After years of living in China, there’s one thing I’ve learned – many of the locals, including the local men, have some rather fascinating ideas about Western women. What stereotypes come into their minds when they look upon a face like mine? Here are 5 stereotypes about Western women that I’ve personally encountered during my time in China.
Stereotype #1: Western women are sluts and like to sleep around.
Many moons ago when I first set foot in China, I went with an American female colleague I’ll call Sheila to a nightclub just around the corner from the school where we taught. The plan was to relax over a few beers, maybe dance, and just try to unwind after the end of an exhausting semester.
What I didn’t count on, however, was all of the leering we were subjected to in that club – especially when we decided to dance. There was even a guy who kept purposely trying to touch me in ways that, well, were completely out of bounds for a stranger. I remember storming into the bathroom, where I took refuge for part of the night (before deciding to ditch the place…something I should have done earlier). All the while I kept wondering, just who do they think I am?
A slut, as it turns out. Or even a Russian prostitute. (See my post on Stereotypes About Couples of Chinese Men-Western Women for more on this.)
It took me years to learn that some Chinese men automatically assume Western women love to sleep around or are simply easy sex for the taking.
I blame it in part on the ubiquitous Hollywood movies and TV you’ll find in China at the local DVD vendor or online, where Western women’s sex lives often turn into a revolving door of one-night stands and disposable boyfriends.
Of course, we’re not all sluts. As I’ve written before in the post Western women in China are NOT all sluts:
…the majority of Western women are just looking for that ONE guy we can settle down with. A soulmate. That best friend we can fall in love with. Or, to borrow from Jerry Maguire, someone to whom we can say “you complete me.” And that takes time — as in, getting to know someone as a friend first, and then upgrading to “dating” that person. But sorry, that usually doesn’t happen in one date, or even one week.
But it’ll take some time before everyone in China gets that message.
Unfortunately, I personally knew a Western woman who was almost raped by a taxi driver in Shenyang. I was also once sexually assaulted in China.
So, to all the foreign ladies out there in China, please be careful whenever you’re out and about.
Stereotype #2: Western women don’t care about family as much as Chinese women do.
I’ve faced my share of rejections and breakups with Chinese men in China. And there’s a particular one that I’ve encountered on a couple of occasions – the guy who tells you his family could never accept a Western woman.
There could be a lot of reasons why the family would be against us. Certainly if they buy into the above-mentioned slut stereotype, that wouldn’t exactly make us your number one choice for a new daughter-in-law. Sometimes it’s just a matter of worrying about those cultural differences (i.e.: how will we raise the future children?). But I believe sometimes Chinese families don’t want Western women coming into their lives because of another stereotype – that, supposedly, we don’t care enough about family. Not like the Chinese do.
Well, it’s not hard to imagine where people would get this idea. The same aforementioned Hollywood movies and TV – promoting “the Western woman as slut” stereotype – do us no favors in this department. Add to that the popular belief that Westerners toss their elderly into cold, impersonal nursing homes instead of caring for them in the family. Plus, the Chinese people often see Westerners — including women like me — as more independent. Surely, the independent young woman who left her family back in America to come to China couldn’t care that much about them?
The fact is, most of us are just like the Chinese – we care about our families too…sometimes, even, in ways that seem very Chinese. For example, my paternal grandfather lived with my father and stepmother for the last years of his life, and my maternal grandmother still enjoys care at home from her children. My dad and stepmom also provide day care for their granddaughter during the weekdays, echoing the way Yeye and Nainai often take care of the grandchildren here in China. And there have been times in my life when family members helped me in times of need with a little money.
Nowadays, though I live far away from my family, they still remain close to my heart. I regularly Skype with my dad and stepmom. I send gifts and greetings back home to my relatives, and e-mail with them from time to time. Though I wouldn’t easily admit it, I do look forward to the day when I can return to Cleveland, Ohio once again and see them all.
I’d like to think there’s a deeply filial side to my personality. Maybe it’s no surprise, then, that during our wedding ceremony, John’s father actually called me “filial” in a speech welcoming me into the family.
Stereotype #3: Western women don’t care that much about material things (like having a home, car and lots of money upon marriage), so you don’t have to work as hard.
Several years ago, I shared the financial and material realities of my marriage to John in post titled, Marriage in China is Home, Car, Money?:
We faced “Money” all the time — hadn’t we survived summer 2006, when some months I never knew when the checks from my new business would come in, and wondered what bills to pay and what to leave aside? Hadn’t we just managed to scrounge the cash together for plane tickets? When it came to “Car,” we were just grateful that our secondhand 1991 Toyota station wagon — teeter-tottering with every bump on its barely-there shocks — still ran after some 170,000-plus miles. And as for “Home,” we felt lucky to manage the rent on our place — owning just wasn’t in the cards for us yet.
Even today, we still don’t own our own apartment. We’re far from wealthy. We sold our car before moving to China and still haven’t the means to purchase one yet.
