Questions to ponder
Maiden’s Vow (鳳凰四重奏)
ALSO putting gender issues under
the spotlight is drama series Maiden’s Vow (鳳凰四重奏). Through the
stories of women of four successive
generations, Maiden’s Vow explores
the changing role of women in Chinese society over the past 100 years,
particularly in their relationship with
men and the institution of marriage.
The series comprises four different stories – a bride leading a submissive life in a late Qing Dynasty (清末)
traditional Chinese family; a courageous woman’s struggle for the freedom to choose the love of her life in
the time of the May Fourth Movement (五四運動); a career woman who
took advantage of the economic
opportunities in the 60s and 70s in
Hong Kong to break through the traditional gender role to gain independence for herself; and a woman
who finds herself romantically lost in
the 21st century’s liberal attitude
The stories depicted the life of
women against different societal
contexts, and highlighted the different pressures to which they were
The airing of the drama series
has triggered a new round of discussion about the issues related to gender roles, their changes over time
and the influence they have had on
each and every member of society.
While society has given increasing recognition to individual rights
and freedoms, the expectations it
imposes on men and women
regarding the different roles they
are supposed to play continue to be
rather onerous (沉重).
The two genders are still
expected to have certain attributes:
men should be masculine, take the
leading role, financially supporting
the family; women, on the other
hand, should be feminine, passive,
submissive and focus on taking
care of her husband and children.
Those taking up roles traditionally
assigned to the opposite gender risk
being ridiculed. For example, a man
will be described as effeminate (女人
型) or called a sissy (娘娘腔的), while
his female counterpart will be
described as mannish (男性化) or
called tomboy (男仔頭).
Gender roles are complicated
issues. However, they are not universal – they can be very different in
patriarchal (父系社會) and matriarchal (母系社會) societies or vary from
culture to culture.
What are the prevailing views
towards gender roles in Hong Kong?
Are they desirable? Should we take
a second look at
those roles? Is
for such a
topic in our
What do you think are the “desirable” attributes of men? Are there any
types of behaviour in men that you would
• What do you think are the “desirable” attributes
of women? Are there any types of behaviour in
women that you would consider unbecoming?
• What are some of the professions that you think
are more suitable for men? And women?
What roles do you think
men and women should
play in the family?
How are men
expected to behave?
RESPONDENTS in a recent online survey have
the following to say on what they considered to be
“desirable” and “undesirable” male attributes:
RESPONSIBLE (負責有擔當), sincere and honest (誠懇老實),
possesses integrity and a sense of fairness (正直有正義感),
responsible for his family (顧家), handles himself in a mature
fashion (成熟穩重), decisive (做事果決), competent in work (工
作能力好), possesses wisdom and is knowledgeable (有智慧內
涵), has ambition (有上進心) and self-assurance (有自信).
BOASTFUL (說話誇大不實), too sure of oneself (自以為是),
obstinate (固執), smokes (抽煙), drinks (喝酒), gambles (賭博),
irresponsible (不負責任), violent (使用暴力), unable to hold
down a proper job (不務正業), coarse (粗俗), foul-mouthed
(口出穢言), pretentious , insincere (行為輕浮) and unkempt
The traditional notion that women should stay at
home is no longer valid in many Western societies
where the role of women has undergone fundamental changes. Like men, women can and do
have their own career outside the home.
Reversals of traditional gender roles are
also becoming more common.
A TV show cooks
up a storm, writes
Translated by Lon Yan
EAUTIFUL Cooking (美女廚房), a TVB
programme hosted by Ronald Cheng
(鄭中基) , Edmond Leung (梁漢文) and
Alex Fong (方力申), has proven to be
highly popular. In each episode,
attractive female stars demonstrate their cooking skills before a
live audience. The dishes they
make are then sampled and rated
by the hosts and guest judges.
Viewers may like the show for
different reasons – some may like the
cooking; others might just find it
entertaining to watch (or laugh at)
the occasional embarrassing slip-ups
made by the ladies, some of whom have obviously
spent very little time in a kitchen in the “real’ world.
In Chinese culture, women are expected to be
“presentable socially” (出得廳堂) on the one hand, and
“competent in the kitchen” (入得廚房) on the other.
But must this be so? Are the long-standing gender
roles assigned by society so difficult to change?
Popular actress Louisa So (蘇玉華) eventually beat all
other contestants with her superb cooking skills in 12
rounds of intense contests, pocketing the title of “Ultimate Kitchen God” (終極美女廚神) [Goddess to be exact].
Behind her victory is the story of a girl who has
been shouldering the unenviable responsibility of
cooking for the family since the tender age of 10.
Also contributing to her success were secret tips
from her mother and her own talent and hard work.
While her cooking skills won the hearts of the
all-male host panel, Louisa does not subscribe to the
view that being able to cook well is the key to winning a man’s heart – in her case at least – for she has
a boyfriend whose cooking skills rival her own.
Nonetheless, her views about cooking and men
may in fact turn out to be right. It is not uncommon
nowadays to find men spending time (and excelling
too) in the family kitchen.
First runner-up Vanessa Yeung (楊崢), however, has
a different view. The idea that it is a virtue for
women to possess good cooking skills has not lost its
validity for Vanessa, a fashion model by profession.
Her cooking skills were honed during her stu-
Personal Development and
Monday, September 18, 2006
EXPERTS have advised making
the subject of gender role a part of education. Gender role education should also
start early so that children may form
proper attitudes that would enhance
gender equality in our society and
help avert confusion and conflict
later in life.
dent days overseas when, being on her own, Vanessa
put into practice her mother’s advice that “women
must cook well”.
Viewer wise, Beautiful Cooking has no doubt
been highly successful, attracting 2.6 million viewers
at one point, topping the viewer chart on several
occasions. Yet, it has been as controversial as it is
popular, with the Broadcasting Authority (廣管局)
receiving more than 50 complaints that the content
of the programme was an affront to women’s dignity.
Viewed from this perspective, the programme
raised important questions: Are these criticisms justified? Should the traditional female gender roles of
housekeeping and cooking continue in present day