Saturday, October 31, 2020

Gender Bias in Describing Western Facing Puerh Vendors

There has long been a joke in Western puerh circles that almost all Western puerh vendors and drinkers alike are made up of Western (often white) males married to Oriental females.  Yunnan Sourcing has Scott and Xiao Yao, The Essence of Tea has David and YingXi, Crimson Lotus Tea has Glen and Lamu, there are likely others...  I suspect there are likely many others as well where the Western male is the English voice of the business but the oriental wife probably does lots behind the scenes, in these instances they are just not as publicized.  Bucking the trend is Linda Louie at Bana Teas who perhaps is the only female Western facing puerh-centric vendor as well.

I’m unsure what I want to say about that or how that might be a reflection of the Western puerh drinking scene… but I can say that this formulaic make up of most Western vendors likely has rather unconsciously influenced and formed the current puerh drinking community / culture / created the stereotypical puerh drinker (see mbanu comment) in the West.

One of the things that I personally want to apologize about and something that has been on my mind for quite a while is my tendency to refer to these companies with the male owner exclusively (Example “Scott at Yunnan Sourcing” “David of Essence of Tea”).  How many times have you heard this bias being perpetuated in the Western puerh drinking scene?  For me it is too many and I really wanted to say something about that and at the very least say “I’m sorry” for doing that in the past.

Another thing that I caught myself doing (and that I apparently did above) and really everyone else does this and I’ve never read it or heard it any other way… When the couple is listed together the white male is always listed first followed by the Chinese woman.  I know that a lot of people are going to be thinking when reading this is that is simply the current convention- list he man first then the woman.  However, I reject this passive explanation. 

So I looked into the proper way to list couples to see if there is some conventional way of writing this in the English language.  Actually, there used to be a time when men and woman had the same family name after marriage the woman would be listed before the man.  The reason was because in matters of social correspondence women were more important traditionally.  I never knew any of these old English conventions!  It turns out that there really isn’t any proper way to list couples in English these days because these old conventions are no longer followed.  Often, I have read, it is simply the one you are closest to that is listed first.

I wonder if there is such a convention in traditional Chinese culture?  In traditional Taoist thought, the order that things are written indicate the order of importance.  Is Scott more important than Xiao Yao at Yunnan Sourcing?  Probably not.  Is David more important than YingXi?  Nope. 

Recently, there was some who took issue with another gender related issue in the puerh world- “The Mom Test”.  Although, I think discussions about this were interesting I kind of feel that there are maybe some deeper and longer running gender inequality issues in the Western puerh world.  I got to thinking about when and why that naming convention really started (listing the male exclusively or the male before the female)… I think part of the issue is that the white male was doing most of the communication to the English Western facing world so naturally the connection was made with him and then it was natural to list him first when writing the couples name.  Maybe when the correspondence is done in Chinese maybe they use Xiao Yao’s name first? Or Ying Xi name before David’s?  I don’t know this.

I also don’t exactly know when Xiao Yao and Scott became partners or when David began signing the website and emails with “David and XingXi (Kathy)” but I don’t believe that they were doing that when they started their businesses so I understand it isn’t completely an issue on my side of things.  Either way, I think it’s fair to say that the part the Chinese woman play in these businesses are likely just as important as the contributions of the Western male so it’s probably about time that we recognize and acknowledge that by referring to the owners together.

I’m sorry for the times in this blog that I have not.



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