For the first time ever, the President of Taiwan is a woman. The 59-year old Tsai Ing-wen is also single.
That did not sit well with a Chinese military official, who believed that her single status rendered her “erratic”:
“As a single female politician, Tsai Ing-wen does not have the emotional burden of love of ‘family’ or children, so her political style and strategies are displayed to be more emotional, personal and extreme.”
If you asked me to predict what happened next, I would not know what to think. I would hope for an outpouring of protest, but that would assume some sensitivity to issues of singlism and a willingness to challenge such obnoxious attitudes. I’m too often disappointed with the singlism people can get away with perpetrating in the U.S., with little or no push-back.
Maybe the Chinese and Taiwanese are better defenders and advocates for single people than Americans are, because they took to their own social media by the thousands to express their outrage. The BBC published a few of their comments (in an article that also included two pictures of Tsai Ing-wen with her cats, that she posted to her Facebook page):
- “This is typical discriminatory behavior but it still disgusts me.”
- “Even a woman’s singlehood can make the news?”
- “Many women abroad admire Ms. Tsai’s tenacity and drive, especially the fact she is strong and independent and does not need a man to rule.”
- “This was the stupidest and most offensive thing I have read in ages.”
The offensive article did not last long. It was quickly removed from the place where it was originally published. By then, though, it had already been reposted in multiple places, mostly as fodder for mockery.
Tsai Ing-wen did not respond to the put-down. But as the New York Times noted, she has been assailed for her single status throughout her political career, and has occasionally commented on the matter. Tsai, a former law professor, said that living single gave her the opportunity to focus on her career. She also added this astute observation:
“In a traditional society, a woman who never marries would be regarded as less whole. But in modern society, what marriage provides is also available outside of marriages, isn’t it?”
It is indeed. Here’s to you, Tsai Ing-wen, and to your thousands of enlightened supporters!