My research focuses primarily on perceptions of feminism amongst female entrepreneurs in the hospitality industry within Taiwan. Throughout our month of interviews and academic discussion, we found that the term “feminism” had a problematic translation into Taiwanese culture. In several cases the women were entirely unfamiliar with the term, while in others they were startled by it. Dr. Kingsbury found that the women often associated the translated term with a radical, extremist sect of feminism that the entrepreneurs didn’t identify with. We quickly found, however, that when we asked the women how they felt about gender equality that they were very supportive. We opted instead to ask women what their personal definition of feminism was.
Each woman had a different take on feminism—defined in our research as advocating for all genders having equal rights and opportunities—but all of their perceptions revealed different societal influences on women. The chef and owner of the Italian restaurant Bianca discussed the societal opinion that a career for a woman is not a necessity, but rather an “accessory.” In her own experience as a chef, she was ignored by journalists after winning an award for her cooking; the journalists were more concerned with interviewing the male award recipients. She believed that education in Taiwan needed to be improved upon and that they “need[ed] to give more space to females.” She described the tendency of Taiwanese women to put their families before themselves, thus sacrificing their careers and interests.
The owner of Tunghai Land Youth Hostel, is a wife and mother who, despite feeling fortunate, described experiencing the kind of sacrifice the owner of Bianca referenced. She described feeling limited in her career because she was also expected to be the primary caretaker for her children; she said, “The basic responsibility of a woman is to take care of her family.” The owner of Finga’s also discussed the important relationship between a woman and her family. In her case, the idea of equality meant something different. She described the notion that each person’s success is based on the combined efforts of many people and thus, it is a successful person’s responsibility to acknowledge all of the assistance that guided them to their position.
Another entrepreneur, who operated her own noodle shop, said gender inequality in Taiwan stemmed from a lack of respect for women. She said that when women gained more respect, they would gain power and female leaders would have a louder voice in society. Interestingly enough, she was a government representative for her province in Tainan City. The wide variation of opinions collected in the interviews remain consistent with my expectations: feminism is a controversial topic regardless of geography.