When my parents were married, probably only a very small portion of adult Taiwanese were unmarried or had no children.
However, by 2010, after deducting the population under the age of 18, the ratio of unmarried to married people was close to or perhaps even surpassed 1:1. That is, the claim that the family structure of one man, one woman; one husband, one wife; together with their biological children — which is frequently repeated by the Alliance of Taiwan Religious Groups for the Protection of the Family (護家盟) — is the mainstream family structure in Taiwan, is no longer true, or at the very least is rapidly disappearing.
The structure of families in Taiwan is very diverse. It can consist of a single man or woman; grandparents raising children; married couples without children; divorcees; widows or widowers; adoptive parents; gay or lesbian parents; cohabiting families and so on. Upholding the form and value of traditional families is tantamount to using marriage and family values of a patriarchal age to hurt and belittle those who do not fit the system.
A friend of mine grew up in a single-parent family. She said that she had a happy childhood and that the self-righteous sympathy with which people from traditional families treated her caused her unhappiness.
Society also judges single people, married couples without children, grandparents raising children, divorced couples, adoptive parents, cohabiting families and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Happiness should never be defined by society. It is created by ourselves, but the people who uphold traditional one husband, one wife family values are forcing others, who are clearly as many as 50 percent of the population, to accept their definition of what constitutes a family or a happy family. They are forcing people living in non-traditional family structures to accept a categorization as less than perfect, not normal and not deserving of happiness.
It is difficult to understand why so many people who do not fit the “traditional” mold are not upset by this. Why should they accept the domination, bullying and definitions of these so-called protectors of “traditional” family culture? They are leading their lives, but are defined as being unhappy and less than perfect by society and culture, and silently accept being looked down upon.
We hear these calls for a return to traditional family values and see how the patriarchal societal values attempt to turn cultural diversity back toward a single dominating culture, but the importance of cultural diversity is that it protects different kinds of people and different kinds of family compositions, enabling them to live without discrimination.
The campaign to promote marriage equality does not only work to defend LGBT rights, but also to protect a diversity of values, people, and families against discrimination. A return to the “traditional” patriarchal family value system would only exaggerate the arrogance and self-righteousness of those promoting conventional family values.
This is a cultural war. All those who have been oppressed by “traditional” family values should stand up against discrimination. Everyone has to define their own wellbeing and should not let it be defined by others.
When we assume that something is irrelevant, the environment that takes shape has a direct influence on each of us. The campaign to support marriage equality is a cultural campaign in defense of non-traditional families, as they protect themselves as well as others who need protection.
Wang Wei-ching is an associate professor in the Graduate Institute of Mass Communication at National Taiwan Normal University.
Translated by Lin Lee-kai
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