Women Doing Intimacy: Gender, Family and Modernity in Britain and Hong Kong [1st ed.] 9781137289902, 9781137289919

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Women Doing Intimacy: Gender, Family and Modernity in Britain and Hong Kong [1st ed.]
 9781137289902, 9781137289919

Table of contents :
Front Matter ....Pages i-xi
Introduction: The Genesis of a Transnational Collaborative Project (Stevi Jackson, Petula Sik Ying Ho)....Pages 1-11
Conceptualising and Investigating the Gendered Consequences of Modernity in Britain and Hong Kong (Stevi Jackson, Petula Sik Ying Ho)....Pages 13-45
Interconnected Histories: Locating Women’s Lives in Time and Space (Stevi Jackson, Petula Sik Ying Ho)....Pages 47-86
What Makes a Family? Meanings and Practices (Stevi Jackson, Petula Sik Ying Ho)....Pages 87-118
Mother–Daughter Relationships (Stevi Jackson, Petula Sik Ying Ho)....Pages 119-156
Love and Sex in Marital and Non-marital Contexts (Stevi Jackson, Petula Sik Ying Ho)....Pages 157-186
Imagined Futures in Uncertain Times (Stevi Jackson, Petula Sik Ying Ho)....Pages 187-216
Concluding Reflections (Stevi Jackson, Petula Sik Ying Ho)....Pages 217-223
Back Matter ....Pages 225-250

Citation preview

PALGRAVE MACMILLAN STUDIES IN FAMILY AND INTIMATE LIFE

Women Doing Intimacy Gender, Family and Modernity in Britain and Hong Kong Stevi Jackson · Petula Sik Ying Ho

Palgrave Macmillan Studies in Family and Intimate Life

Series Editors Lynn Jamieson University of Edinburgh Edinburgh, UK David H. J. Morgan University of Manchester Manchester, UK

‘The Palgrave Macmillan Studies in Family and Intimate Life series is impressive and contemporary in its themes and approaches’ – Professor Deborah Chambers, Newcastle University, UK, and author of New Social Ties. The remit of the Palgrave Macmillan Studies in Family and Intimate Life series is to publish major texts, monographs and edited collections focusing broadly on the sociological exploration of intimate relationships and family organization. The series covers a wide range of topics such as partnership, marriage, parenting, domestic arrangements, kinship, demographic change, intergenerational ties, life course transitions, step-families, gay and lesbian relationships, lone-parent households, and also non-familial intimate relationships such as friendships and includes works by leading figures in the field, in the UK and internationally, and aims to contribute to continue publishing influential and prize-winning research.

More information about this series at http://www.palgrave.com/gp/series/14676

Stevi Jackson · Petula Sik Ying Ho

Women Doing Intimacy Gender, Family and Modernity in Britain and Hong Kong

Stevi Jackson University of York York, UK

Petula Sik Ying Ho University of Hong Kong Pok Fu Lam, Hong Kong

Palgrave Macmillan Studies in Family and Intimate Life ISBN 978-1-137-28990-2 ISBN 978-1-137-28991-9 https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-28991-9

(eBook)

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2020 The author(s) has/have asserted their right(s) to be identified as the author(s) of this work in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Limited The registered company address is: The Campus, 4 Crinan Street, London, N1 9XW, United Kingdom

Acknowledgments

This book has been a long time in the making. We know we have tested to the limit the patience of the series editors, Graham Crow, Lynn Jamieson and David Morgan as well as our editors at Palgrave, Amelia Derkatsch and Poppy Hull. We thank them for bearing with us while we struggled with the competing demands of academic life and with living through turbulent times in Hong Kong. We also much appreciate Lynn Jamieson’s careful reading of the completed manuscript. The project was made possible through an ESRC Hong Kong Bilateral award, co-funded by the Hong Kong Research Council (RES-000-22-362), which provided a rare opportunity to conduct collaborative and comparative research between Britain and Hong Kong, for which we are extremely grateful. Our particular thanks go to the women who gave up their time to tell us about their lives and relationships. We recognise that we cannot do justice to the depth and scope of their conversations with us, but have endeavoured to render their stories as faithfully as we can. We also appreciate the contribution of all those who assisted us in the course of our

