fresh definition of cross-strait relations or a new way to approach globalization, we have great expectations of the potential of Taiwan’s first female presidential candidate.