They can’t all be winners.

I haven’t talked much about the attitudes towards women in China, but something happened recently that has made me want to rant about it. Since I’ve been in China, I’ve heard and seen many negative things about men’s attitude and treatment of women, particularly wives / girlfriends. This doesn’t apply to all relationships and people of course, but I’ve heard enough stories to justify my accusations and I want to give you guys the good and bad aspects of my experience in China, followed by a comparatively lesser problem of my own.

Firstly, many men in China consider women to be lower than them, to be second-class citizens. Women have many rights and liberties in China that they didn’t have before, but the majority of men have these lingering, ignorant misconceptions of women’s intelligence, strength and worth in the country and I find it genuinely upsetting. They think themselves superior to women, yet entitled to have as many of them as they can get. In a marriage, it is typical for the man to have a mistress on the side, particularly if the man is wealthy. It’s not discussed often in daily conversation, as if it’s an unspoken taboo. But either way, it happens. Regularly. The man will have his wife and child at home and a mistress (sometimes more than one) in a separate apartment or city. *Cue indignant eye-roll*. In Chinese relationships, it’s also common for the man to order his wife or girlfriend to stay at home while he goes out every night to drink and party with his friends and to, no doubt, meet other women. In regards to family, young girls are not in demand the way boys are and are sometimes cast aside by their families so that they can try again for a boy (keeping in mind the 1 child per family rule). Cast aside, right into the clutches of the many brothels, whore-houses and red-light districts spread throughout Asia. Yes, this also suggests that many women share a similar view of themselves in Chinese society: that the male gender is more valuable than the female gender, who’s main value is the asset between her legs. Furthermore, domestic violence can also be a common (and often ignored) problem for women and children in China. Disgusting. Once again, I want to say that this doesn’t apply to all relationships in China, but it definitely applies to an unfortunately high number of families.

I bring this disturbing (but maybe not surprising) fact up because I had a minor encounter with this attitude towards women with a V.I.P. I had yesterday. He was a banker in his mid-thirties, had a wife and family, and he had signed up for a few lessons at EF while he was visiting Hohhot on business. He was a Real 2 speaker, meaning he knew only some useful vocabulary and could speak in simple sentences, so I was told to go over daily-routines and focus on the Real 2 book. As you know, I have a class of Real Beginners that are now Real 2’s, so I’m well practiced at interacting with low-level speakers. I was this mans first foreign teacher and it became very clear within ten minutes of the lesson that I was not the teacher he wanted or expected. He was impatient and became frustrated easily, often looking to his phone to translate meanings before letting me explain, or saying “I don’t understand” without really trying. I meant to begin the lesson with covering greetings (professional, casual, polite, and rude ways to meet new people) as a segwey into an actual conversation and to assess what his actual speaking ability was, but he refused to do it. I asked him what he wanted to talk about, and he just said “I don’t have the vocabulary to say”. I attempted to ask him casual questions about his life, likes, dislikes, family and past, and to explain that vocabulary comes with practice, but he eventually got up and grabbed a CC (Fiona) from the front desk to translate, something that’s never happened to me before. Fiona translated for me and he basically said that he wants to expand his vocabulary and that he doesn’t understand a lot of English. Duh. The translation was unnecessary, and I’ll admit I was a bit embarrassed and annoyed. He also said that he didn’t want his lack of understanding to frustrate ME as his teacher (that’s my effing job bud, and it only frustrated me AFTER you shafted my lesson plan without giving me another alternative). He said that he didn’t understand what I was saying and he wanted his future classes to be more productive, which actually upsets me because he never really gave me a chance.

Afterwards, I left a note in his folder saying he wanted to work on vocabulary relating to work and I told Nick, the VIP teacher he had the following day, what to expect and how to approach the lesson. Straight up and for good reasons, I don’t like Nick and never talk to him at work (I don’t care if he ever reads this blog, as unlikely as that is), but I thought it was the professional thing to do. Then today, I heard our manager phoning Nick and telling him that the man loved him and requested him for extra classes the following few days. I asked Nick how it went and he said “Oh, he was awesome! We talked the whole time about sports, women, etc. He had no trouble talking to me!” Obviously, this greatly annoyed me and made me wonder what I did wrong. Of course, it is possible that maybe I did have a bad lesson plan. Maybe I wrongly approached this V.I.P. and he actually couldn’t understand what I was saying. If this is the case, I need to work harder at correcting my own vocabulary when dealing with beginner’s. I have no problem admitting that! This was my first real fail at a V.I.P, and I’m still relatively new to teaching and I know that I still have a lot to learn. This experience has left me feeling down and disappointed in myself for not producing a satisfactory lesson or giving the student what he paid for, and the feeling has been eating away at me long after I’ve finished work for the day. Case and point, this blog.

But under the self-pitying, I still have this suspicion. When I consider the man’s immediate attitude towards me from the beginning of the lesson, a conceivable truth dawns on me: he didn’t like being taught by a woman. Why? Maybe it made him feel inferior in someway. Maybe he didn’t think he could have a real conversation with me, or be comfortable enough to have me correct him. Maybe, upon seeing me, he immediately thought anything I had to say or teach was frivolous. After all, he was a lot more interested in talking to Nick, someone who (in my not-so-subtle opinion) is a chauvinistic, egotistical self-deluder. It’s possible that he preferred Nick because they have so much in common, like being able to pee standing up. Or maybe I’m just scapegoating. I have him again for a VIP on Sunday morning. We’ll see how it turns out.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Lois Christianson
    Nov 26, 2011 @ 00:41:33

    Winter sounds very cold there. We hardly have any snow and yesterday the temp was +9.
    Good luck with your V.I.P. guy the next time you teach him.
    Justin had a sub teacher at his swimming lesson last night and he was very upset and wouldn’t go in the pool.


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