Last Saturday, December 12th, was the Taipei First Girls’ High School’s 117th anniversary.
The Taipei First Girls’ High School is a public single-sex school in Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, distinguished in name and history since its foundation dates back to the Japanese colonial period (1895-1945).
Since the anniversary is on ‘Double Twelve’ (12-12) every year, this year the anniversary fell on a Saturday, meaning that during this year’s school fair, there were more people than usual attending.
One of the stands at the fair was about ‘chatting with others’ – an activity lasting for 10 minutes for NT$45.
A writer took a photo of the stall and posted it on her Facebook page with comments like “(the dealing was) super smart, zero cost, high profit”, and “all the seats were packed out”, adding “there were all boys, old and young, were on the edge of their seat, chatting with high school’s girl students “ (sic).
She described the students as able to start earning money with just one table and two chairs.
The post then went viral on the Internet.
Some people shared it on PTT and Dcard, popular Taiwanese forums.
The content about the stand in question became a hot topic for discussion.
Many people made comments like “the behavior was about girl reification”, and “they know well how to use their advantages to making money”, or “they were very innovative”.
At the same time, there were also unkind remarks teasing these students about nightclubs and sex.
As a young writer, I am not saying that nightclub occupations aren’t worthy of respect.
What I do want to say, however, is that those people sat at home behind a keyboard are likely penning opinions without showing up at the stand themselves, looking for the truth, to see what really happened.
And, although I am not a student from that class, as someone there that day, and as a student from the school, I think it’s time for me to say something about the whole mess it has become.
There are a number of aspects I want to address.
First of all, the post.
As a public post, the words used in the content should ideally be more mindful than we would see in private posts, especially if they might hurt others.
If you don’t want the post to be seen and viewed by others, then you shouldn’t post it in the first place.
The author deleted her original post when many related news ‘stories’ and comments came out.
She also rejected all interview requests for her to clarify her comments on this issue.
Nevertheless, the consequences of what she had done remain.
Suspicions and questions about the students and the school now linger.
Second, the media.
Media in Taiwan is always an important issue. Most media outlets in Taiwan are commercial in form, and most rely on advertisements and clicks to make money.
As a result, the titles and content are usually provocative – one of the reasons why, this time in particular, there are so many confusing rumors about what happened.
Third, the comments.
There are many complicated issues within this case, and many uncertainties remain.
For instance, nightclub culture in Taiwan, the sex industry, and some even mention patriarchy.
I would like to remind readers that the situation happened at a school fair.
It was a Saturday, and many people, and families, were in attendance.
People gathered together, walked around, chatted with others in the daytime.
It’s not something that people think about or usually see as negative. The structure behind the issue is something that really needs public attention.
Fourth, the school’s reply.
Here I would like to add to what TFG’s director of student affairs and principal said.
What the students and guests talked about during the time they had a discussion was primarily high school life, the school curriculum, and club activities.
Teachers, instructors, and other students were all around. At all times.
Nothing improper was mentioned by students or guests attending.
The school principal sent an email to students the following Monday evening, saying that the school felt sorry for those who didn’t attend the school anniversary, who had made judgements on what had happened based on the speculation seen online, thereby connecting opinions to the less than positive imagination of those sat behind keyboards.
Last but not least, the students.
There have been similar stands over the years and at other campuses all over Taiwan.
So why did the existence of a discussion stand raise so much attention this time?
TFG is a prestigious school, that is undeniable. It is right across from the Presidential Palace.
Only girls who receive extraordinary grades in the entrance exams are allowed to enter.
There are already huge expectations on our shoulders, invisible restrictions even, as we are observed in how we behave, how well we speak.
Mistakes cannot be made, and we are mostly viewed by others under a magnifying glass of sorts.
If the same situation happened at the all boys Chien Kuo High School (CKHS), or some other schools, what might people think?
Would they receive as much attention as we have this time?
Why does society so often link girls with sex issues? Was the chat / discussion stand really something so improper?
Students in TFG still have challenges to face, more important challenges.
So, if anyone cares, I for one would like to see the sensationalism calm, and deeper, more meaningful conversations return to people’s minds.
images supplied by the author unless otherwise indicated