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The Reporter English Edition

Farewell To The 2020 Election, The Most Sexist Campaign In Taiwan's History

Chen Meihua, professor of sociology at Sun Yat-sen University, says misogynist speeches by KMT candidate Han Kuo-yu not only scared away women’s votes, but also the youth vote.

At the end of 2018, Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) set off the “Han Kuo-yu wave" during the Kaohsiung mayoral election. Han later won with 890,000 votes, while his rival with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) received 740,000 votes, a gap of 150,000 votes. But just over a year later, Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) received more than a million votes in Kaohsiung alone, while Han received only 610,000 votes, a margin of 630,000 votes. 

In particular, the December 21 “Recall Mayor Han” protests was a “test vote" against Han. Even if there weren't 500,000 people at the rally as organizers claimed, even half that number would be the largest number of people for a rally in Kaohsiung. But Han scoffed at those numbers, and refused to listen to the voices of Kaohsiung residents; I’m afraid this is one of the reasons he lost support in the city. 

SEXIST LANGUAGE ABOUNDED THIS ELECTION

From Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) saying Taiwanese women would “scare people to death if they went outside without makeup” to Han Kuo-yu saying he would get excited “when female classmates with their pale beautiful legs would sit in front of him,” to Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) muttering about presidential advisor Chen Chu (陳菊) “so tubby, walking along the road like a wild sow,” to even intellectuals like KMT vice-presidential candidate Simon Chang (張善政) saying “Tsai isn’t married, doesn’t have children, so doesn't understand how parents feel” -- these blatant discriminatory displays show that some politicians had less gender awareness than the general population. 

This discriminatory language mostly came from old “blue” (pro-KMT or KMT-leaning) males; even worse, when Han made sexual remarks about his former classmates’ legs, no one came forward to denounce them, leading other politicians to learn from example, and say more outrageous things. We didn’t see this in previous elections, dragging gender equality through the mud to an audience in the public sphere. 

Han also used words like “Maria" and “chicken” to describe foreign spouses during the election. Taiwan’s new immigrants are not only wives, but also mothers. As a sociologist who studies gender issues, it is hard to understand how a presidential candidate could make such a speech. 

I think these remarks led to a backlash among Taiwanese youth. Young people born in the 1990s started sex education during elementary school, so they’re not only “naturally pro-independence” (天然獨), they’re also naturally well-versed in gender equality. As a result, the KMT’s tendency to outnumber the DPP in women’s votes is gradually decreasing, scaring away both women voters and young voters. 

FROM SAME-SEX MARRIAGE TO TAX REFORM, YOUNG PEOPLE WERE PULLING FOR TSAI

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總統大選、蔡英文。(攝影/陳曉威)
On the night before the election, Tsai Ing-wen's campaign event had many young supporters. Photo by Chen Hsiao-wei(陳曉威).

On the other hand, over the past four years, Tsai's government has been constantly appealing to young voters, from same-sex marriage to pension reform. In the area of tax reform, my young friends are especially impressed; young people with an average monthly salary of $30,000 NTD do not have to pay taxes. 

Just from watching the TV screen over the past few days, scenes from Tsai Ing-wen’s rallies are full of young faces. Driven by anxiety the day before the election, a lot of my young friends on social media tagged themselves in attendance at the rallies. In contrast to the KMT camp, the tear-stained faces on the screen were somewhat older. Even with the ebb and flow of the two camps, coupled with the tight race in the days leading up to the election, most young voters were still drawn towards Tsai and the DPP. 

After the defeat of the blue camp in this election, it’s obvious that the KMT’s traditional voter base is aging. Their failure to talk to younger generations is definitely a warning sign.

THE TORN APART FAMILIES LEARN TO SPEAK WITH EACH OTHER

The results sent a clear message to the international community: "Taiwan is a sovereign and independent country”; “it is up to Taiwanese to choose their president, not anyone else;” and the vote on January 11th was a “rejection of the one country, two systems framework.” 

As for Taiwanese society, some people think the results of the 2020 election will tear society apart, but the recent vote was not like other referendums or elections in the past. After the 2018 referendum on same-sex marriage, families were at opposite corners, and young people were forced to bridge the gap with their elders, and explain certain social issues to them. What’s more, Tsai’s warm-hearted approach during the 2020 pre-election period meant there were no serious pressure points in society. 

It is worth noting that during the review of the same-sex marriage bill, many of the DPP’s regional legislators said their constituents would never accept same-sex marriage. But from my own observations in the field, traditional green supporters were better able to accept the issue after listening to premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌)’s plain-spoken explanation on the issue. In the end, there was no blowback for regional DPP legislators due the marriage equality bill. It seems these legislators who worried about their re-election bids do not actually know what their constituents were worried about, and just did not know how to communicate the issue to them. If anything, Tsai’s presidential vote percentage of 57.1 percent compared to the DPP’s 33.9 percent party-list vote should act as a warning sign to the DPP.

To read the Chinese version, please click: 【大選評論】陳美華:性別歧視歷年之最,高雄市民對韓投下不信任票.

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