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the manifesto of the independent female history major

August 9, 2011

I actually wasn’t planning on blogging today. I have watches to buy, runs to run, and chinese radicals to tutor. Blogging just wasn’t going to fit into my schedule today. That is until lunchtime. I rode my bike to a cafe so that I could grab a sandwich, some coffee, and watch the world go by for an hour or so before riding my bike to chairman mao’s house and fuxing park.  As I sit there reading “Born to Run” in an attempt to become reinspired to run in Shanghai’s dreaded heat, a nice young chinese fella sits down asking if he can share the table with me. This happens often to me when I decide to have alone time in China, and I didn’t see a point in trying to keep the dream alive with only a few more days to go, so I let him take a seat.

This was a mistake. Hindsight is twenty twenty.

I closed my book, and conversed about the typical things you do when you first meet someone. Once we had covered the basics: I am an american history major working at a design firm, We got on the topic of movies. He asked if I had ever seen Empire of the Sun, and queried if I had known that it took place on the street we were on.

The fact is, I had seen Empire of the Sun. My parents gave it to my sister and I to watch on a 12 hour car trip when I was maybe a fourth grader. I didn’t get much out of it. But rather than explaining that, I said no and let him ramble on until I mentioned Harry Potter.

I think I figured out why the movie was so unpopular here. When I asked him if he saw it he scoffed and said “I only saw the first two because my girlfriend made me”.  I can understand not wanting to watch the movies because you don’t want to wreck the visual in your head. I understand that logic, so I assumed he had read the books.

Nope. Didn’t read the books. Want to know why he didn’t read the books? Fiction and magic is for girls. So that’s why Cho Chang is the only asian. Never mind the fact that this guy missed out on an epic childhood staple, he said that fiction was for girls.

Sorry? Did I hear you correctly? What about non fiction? Do girls like non fiction?  Apparently not.

I wasn’t going to harp on the cultural differences between american women and chinese women, I really wasn’t.  I had only vented about it to my mom.  But this dude just aggravated the wrong lao wai. I haven’t had a real debate in weeks…and man I was ready for this one. The female culture in China is essentially like the american 1950s except with sailor moon and crocs with heels. It’s like the awkward middle school years collided with hello kitty in the middle of a soc hop. Women are raised in an environment where they are expected to be completely dependent on their family and the men in their lives. There is no sense of real independence. Women put pressure on each other to achieve this standard, and if you are even a little bit out of the mold, you are kind of a slut who did a dishonor to her family. I have met women out of the mold that have told me this, and some really annoying women in the mold that have explained this to me. At first, I thought it was kind of a cat fight, but now I am starting to realize the men play a real role in perpetuating this culture as well. Starting with the female affinity to fiction. I continue with the dialouge.

guy: women don’t care for stuffy reads like watergate. They like to read about things that aren’t real, it is more interesting to them. And men need to know about real things, so we read real history.

me: well what about me, I am a history major, I love history.

guy: Well, thats why they have historical fiction.

Me: hm. It is interesting that you say that, now what book do you have in your hand.

guy: Oh its a historical account of the black muslim movement in America

*sidenote: this could not have played better into my hand. I went to a progressive high school in Chicago…all we talked about were black people and hippies in our history classes. Case and point, I read Malcolm X’s autobiography my senior year. I trumped this masochist’s ace.

me: I’m sure that can’t be too dry! Have met Elijah Muhammed yet?

guy: well, no I am just starting the book

me: Oh well just wait until you get to the part about Malcolm x’s conversion to islam in jail, and the black panther party is also a real treat to read about.

guy: have you read this book already?

me: only in fiction

guy: you should come to a ladies night at the bar I love Shanghai tonight.

me: you know, I’d really like to, but I got my head in this book about the human physiology of running. But it’s just a theory, they aren’t even sure if it’s real or not, kind of like fiction. But since I now have to explain my sarcasm to you, malcolm x does get converted to islam in jail, and the black panther party was terrifically violent and interesting to read about. And I learned that in a history course, because I like real history, and I happen to know that elijah muhammed was a pretty convincing fellow, so if you find yourself getting sucked into radical islam, don’t forget to bring some good fiction up to heaven when you meet your forty virgins.


me:…. I’m going to go. Have a great rest of your day.

Shanghai may be international, but it is definitely harder to be female here, especially among chinese. And for the record, I had to fight my own father off when we got our family copy of Deathly Hallows. That kind of fiction transcends gender and generation. That guy should get off his macho man high horse and go by himself a copy. The jerk.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Lisa permalink
    August 9, 2011 11:06 am

    “I haven’t had a debate in weeks”……yeah, he was in trouble. Funniest post yet and I’m really sorry about Empire of the Sun on the way to the cabin. I’m not sure what dad and I were thinking about…

  2. Caro permalink
    August 9, 2011 3:32 pm


  3. Uncle Bruce permalink
    August 10, 2011 6:08 pm

    Tell us what you really think!
    Does your Dad know your taking historical fiction? I know your mom couldn’t tell the differance…being female and all.

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