Women’s work

I just came home from the vegetable market (photos) with three plastic bags full of fruit. Grandpa Song was out and passed me on my way in.

Grandpa Song: “What do you think you’re doing? A man, buying vegetables at the market!”
Me: “Oh, you mean this is women’s work?”
Grandpa Song: “Yeah.”
Me: “Jessica’s sick!”

Then he smiled and walked off in a way I don’t know how to interpret, but I’m pretty sure he knows Jessica having a cold has nothing to do with it.

Between dragging my feet on the 白酒 (see here, here, and here) and shopping at the vegetable market (Jessica does the supermarket shopping, I do the vegetable market shopping), these guys must think I’m the biggest [insert your choice sexist insult here] in the whole neighbourhood! Good thing he doesn’t know I also do the laundry and clean the bathroom…

4 thoughts on “Women’s work”

  1. 很多中国的“妻管严”(意思就是怕老婆的人)在家 里对妻子唯命是从,在家外则表现的自己是“大男 人”
    有一个赵本山经典的小品叫做《小九老乐》,如果你 看懂了这个小品,就明白我说的是什么意思了。

  2. yabaliu says that some men in China that are henpecked at home but put on a chauvinistic facade outside the home.

    Chinese male chauvinism is called 大男子主义; “big-man-ism.” My teachers say that South Koreans are especially notorious for this. Two female university students I practiced Chinese with this week said that they prefer a guy who is “a little bit” this way, but not too much. We often see young couples exhibiting behaviour in line with this, and sometimes it’s disturbing.

    yabaliu recommends a classic sketch by Mainland comedian Zhào BÄ›nshān called 《小九老乐》; “xiÇŽo jiÇ” lÇŽo lè,” but I don’t know how to translate that. You can see it on YouTube (here and here), and Tudou (the Chinese youtube). Apparently if you can understand this sketch, then you’ll understand a lot about Chinese “big-man-ism.”

  3. I tend to agree with yabaliu! Down in Chengdu, folk call the browbeaten men “pa er duo” (lit: soft ear, in the local accent). We also hear that northern men have a problem with “bronchitis” 妻管严。

    It’s all about shame and face, isn’t it?

  4. I don’t know what Mainlanders might identify as the main parts of all that. Chinese Masculinities/Chinese Femininities has an article mentioning how wives can use their husband’s ‘face’ as leverage, deliberately standing outside the door and scolding him loudly so all the neighbours can hear. He might not care what she thinks, but he cares about protecting his face, or something like that.

    Our teachers talk about how one of the wife’s jobs is to give her husband face. Obviously we don’t do it quite that way in the West, but I think we also have unwritten rules about how a good wife will talk about her man in public, especially if he’s there. A North American husband could be greatly affected by how his wife treats him in front of others.

    My impression is that Chinese men are particularly sensitive (threatened) about their masculinity (and thus more prone to masculine displays), but I don’t know if that’s really how it is or if in China such behaviour is simply more obvious to me because I’m a cultural outsider. Like you’re not a man if you don’t drink 白酒, smoke, make your wife do the grocery shopping, etc. But I could easily point to some somewhat silly and conspicuous displays of American masculinity, too (and, for that matter, seriously tragic and misguided expressions of femininity as well). Maybe it’s just that gender roles and identities in China are (still) more tightly defined/differentiated than in the West (where we’d have trouble/raging debate trying to explain what makes a man a man and a woman a woman). Maybe with Chinese society changing so fast, gender roles/identities start to shift (women become less dependent) and men compensate by seeking ways to affirm their masculine identity (like by reaffirming aspects of traditional male chauvinism). Ha, or maybe it’s just fun to play male chauvinism with the boys sometimes, just like it is in North America.

    I think it’s hard to talk about Chinese gender issues as a Westerner. There’s plenty to criticize, no doubt, but it’s hard to sort out if our criticism comes more from a real understanding of what’s going, or more from ethnocentric feelings of cultural superiority cloaked in the guise of post-Sexual Revolution notions of sexuality.

Leave a Reply!