Jul 5, 2012

those with dignity need not apply.

Anti-discrimination laws don't exist in Chi.na.

The rules of the 1950's for flight attendants remain here with weight/height restrictions. To be a waitress you must be younger than 30. There is discrimination against those who are pregnant, newly married (so may become pregnant) and those from rural areas.

I have a close friend who just graduated with her masters degree and got a lucrative job as a middle school teacher. She was forced to sign an agreement with the school that she will not get married or have a baby for 2 years. She didn't dare tell them she had a boyfriend out of fear of not being hired.

As a white, native English speaker I have not directly felt this discrimination until yesterday. And it was so funny. (well, as much as discrimination can be funny). I am thankful for the experiences that allow me to see Chi.na and it's practices from the inside. So often, I feel like I only have contact with certain pockets of society and want to have my view of Chin.ese society broadened - with both positive and negative observations and experiences.

Yesterday I got my wish.

I was sitting on the bus home after my english class at the hospital (where I taught them the pledge of allegiance to celebrate Independence day, haha) and received a call from my Ch.inese friend John. (who used to work at the hospital, but doesn't any more).

He told me that his manager at the bookstore where he works asked him if he knew any foreigners and he responded that yes, he knew one. (Me). His manager was looking for foreign waitresses for a party on Friday and Saturday evening. The pay was good and normally I would say no to these opportunities because they can take a lot of time and dealing with people is annoying, but it's summer and I'm poor so I said ok.

My friend told me the manager would call me and in ten minutes, he did. The manager doesn't speak english and was speaking really slurred Chi.nese at me and I couldn't understand fully. Finally after asking him to repeat himself a million times he said slowly in Chine.se, "Can you bake cookies?""Um, yes," I said. "Good, someone else will call you." Then he hung up.

I panicked a little because I realized that I had agreed to not be a waitress, as I was told, but to do some kind of cookie demonstration at a hotel. Oh dear Lord.

About 5 minutes later I recieved a call from another number with equally difficult and aggressive Chin.ese. Again the questions started, "Do you speak Chine.se?" "A little." "Can you bake cookies?""Yes.""What kind of cookies can you bake?" "Um, peanut butter." (there's no chocolate chips here.) "Ok, so tomorrow I'll take you to a meal, then we will relax, and I will give you an introduction to what we want."

Ummmm....I thought I was only working Friday and Saturday and was NOT thrilled with having to spend a whole another day with these dudes unpaid. So at this point, I was starting to have my doubts. Then the guy nonchalantly asked the awesome questions...

"Are you pretty?"

------pause-------internal laughter------contemplating my options-----seeing a way out------



"Are you charming?"


He hung up.
I laughed outloud.

Thank you, dear sir, for showing me how it is in a land of no discrimination laws, first-handedly.

Today I recieved no less than 10 calls and texts from that man.

He's going to have to find another pretty and charming foreigner to bake cookies like a circus act. I prefer to do work that preserves my dignity and work for people who respect others regardless of their looks or natural charm.

Thanks for the culture lesson.


walk slow. xoxo.


agapelife said...

I just listening to a "This American Life" episode about American living in Ch. and they discussed something similar. A lot of the guests on the show had been asked several times to be onTV and when they did it found that the people on the show simply had them there to make fun of their accent and foreign eccentricities!

Monica said...

Its interesting to hear experiences like that. I am living in Thailand and I find they don't like my skin color and quite often comment on my weight but because I have curly hair which VERY uncommon here people consider me pretty. I often here you are fat but your hair is pretty. Cracks me up because that would NEVER fly in the US.

Anonymous said...

HOLY MOLY. For the record, you lied to that man.

xoxo, ellie b.

Jennifer said...

awesome responses

tiffany said...

good for you!! i love your answers! if chi.nese people tell me i'm fat or pretty or whatever, i always respond "so are you!" and i smile :) also if they complain about being too "brown", i tell them brown is beautiful. maybe someday things will be different here....