Youths living in North America and other areas of the world that are considered relatively liberated grow up with considerably more gender equality now more than in the past. This is seen through many aspects in the society like opportunities for education, status of the women in the society and the socialization of gender roles. These youths take up courses in institutions of higher learning that were predominantly thought to be a preserve of the men. This is because the society has evolved to perceive women as an equal gender, and one deservedly worthy of equal opportunities as the male gender (Yu, 2009).
This cannot be said about all societies, as is expressed by Lu Hsiu-lien in her book. Even from her position of power as a vice president of Taiwan, the author could still see the gender disparities that existed in her country. In her narrative, the author does not settle old scores or highlight controversies of the country’s administration. The author's narrative delves into the issues she faced growing up, even before ascending to power. The author also recounts her experiences in local politics in Taiwan. It is easy to mistake the book as a personal account of her experiences when it is really about the gender disparities that Taiwanese women suffered. This book review looks at the book from a critical perspective.
When Lu Hsiu-lien was growing up as a child, the status of women in the Taiwanese society was very lowly. They were discriminated against in a system that was socially institutionalized. The taboos, customs and ways at that time allowed and glorified the discrimination of women. In the book, the author adduces that as a woman she was very unlikely to good career irrespective of how she was educated. This is because women were not seen as worthy of the such high positions in the society. Lu Hsiu-lien talks of the frustrations that women suffered at the time (Hsiu – Lien & Esarey, 2014).
Additionally, the idealized women in the East Asia are one who is not only deferent but also gentle. This is not the kind of woman that Lu Hsiu-lien was, a feat that was inconsistent with the expectations at the time. The Lu Hsiu-lien was typically engaging, resilient and introspective, immensely creative, direct and argumentative. The women at the time Lu Hsiu-lien was a child were subdued by the discrimination as shown by their apathy. The contemporaries at the time thought the objectives that Lu Hsiu-lien chose to pursue as possible, a testament to the disillusionment of the women. One of these objectives was the desire to hold political office, a feat that was seldom for women in Taiwan, and much of East Asia (Farris, 2004).
Over and above these attributes, her sharp sense of purpose and her inquisitive nature also led her to the path of becoming a major feminist voice in this period. It is noteworthy that the Taiwanese minority culture was not valued under the Chinese rule. More precisely, the culture was eroded due to the fifty years of Japanese influence. Lu Hsiu-lien wanted to know why the policies instituted by her government, and that of post-colonial Taiwan did not reflect her interests and value her cultural heritage. She went past this quest for answers to agonizing over what could be done in order to ensure the path that Taiwan to as an independent country was that of prosperity in diversity. These patriotic inclinations fueled her resolve and led her further into the path of becoming a major feminist voice during the post colonial Taiwan. The education she received and her rise to power were only but a means.
Her journey on this path was not smooth sailing. Her endeavors, even with the selfless promise to help the people of Taiwan were met with resistance. The resistance meted her way came from early on in her life. One of the forms of discouragement took the form of discouragement. In a far less storied part of her life, Lu Hsiu-lien was a newspaper columnist. She used this position to raise social issues to a wider audience. However, her efforts were castigated through letters of dissent and discouragement. Even more surprising were the personal attacks with the intent of silencing her. Politically motivated harassment was a constant worry for her (Hsiu – Lien & Esarey, 2014).
Additionally, the then government place spies to monitor her activities with the purposes of repression. This only to harden her political views and added to her growing affinity for political reform. Perhaps the biggest resistance was in the form of imprisonment. The Lu Hsiu - lien was sentenced to serve a term of twelve years for advocating for the independence of Taiwan from China. In the time leading to this sentencing, she was intimidated and sexually harassed by the policemen. She served five years of the sentence before she was released. Other impediments, though later in her life was an assassination attempt, betrayal by her party members and failed attempts to achieve constitutional reform (Yu, 2009).
Owing to the efforts of Lu Hsiu-lien, the status of Taiwanese women has advanced since her early days as an activist as the feminist movement. The most apparent evidence is her ascension to power and serve an eight year term as the vice president of an independent Taiwan. Taiwan effectively became the first country globally with a Confucian heritage to elect a woman into the vice presidency. The bestowed a new status upon the women in Taiwan. However, there are other subtle indicators of the advancement of the status of women in the society since her days as an activist in the feminist movement. Although it was widely regarded as a waste of resources, education wise, the number of women who were admitted to universities almost surpassed that of men in 1971.
These women were seeking advanced degrees in various fields. It is worthy remembering that a few years prior, the number of illiterate Taiwanese women was three times that of men. This was a testament of the rising status of women in the society. Additionally, there were social organizations like counseling centers dealing with battered women and the International Federation of Business and Professional Women that advocated for gender equity, all alluding to the rising awareness of the plight of women. After her incarceration, the political climate she found was less punishing and she was able to win a legislative seat, something that women could not do previously.
Under the nationalist government, gains in breaking patriarchy and advancing the status of women in the society were made. Women were making headway with more positions in the legislature, many holding coveted jobs and noteworthy careers. Their status is still affected by the social structures that emanated from the traditional patriarchal views that influenced societal expectations regarding women. With regards to the laws of the land, a lot still needs to be done with some of the draconian laws that oppressed women still in operation (Farris, 2004).
Despite the ongoing economic prosperity, women still have to fight for their rights. This is because some of the laws that relate to the rights of women are still encased in the Constitution of the Republic of China. The implication of this is that more remains to be done in Taiwan with regards to gender equality. North American countries are more liberated, probably owing to the many years that they have enjoyed sovereign rule. The expectation is that with time, the oppressing social structures from the previous rule will be eroded and replaced with more gender-minded structures. The alternative is constitutional reforms in order to remedy laws that restrain the progress of women. Either way, a patriotic and courageous person like Lu Hsiu-lien will be needed to lead the process from the front.
Farris, C. S. P. (2004). Women in the New Taiwan: Gender roles and gender consciousness in a changing society. Armonk, N.Y. ;London: M.E. Sharpe.
Hsiu – Lien, L., & Esarey, A. (2014). My fight for a new Taiwan: One woman’s journey from prison to power. Seattle. University of Washington Press.
Yu, W.-H. (2009). Gendered trajectories: Women, work, and social change in Japan and Taiwan. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press.