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A Reflection on the Situation
of Women in Hong Kong

by Hazel Man Hei Yan, SCM Hong Kong

It is indeed my pleasure to be given an opportunity to share my experience and reflection with you. It is very valuable to share our life experience and stories with each other to let us understand ourselves more. Also, our life stories and experience are important substances of doing theology.

Why do girls have to wear dress?

The first time I became aware of the differences between girls and boys was when I was young and was taught that a girl wears dresses and a boy wears trousers. However, I did not like wearing a dress, as it seemed to be a control over me. When I was young, my aunt taught me that I had to walk and sit very politely, or to do things gently like a lady when I was wearing a dress. Also, I could not put the back of the dress up while I was sitting. All these restrictions were too troublesome for me. I thought to myself: why was wearing a dress had so many rules? So I dislike wearing dresses or even being a girl. However, my aunt and mum would always force me to wear a dress as they thought girls wearing a dress would look prettier.

Women in the Church

I first went to church since I was nine years old. As I was growing up to my teens, I started to realise that there are some hidden oppressions against women in the church.

Summer in Hong Kong is very hot and humid. Many women like wearing vests in summer because of the weather. However, women, especially young women in the fellowship, are not allowed to wear vests in my church. The reason given is that it would be tempting for the brothers. So does it imply that men commit sins because of women, but not because of their irresponsibility? It totally is a defence for men but at the same time discriminates women. Moreover, women are not allowed to lead a Eucharist or to be a Master of Ceremony during service time. This is because the church believes that according to the St Paul’s scripture that says men are the head. So the priority of the church’s setting is to put men in first place, women are the subordinates. The tasks of women in the church are mostly flower arranging, providing food in certain occasions or babysitting. The present Christian ethics and models of theology in churches are still made and practiced under the patriarchal system in Hong Kong especially conservative churches. Women are still obviously or not obviously being discrimination and stereotyped in the church.

However there is one thing I appreciate in the church: people usually think that sisters are morally and spiritually superior than brothers.

Talented women are lonely and unhappy?

Nowadays women’s social position in Hong Kong has gotten higher than before. One could find more women working in higher positions such as in executive or decision-making positions in big companies or in the Government. It reflects that women are more educated, intelligent and talented in Hong Kong.

However, these women still bears a great burden of oppression under the patriarchal system which is very much influenced by the traditional Chinese thought. It is harder for women who are highly educated, in a high positioned or a high salaried job, to get married. Traditionally, people think that women should be quiet, untalented and obedient. Many men are fearful that their wives would be more talented or educated than they are. Many people like to put a label on these highly educated and talented women as “single and abnormal”—without the happiness of a marriage or they lack ‘normal love’ in their life.

Media Violence against Women

There are many sliming clinic advertisements in Hong Kong. The pictures of a lady with a slender figure and wearing scanty clothes are often portrayed in television, newspaper and magazine. It carries a message that only those who are slim and sexy are beautiful, and being fat is the worse fate one could ever has. This message deeply influences and affects many parents in Hong Kong. Some parents would always force their daughters to lose weight, especially for the adolescents. They fear that their daughters will be fat in adulthood and thus could not get married in the future. There is also a malicious remark for women who are over-weight; they are often being teased as “pork chops”.

Moreover, film and television programmes in Hong Kong often feature women’s body as the main content of the programme. The camera would only focus on the women’s hips, buttocks and chest. The media tends to use women’s body or their sexuality to excite and entertain audiences. Also, local magazine and newspapers in Hong Kong like using women’s body as their selling point. Flipping through the magazines or newspapers one could always find semi-naked women or women posing sexily being put on the front pages. The local newspapers in Hong Kong always sensationalise stories about domestic violence or sexual harassment of women and these stories usually appear on their front pages, focusing only on the process of rape and violence. However, these newspapers do not aim at raising public awareness or concern about women who had suffered, but just using women’s suffering as an excitement or attraction for the readers.

From the above, we can see there is lot of media violence in Hong Kong which commercialises on women’s bodies. They stereotype women as sexual objects for entertainment or propaganda. This totally distorts the image of women or devalues women’s body and as a result women are despised and mis-perceived.

Women Suffer from Unhappy Marriage

As Hong Kong’s relationship with Mainland China is getting closer, many people especially the men take up jobs or shift their businesses from Hong Kong to Mainland China, leaving their wives and children in Hong Kong. Many a time, many of the men would find another woman in Mainland China. As a result, there are many cases of extra-marital affairs due to this factor. In fact, it is quite difficult for a woman to ask for a divorce even if she wants as the whole family is under the husband’s control. If the woman leaves her husband, she would lose all economic support from the husband. Therefore, these women are forced to remain silent from the unhappy marriages.

Hence, in Hong Kong, oppressions of women always occur. Although the oppressions may not be obviously or consciously identified, they are exercised on women all the time at different levels.