“I Want to be a Breadwinner Too”: Chinese Marriage Migrants' Narratives of Gender, Identity, and Family in Taiwan

Monday, July 14, 2014: 6:24 PM
Room: 313+314
Distributed Paper
Paoyi HUANG , CUNY Graduate Center, New York
This study aims to explore the intricate gender dynamics in cross-border marriages between Taiwanese men and Chinese women.  Analyses are based upon data collected from ethnographic research conducted in Taiwan.  Gender is not only a major element to immigrant identity, but also a vehicle for minority groups to claim cultural superiority over the dominant group.  Taiwanese men and Chinese women have very different expectations of gender roles in marriage.  Taiwanese men and their parents expect these Chinese women to behave in a traditional way – be a good stay-home wife/mother/daughter-in-law.  Yet Chinese women, who grew up in communist China, consider such expectations outdated.  Most of these Chinese women anticipate Taiwan as a more modern and Westernized society before getting married, but only to find out that patriarchal ideology and practices still prevailing.  In contrast to stereotypes portraying Chinese marriage migrants as lazy and opportunistic “gold-diggers,” many of these immigrant wives, despite external immigration policies and their lack of local networks, express a strong desire to work.  Being confined in the domestic sphere, these Chinese women long for part of their old identity – a financially-independent working woman.  Facing stigmas in the Taiwanese society, Chinese immigrant wives criticize that their Taiwanese in-laws are under Japanese colonialism and feudal Confucianism’s influence, thus they are backwards and lack of modern concepts of gender equality.  This research argues that these Chinese marriage migrants develop such discourse as a strategy of resistance – a means of asserting their progressiveness.  At the same time, gender dynamics in the household (private sphere) has become a public issue – the Taiwanese government launches programs to “teach” Chinese women how to be an “appropriate” Taiwanese wife/daughters-in-law.  This study elaborates how the conduct of micro private life is deeply tied to macro social structures.