Will ‘big mothers’ shadow China’s image?

By Wendy Wang Source:Global Times Published: 2013-8-25 22:33:01

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

All that glitters is gold, especially for hordes of Chinese aunties that have stampeded into jewelry shops, gobbled up glitzy metals and are striving to strike gold amid lackluster economy.

Their presence is so potent that a recent article in the Wall Street Journal adopted the term dama, literally big mothers, referring to those "bargain-hunting middle-aged Chinese women" who "keep a tight grip on the family purse and an eagle eye on gold prices."

In fact, China's social milieu banishes ladies who have passed their seductive and reproductive heyday to a corner. Dama in Putonghua conjures up an image of a married female aged between 40 and 60 with a ballooning waist, who gleans news through the grapevine, peddles gossip, and pinches pennies to stay afloat.

Surprisingly, these clucking old hens under the family roof have managed to peck out sassy chicks and savvy cougars in pouncing on jet-setting, number-crunching Wall Street predators during the latest gold rush.

Yet their pluck and knack for scooping up gold is not out of strategic calculation and risk assessment, but a matter of following the herd.

The financially illiterate maternal investors, throwing caution to the wind, sail in uncharted waters under the thumb of societal epidemics, like when they snapped up properties in bankrupt Detroit or bought up unfinished houses in the South Korean island of Jeju.

If such bottom fishing catches on globally, the ascent of dama into the English glossary may be in the offing.

Perhaps it is fine by us if dama just hints at a whiff of satire on speculative purchasing and herd mentality. However, we may go bonkers if it's taken to represent those Chinese whose uncouth and uncivilized behavior irks foreigners.

Sunset Park in Brooklyn was once a stomping ground for dama immigrants to rehearse waist-drum dance early in the morning. The roll of drumbeats magnified into thunderous cracks for disgruntled local residents, who called the police to arrest the troupe's 60-year-old choreographer and leader.

Back in the Chinese mainland, housewives and retirees always hog the neighborhood garden, tromping their feet to the resounding heavy metal music. They will nevertheless step out of line in other countries where personal rights are highlighted and intrusive noise banned.

These days, photos on Weibo show a bodacious madam, in a racier than naked dress, scrubbing and washing her body near the fountain of Beijing's Soho Plaza in the scorching sun.

Judging from her self-prepared bath toolkit, she is neither a lunatic nor a vagrant, but a penny-wise, pound-foolish person that took advantage of public resources at the cost of a wardrobe malfunction in broad daylight.

Some of our fellow countrymen, hardly role models of decency and integrity, cannot parse the line between the private and public sphere, taking their own wayward course heedless of others' feelings.

They have racked up a record of faux pas abroad: cut in lines, sneak under the ticket turnstile, do not flush the toilet after use, or rant and rave in museums.

Historically speaking, cuisine and culture have made up a fair chunk of English vocabularies of Chinese origin, such as dim sum, kung fu and feng shui.

As China has begun to flex its muscle, more expressions doused with Chinese flavors will mix and mingle with the modern lingua franca.

For example, the Sino-English compound word taikonaut, also known as Chinese astronaut, was been coined by the overseas press, after China successfully launched a manned spacecraft into orbit.

Some loanwords though, are less debonair than disgraced, including the chengguan, which the Time magazine said was "a shadowy urban-management force that operates with startling impunity across the nation."

Hopefully the dama will not suffer such indignity.

The author is a Shanghai-based freelance writer. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

Posted in: Viewpoint

blog comments powered by Disqus