Wednesday, 4 March 2015
“Oh, so you got to meet Mister Lee [not his actual name]. How was it?”
“It was great. He’s very articulate. And accommodating.”
“Oh that’s just lovely to hear. And did you get to meet his wife?”
“No, I’m afraid not.”
“Oh that’s a shame. I had the pleasure of meeting her over dinner with Mister Lee and it was just brilliant. She’s a CEO, you see, so she’s not a typical Chinese wife.”
“How do you mean?”
“Oh, you know, she’s not meek or submissive as they typically are…”
“You mean she’s assertive?”
“I see. Perhaps you haven’t met enough of them, then.”
“Oh no, not at all. I do know what I’m talking about. You see, I’ve met many Chinese wives – a great many of them, particularly when I’m travelling overseas – and I find that they’re generally all very much like that when I speak with them.”
“That’s because you’re not important enough” is what I would’ve said if I were not in such a rush to leave. That, and the person I was speaking with is the kind who will not suffer any form of dissent.
The idea that Asian wives are meek, submissive, quiet and obedient is a bizarre stereotype held almost exclusively by Westerners, particularly Western men who are asked to elaborate on their preference for Asian women.
If you’ve ever had the nerve to confess to such a belief to an Asian, they most likely would’ve laughed in your face and said “You’ve never met my mother.”
To be fair, that’s not an entirely helpful statement. So, for today’s round of the ABCs of ABCs, I’m going to provide a proper explanation.
Why do Asian wives, particularly Chinese wives, appear to be meek and submissive?
Because a good Chinese husband already knows what to say on his wife’s behalf, to spare her the bother of having to assert herself in public.
More than likely, he’s had that information beaten into him.
Chinese wives are at their most open and assertive when they are among their inner circle of friends.
So here’s the harsh reality: there are, of course, factors like introversion and exposure to the Western culture that will produce a spectrum of behaviour, but generally speaking, if you think a Chinese wife is meek and submissive, it’s because you don’t know her well enough.
The ABCs of ABCs is a light-hearted attempt to explain the ins and outs of the Australian-Born Chinese culture for Caucasians who can’t make any sense of it. There’s a lot of idiosyncratic behaviour I get asked the same questions about, so I’m going to do my best to answer them. Call it my way of bridging the gap between cultures.