Before I came to Taiwan I believed that Asian girls were pure and innocent and that ‘evil’ Western guys took advantage of Asians’ nice and friendly behaviour. I think that this is the version that Asians themselves would like to believe.
But soon I realised that things are not so simple. First of all, I want to emphasize that when we talk about different cultures and societies, we should always make clear by what standards we are judging certain phenomena. In fact, things that are morally acceptable in one country might not be morally acceptable in another. I think this is an extremely important point. If we look at the history of Asia and the West, we can easily recognise that in these two civilisations marriage was based on completely different values.
Asian people tend to believe that Westerners are selfish and pleasure-seeking. Of course, Asians have the right to criticise the West as much as they want. I am not trying to defend the West and I am not suggesting that the West is morally superior to the East. What I am saying is that these two civilisations have established systems based on different moral and social values. And often times they judge each other from two very different perspectives.
Now, many Asian people, most especially those who stick to traditional values, emphasize the idea that Asians have sense of responsibility, respect the elders and care about the group rather than about the individual. Westerners, on the contrary, are seen as self-centred and irresponsible. This is one of the major causes of the love-hatred relationship between Asian and Western people.
The self-perception of many Asian people also influences the perception that some Westerners have of them. After all, if they represent themselves in this way, it is hard for Westerners who do not know much about the reality of Asian societies to free themselves from this point of view.
I would like to show that these ‘Asian values’ are not exactly what they might appear to be at first glance. And in order to do this, we must distinguish between the image of themselves that people want to project on others – which in some way is a sort of self-propaganda – and the actual principles upon which their behaviour and thinking are based. Consequently, if we examine the foundations of marriage and family in Asian societies, we might discover that their underlying principles can be actually perceived by Westerners as immoral, or at least as questionable. I shall argue that these values are part of the reason why Asian girls are considered easy by some Westerners, and why sometimes Westerners do not respect them.
In the next posts, I will illustrate this point by discussing four phenomena: concubinage, filial piety, the role of money in marriage, and the different gender-roles in Asian relationships and marriage.