Opponents of same-sex marriage have caused quite a stir recently by demanding that the government give traditional family values priority over human rights. As a historian who has studied the Chinese family, I have some suggestions on how they can further their cause and live up to their ideals more fully.
Most obviously, they can begin by denouncing the criminalization of adultery. Under imperial Chinese law, adultery was never a crime, at least not for men. So in the spirit of traditional family values, men should be free to have extramarital affairs. I suggest that in future, for the sake of consistency any demonstrations against same-sex marriage should demand the legalization of adultery. This would also be an excellent way to attract married men to the cause.
Bringing back concubinage would be another way to strengthen traditional family values. In the past it was normal for any man with enough money to take some concubines into his home. I am sure that Taiwan’s tech tycoons would enthusiastically welcome the revival of this custom, as would corrupt local officials. Instead of comparing golf scores, they could compete with each other in collecting beautiful women. And bevies of concubines in the homes of rich men would provide an endless stream of entertaining gossip for everyone to enjoy.
What traditional family would be complete without foot binding? At future demonstrations against gay marriage, I suggest that the organizers arrange for volunteers to bind women’s feet for free. Female demonstrators could show their commitment to traditional values by having their feet broken and folded under. Since bound feet are so tiny, these lucky women could also save a fortune whenever they buy shoes. In a tough economy, foot binding is not only a good way to bring back traditional family values, but is thrifty as well.
Widow suicide is another time-tested way to express traditional family values. Women used to think that after their husband died, they should avoid remarriage at all costs. If busybodies pestered them to remarry, they would commit suicide to maintain their chastity. What demonstration of traditional virtue could be more moving than this? Protesters against same-sex marriage ought to encourage their widowed mothers and sisters to kill themselves. Then their families could proudly build memorial arches to commemorate these sacrifices, the way people used to do before the decline of family values. A memorial arch to a suicidal widow would make a dramatic entryway to any home.
These suggestions are only a start. There are many other traditional customs that opponents of same-sex marriage can consider as well. For example, they might want to bring back child marriage. If children were married, they would probably waste less time playing online games. And it used to be extremely common for first cousins to marry in Taiwan. Reviving cross-cousin marriage would make family reunions much more intimate.
Protesters should also consider sororal polygyny (a man marrying several sisters) and polyandry (two men marrying one woman), two colorful traditional customs well worth bringing back.
For anyone truly dedicated to traditional family values, opposition to gay marriage is only the beginning. Beyond this narrow issue, there are quite a few other goals that they should work toward as well.
I look forward to seeing a full-fledged campaign to revive traditional family values. At the very least, it will make Taiwan a far more interesting place.
Bret Hinsch is a professor in the department of History at Fo Guang University.
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