Aug 26 2005

Cultural Revolution II: Misogyny Is The Opiate Of The People


Is there an orthographer in the house? Could you please explain to me
why, when reading Chinese words expressed with the Roman alphabet, one
invariably encounters what appears to be deliberate obfuscation? In
other words, what’s with all the exoticism, all the Xs and Us? Is it
not just gratuitous? I mean, you can spell these words any way you
want, theoretically. Why not spell’em the way they sound?

I ask
because of Madame Gu Xiulian, who is the president of the All-China
Women’s Federation. Say that word "Xiulian" three times fast. If you

Madame Gu is on my mind because this morning I read an article in the World Peace Herald (a sister publication of the Washington Times,
just so you know) about her recent press junket. She is going around
extolling the virtues of China’s new "vigorous measures to promote
gender equality." Apparently the Chinese government now thinks women
are the bee’s knees, so you know what they’re gonna do? They’re gonna
"[build] sound organizational structures and [reinforce] operational

Well, hallelujah.

Madame Gu is rah-rah about
women’s lib. When asked about certain social obstacles to granting
Chinese women the right to exist, she agrees a few problems may linger,
and speaks of "correcting the thinking" of the masses.

soon-to-be-corrected thinking of the masses to whom Madame Gu alludes
runs along the lines of "chicks are shit." This attitude results in
female fetuses being aborted left and right. Lucky fetuses. Because,
like everywhere else in the world, Chinese women are getting the shit
kicked out of them on a regular basis by their douchebag husbands.
Unlike everywhere else in the world, however, Chinese women have

Confucius, known in China by his superhero name "Kong
the Master," is adamant on the subject of domestic violence: "Suck it
up, girls!" is his motto. But many of the girls cannot suck it up. In
fact, every year over a million Chinese women find their worthless
lives so intolerable that they attempt suicide. Thirty out of 100,000
succeed. They do it by drinking pesticide. It’s quite the fad.

China is the only place on earth where women are snuffing it at a higher rate than men. I blame the patriarchy.

[Cross-posted at Bitch.Ph.D ]


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  1. Tony Patti

    Blaming the Patriarchy for the hordes of Chinese women snuffing themselves is just the kind of wildly exaggerated feminism that makes me suspect that this blog is a parody run by right-wing extremists trying to undermine those feminists who have a more nuanced message calculated to soothe the worried Promise-Keeper husband who only beats his wife when she fails to keep another one of the lard’s promises he just made up last night! We don’t need this kind of divisive patriarchy blaming out in the wild! What we want is our women empowered by some scanty Victoria’s Secret underwear, not depressed by actual facts about death!

    End sarcasm. I just wanted to preempt any and all male trolls before they even get started.

  2. Cindy

    I also blame the patriarchy. Bastards.

  3. Crys T

    Re the spelling thing: I’m not sure how that system was established, but I would like to point out that, even with one language, English for example, “spelling it like it sounds” is a highly subjective concept. Take the word “dog”. The “o” sounds VERY different depending on whether the speaker comes from Queens, Red Jacket W Va, South London or Sydney.

    And lots of letters have very different sounds in the different European languages they’re used in. In Welsh, “dd” sounds like the “th” in “breathe”, and in Catalan, “x” usually sounds like English “sh”.

    Sorry for the lecture, but be forewarned: when people ask questions like that, I’m often pedantic enough to actually answer…..even when I know they were only joking.

  4. Mistress

    Oh, shit, son. Orthographer in the house! I don’t know who invented Pin Yin, but whoever did was a dumbass. Freshman year of college, I took a semester of Mandarin and, uh, Pin Yin is retarded.

    Me? I’m a 4th year linguistics major. I could totally use my nerd-powers to write way too much on the subject, so I’m going to shut up before I get started.

  5. Christopher

    How old is Pin Yin anyway? It seems like a lot of orthographies are so old that when they came out they made perfect sense with the spelling conventions of the day, but now are hard to understand.

    Anyway, Confuscious seems to have been kind of a jackass. He sort of reminds me of Paul, in that both of their philosophies are widely respected and yet consist mostly of reinforcing the patriarchy.

    Anybody else that falls into this category.

  6. JonJ

    On pinyin, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinyin. Main point: it was invented by the Chinese, for the Chinese. It was not invented for the convenience of English-speakers.

  7. Twisty

    Thanks, JonJ. Through the wonders of the world wide web, I have actually managed to learn something. Clod that I am, it was slow to dawn on me that Chinese speakers would ever need to read Chinese in English (or any Roman alphabet language), if you see what I mean.

  8. Thomas

    pinyin.info is also an excellent resource, and one that incidentally calls for the elimination of Chinese characters in favor of the Romanized system. I’m not a professional linguist, but I have studied Mandarin, and I’m convinced.

  9. tekanji

    Another Romanization of a language that makes me cry is Korean. I took a semester of that, and I couldn’t learn the written system fast enough. The first chapter of our book (and, thankfully, only the first chapter) had the words in hangul with the English approximation above it. I stopped trying to puzzle it out and instead paid attention to how my prof pronounced it, then when I learned the hangul things got much easier. I still couldn’t pronounce the language to save my life, but at least I had no difficulty reading it.

    Speaking of which, hangul = best writing system ever. If hanzi (Chinese characters) were gotten rid of, I’d advocate replacing them with hangul. Screw the Romanized system, it doesn’t work nicely with Asian languages. Heck, I’m not entirely convinced it works well with the languages it was intended for. Hangul was developed by scholars, for crying out loud. Scholars! And it shows.

    Did I mention that I love hangul? ‘Cause I really love it. Clarity should always be first and foremost in a written language, and I’d say that hangul has us all one-upped in that category.

  10. As Twisty is out of town, I have been browsing the IBTP archives with much delight, which is why I am commenting on a year-old post.

    I may be biased because I am a Chinese-speaker, but pinyin is the only Romanization system that makes any sense to me at all. It is far more accurate and user-friendly than Wade-Giles. It is also far more popular now, for good reason. Before pinyin, an English speaker attempting to pronounce Chinese might have had to read “tzyh” for what is now simply “zi.”

    There are many Xs and Us in the pinyin transliteration system simply because it Romanizes phonemes that don’t exist in English. The X, for example, is close to the English /sh/ but requires a wider mouth position and less tongue roll. The U actually represents two separate phonemes. One is /oo/ as in true, and the other is the French u or the German ü, which both don’t exist in English.

  11. Speaking of Romanization, let’s not forget Atatürk’s 1928 reform of the Turkish writing system, supposedly resulting in much higher literacy rates.


    But I thought we were talking about the patriarchy…how about that Confucius, eh? Lest we think that the Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions have any monopoly.

  12. Oh, of course I can quote any number of excerpts from the Analects. Confucius certainly was an influential misogynist.

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