On May 20, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) made history by becoming Taiwan’s first female president.
“I believe that this is a giant leap for gender equality in Taiwan,” Tsai told an audience of young women at a forum on Women’s Day in March. She said that Taiwanese seem to have the impression that only men can be great leaders.
“We are going to overturn that stereotype,” she added, and pledged to build a “gender-friendly” Taiwan.
It is hard to imagine that Taiwanese women could not even go to college a century ago. In the past, they were expected to take care of families. This could be described by the saying, “A woman who lacks talent is virtuous” (女子無才便是德), and a woman president was beyond imagination.
SLOW BUT PROGRESSIVE
When the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) took over Taiwan in 1945, it established Taiwan Provincial Taipei Girl Teachers’ School, the country’s first junior college for women. Today, the number of women receiving higher education has grown to 4.19 million (or 48.4 percent of those being educated).
With the rise of Tawian’s women’s rights movement in the 1990s, more female talent entered the workplace, making a significant contribution to all professions. According to the National Development Council’s data, the labor participation rate of women set a new high of 50.74 percent last year — thanks to the government’s push for women’s employment protection, including a two-year parental leave. The percentage is also slightly higher than that of Japan and South Korea.
“Tsai’s election is a landmark for the women’s rights movement in Taiwan,” DPP Legislator and human rights lawyer Yu Mei-nu (尤美女) told AFP.
But sexist language during recent and past campaigns reminds us that chauvinism continues to pervade public discourse.
“How can someone in a skirt be commander-in-chief?” former senior presidential adviser Koo Kwang-ming (辜寬敏) said in 2006 in reference to vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮). “Can the DPP put its future on a single lady?” Koo later said about Tsai’s presidential bid in 2012.
Former DPP chairman Shih Ming-te (施明德) even asked Tsai to reveal her sexual orientation before the 2012 presidential election, claiming that voters deserved “a clear answer” before voting for her.
In the recent campaign, People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) was forced to apologize over a post on the party’s Facebook page.“How can single women understand the needs of a family?”
That Soong’s running mate, Republican Party Chairwoman Hsu Hsin-ying (徐欣瑩) was single too, didn’t seem to attract his attention.
Similarly, New Party Chairman Yok Mu-ming (郁慕明) was slammed for accusing Tsai of being “dangerous” and “ruthless” because she is “single, without family burdens.”
Such gender bias exists in the workplace as well. A survey by 1111 Job Bank showed that women are paid 14.43 percent less than men, and their opportunities for promotion are limited. In addition, since male offspring are preferred, women often receive less inheritance — or decline their share outright. Changing this centuries-old patriarchal culture may be difficult for Tsai.
However, a good place to start was the DPP’s “one-quarter policy,” which began in 1997 and stated that at least one-fourth of Cabinet posts be held by women.
Astonishingly, only four (or 10 percent) of Tsai’s 40 Cabinet members are women, including her own cousin, Minister Without Portfolio Lin Mei-chu (林美珠), a percentage that is the lowest in 20 years.
As a comparison, 28.5 percent of Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) 2008 Cabinet were women.
In response, women’s rights groups protested at DPP headquarters before Tsai’s inauguration.
“We have no honeymoon with you [Tsai] because you’ve really let us down,” said Chi Hui-jung (紀惠容), executive director of the Garden of Hope Foundation, a Taipei-based NGO dedicated to helping abused women and girls.
Tsai’s failure to appoint top female officials reminds me of a quote by self-appointed feminist and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. When asked at a press conference why he chose a gender-balanced cabinet, Trudeau said with the now-legendary line: because it’s 2015.
In other words, it’s a no-brainer. What’s so difficult for Tsai to promote outstanding female talent?
June 1 to June 7 In February 1988, Robert Wu (吳清友) set aside NT$17.5 million to purchase two Henry Moore sculptures from London’s Marlborough Gallery. He never bought the pieces. Feeling slighted that the gallery manager initially looked down on him as a Taiwanese, he decided that night to use the money to open his own art space back home. “Without selling any art, that money could support the gallery for four years. If I feature one artist per month, that provides a stage for at least 100 artists,” Wu said in the book Eslite Time (誠品時光) by Lin Ching-yi (林靜宜).
For more than a century, Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) has been connecting the north and south of the nation. Between 1912 and 1926, the rail network was expanded to the eastern counties of Hualien and Taitung. Even though the number of people living in Taiwan has grown massively — it has more than tripled since World War II — a combination of population outflow in certain places, and a greater range of transportation options, has led to the closure of several TRA stations. One of the most-visited retired stations is in, and named for, Kaohsiung’s Cishan District (旗山). Until the late
With listicles of local attractions including Costco and numerous children’s playgrounds, I was not expecting much. Opened on Jan. 31, the Taipei MRT’s Circular Line, or Yellow Line, made life in the nation’s capital even more convenient. But judging from Internet search results, it hasn’t opened up many new tourism opportunities, unsurprising as the route mostly crosses densely populated areas and industrial parks. Places like a sports stadium with rainbow colored bleachers perfect for Instagram selfies wouldn’t do it for me either, and it’s pointless to list attractions at the connecting stops that have existed for years. As a history nerd, there
African-American entertainer Dooley appeared on local television show Super Entourage (小明星大跟班) a few weeks ago and was told by the crew that they wanted to do a skit in blackface. Dooley, whose real name is Matthew Candler, tells the Taipei Times that Super Entourage wanted to perform a rendition of the wildly popular “Ghana Coffin Dance,” a meme that has taken the world by storm. Instead, he showed them videos about the racist origins of blackface and slavery in America, and they agreed to drop the makeup. “[I told them] about the history [behind blackface] and [said] you decide