Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Women

There seems to be some sort of stigma attatched to women who aren't married. I'm not sure if there's the same stigma attatched to men or whether they just get more leeway. But there seems to be an accompanying feeling that these older women are jealous of younger women because they CAN get married and so they act badly towards younger women. This is frequently offered as an explanation of why people are rude, another woman will say to me, "You know she isn't married?" as if this explains everything. I'm not sure if this is just Jilong smalltownism or a general thing, but all in all it can be a little weird.

1 comment:

Mark said...

There's a BIG stigma attached to unmarried women in Taiwan. Here's the abstract of a paper by a colleague of mine here in London which gives a sense of the complexity

Maiden Spirits at Peace? Communicating with the Dead in Contemporary Taiwan
Paper presented by Fang-Long Shih, The Study of Religions, SOAS
This paper will examine the issue of goutong ‘communicating’, in this instance, with the dead in the religious context of contemporary Taiwan. The practice of ancestor worship involves the lighting of incense and is a form of communication with the dead that is surrounded by rules and prohibitions. I will focus on those female dead who die before they marry, such that they are prohibited from becoming ancestors and so are excluded from the social practices of communicating that ancestor worship enshrines. However, there are a variety of practices that establish ways of communication with maiden spirits and thus, constitute a correction to the exclusion and prohibition of deceased maidens. I call them 'corrective practices’. I will look at two cases of corrective practices. One is Miss Ng who, after death, returned to her family in a dream. In the dream she ‘demanded to be a maiden’. The family thus granted her ‘a piece of land’ as her ‘dowry’ and on this land built a small shrine to house her spirit tablet. This shrine then serves as a place to communicate with the dead maiden. The other case is Nun Shiwu who pursues her rebirth in the Pure Land and dedicates her life to take care of the dead. She communicates with the dead by chanting sutra and creating a peaceful space for them to rest in the Pure Land never to come back to this world. I will articulate how these two corrective practices reopen communication with apparently forgotten dead maidens. I will then analyse how these two forms of communication reflect and negotiate with ancestral orthodoxy.