People who know of all this often say my husband is so lucky to have me as his wife. After all, they believe my story proves what they’ve thought about Western women — that we don’t care about all those material things.
That if you’re a guy like John, you don’t have to work nearly as hard as you would for a Chinese woman.
(It’s totally nuts!)
Maybe I am different from many Chinese women, who expect their men to have a home, car and enough money before marriage. But that doesn’t mean I never want a home, car or money. I’m just willing work with my husband to get there — because he has always wanted to work hard for our future together.
In other words, I wouldn’t be pleased to be with a guy who just wanted to freeload on me.
Plus, it’s not as if Western women don’t care about these things. Just consider what Ember Swift wrote about her own husband:
When I first met Guo Jian, he was one of the few Chinese people I’d come across who had a car—young people, that is. Especially in the world of musicians who make so little per gig, cars are rare here. He was working with a famous Chinese rock star at the time, though, and he had become pretty famous himself as a result of that initial association, so I figured he just made a fair bit of money and that he was able to afford it. It wasn’t a new car, but it was his.
I also discovered early on that the apartment he lived in was also his. He owned it, he told me, when he first invited me for tea and I had a glimpse at his spotless abode. (Oh, how he tricked me into thinking he was a neat freak!) And, about his possessing property, I am a bit ashamed to say that I was impressed. I knew even then that housing is very expensive in Beijing, particularly compared to the average wage. I immediately viewed him as stable, mature, and financially secure.
There you go.
So to all the would-be bums out there, sorry – we’re not interested!
Stereotype #4: Chinese men will never be able to sexually satisfy Western women.
A driver in Beijing once told me about how he broke it off years ago with his Russian girlfriend. When I asked why, he provided a shocking reason – her supposedly insatiable libido. He even told me that Chinese men could never possibly satisfy Western women in THAT department, so why even try?
Ridiculous, I know.
It’s bad enough that Westerners promote that incredibly offensive sexless/dickless stereotype of Asian men. Men in Asia don’t need to pile it on by essentially shooting themselves in the genitals.
Trust me guys, judging by my experiences and those I’ve heard about through the hundreds of Western women with Chinese men I’ve connected with, your member can rock our world just fine.
Stereotype #5: Western women are stronger than Chinese women.
A Chinese female friend once said to me, “Western women don’t need to do zuo yuezi because you’re much stronger than us.”
Zuo yuezi, for those of you who don’t know about this, is the month-long confinement that new mothers generally observe in China after birthing their child. During that time, they rest, eat nourishing foods, and usually have assistance with the new baby (often from their mother or mother-in-law). It’s an extremely important recuperation custom for new mothers in China.
Now, zuo yuezi is not a tradition in most Western countries. But it’s not because the women are so strong they don’t need a rest! According to Taiwanxifu, it’s mainly a matter of money and priorities:
When I first began writing about zuo yuezi, some readers were aghast at the cost. One friend, with whom I shared my post about the cost of postpartum confinement centers, thought that the hotel-like accommodation was only for the extremely wealthy. Actually, while the per night tariff is not cheap, many people I know have stayed at them for a month or longer after having a baby. Others have spent between US$1,000 and US$2,000 a month on special home delivered postpartum meals.
Why is there instead a perception in Western cultures that it is wrong to spend money (and time) on a woman’s recovery? If a husband loves his wife, why wouldn’t he want her to have the best care? And if she loves herself, why doesn’t she demand it?
….getting someone to come in and help the mother with cooking, cleaning and looking after baby so that she can get some sleep? What extravagance! Why, people would think she was lazy, or that she was a negligent mother who could not perform her duties. Real mothers prove themselves by feeding through the night, changing dirty nappies, cleaning up vomit and doing several loads of washing. Then they put on some lipstick and try to look glamorous as they entertain guests.
Unfortunately, most supermums fizzle out eventually. In my case, it took less than a month with first baby before I began to get worn out and very cranky.
Taiwanxifu, who is Australian, clearly wasn’t some “supermum” who could just power through things after giving birth (which is why she did a modified zuo yuezi for her second baby). Canadian Ember Swift also did modified zuo yuezi after giving birth both times.
It’s kind of crazy that the absence of zuo yuezi in Western countries could lead people to conclude Western women must be stronger – though it’s not the first time I’ve heard this sort of thing.
People in China also claim Westerners are tough because we’re taller and larger than a part of the population here in China — with some even attributing this physical difference to diet (that Westerners supposedly consume loads of dairy and red meat). Naturally, this leads to bizarre conversations among friends. For example, one of our friends here in China proudly announced she planned to feed her toddler lots of cheese, because it’s supposedly the “food of champions” for foreigners. All the while I kept thinking to myself, where did she learn this nonsense?
Trust me guys, we’re not superwomen…though we can be “super women” to date and marry! 😉
What do you think? What stereotypes have you heard about Western women when you’ve been in China?