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Acknowledgments

research. Harriet Badger transcribed all the English data and also provided much practical support to our long-distance collaboration. We had the help of three research assistants, at different times, at the University of Hong Kong and a research fellow at the University of York. In Hong Kong, Cheung Man Lap (Alec Cheung), Prisken Lo and Ho Kwok Ying (Connie Ho) aided Sik Ying in organising and conducting interviews. We thank them all. We owe a particular debt to Jin Nye Na, our postdoctoral research fellow at York, who worked with us during the first 18 months of the project. Jin Nye conducted most of the British interviews, co-facilitated the two focus groups and played a central role in the early stages of analysis. She did a fantastic job of the initial coding, summarising and mapping of the British data, which proved to be invaluable to our subsequent analysis. We would also like to thank her for allowing us to reuse and incorporate into the book revised sections of two articles that she co-authored with us: “Reshaping Tradition? Women Negotiating the Boundaries of Tradition and Modernity in Hong Kong and British Families”, published in The Sociological Review, 61 (42), 2013 and. “A Tale of Two Societies: The Doing of Qualitative Comparative Research in Hong Kong and Britain”, published in Methodological Innovations Online 10 (2), 2017. Sui-Ting Kong collaborated with us an article from more recent research, from which we have used a short extract, “Speaking Against Silence: Finding a Voice in Hong Kong Chinese Families Through the Umbrella Movement”, Sociology, 52 (5), 2018. While we were finalising the manuscript, Lauren Cowling played a major role in compiling and formatting our references. We fully appreciate her efficiency and attention to detail. On a more personal level, we would like to thank Sui-Ting Kong, Sue Scott, Ann Kaloski-Naylor, Harriet Badger and Evangeline Kai-Wen Tsao for their friendship and intellectual nurturance through some difficult times. We gratefully acknowledge permission to reuse passages from the following publications in the pages of this book. Jackson, S., Ho, P. S. Y., & Na J. N. (2013) ‘Reshaping Tradition? Women Negotiating the Boundaries of Tradition and Modernity in Hong Kong and British Families,’ The Sociological Review, 61 (4): 667– 688 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-954X.12077.

Acknowledgments

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Reproduced with permission of SAGE publications and the editors and trustees of The Sociological Review. Jackson, S., & Ho, P. S. Y. (2014) ‘Mothers, Daughters and Sex: The Negotiation of Young Women’s Sexuality in Hong Kong and Britain’, Families, Relationships and Societies, 3 (3): 387–405. https://doi.org/ 10.1332/204674314X14037717559163. Reproduced with permission of Policy Press/Bristol University Press. Jackson, S., Ho P. S. Y., & Na, J. N. (2017) ‘A Tale of Two Societies: The Doing of Qualitative Comparative Research in Hong Kong and Britain’, Methodological Innovations Online, 10 (2): 1–20. https:// doi.org/10.1177/2059799117703117. Reproduced with permission of SAGE Publications. Ho, P. S. Y., Jackson, S., & Kong, S-T. (2018) ‘Speaking Against Silence: Finding a Voice in Hong Kong Chinese Families Through the Umbrella Movement’, Sociology, 52 (5): 966–982 (2018). https:// doi.org/10.1177/0038038517726644. Reproduced with permission of the British Sociological Association and SAGE Publications.

Contents

1 2

3

Introduction: The Genesis of a Transnational Collaborative Project

1

Conceptualising and Investigating the Gendered Consequences of Modernity in Britain and Hong Kong

13

Interconnected Histories: Locating Women’s Lives in Time and Space

47

4 What Makes a Family? Meanings and Practices

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5

Mother–Daughter Relationships

119

6

Love and Sex in Marital and Non-marital Contexts

157

7

Imagined Futures in Uncertain Times

187

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x

8

Contents

Concluding Reflections

217

References

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Index

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List of Tables

Table 2.1 Table 2.2 Table 4.1

Table 7.1

The young women The mothers Relationship status of mothers and dependant/adult children in family home at the time of interview (numbers of households in each category) Marriage patterns in China, Hong Kong and the UK

39 41

98 189

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1 Introduction: The Genesis of a Transnational Collaborative Project

This book derives from a comparative study of the personal lives of young adult women and their mothers in Hong Kong and Britain (England and Wales) against a backdrop of social change in both societies. Transnational collaborative qualitative research of the kind we describe here is relatively unusual, in part because it presents practical difficulties, not least in financing it, but also because of the parochial, local focus of most social research, especially in western countries. We were fortunate to gain funding from an ESRC Hong Kong Bilateral Award, co-funded by Hong Kong’s Research Grants Council (RES-000-22-362). A central element of our bid was to challenge the Eurocentrism of current debates about families, intimacy and social change under late modern social conditions though investigating the lives of two generations of women in one ‘western’ (British) and one East Asian (Hong Kong) location. We are not simply treating these two locations as isolated examples, or as different modernities, but as part of a web of asymmetrical global interconnections that have produced the condition of the contemporary world variously described as late, second or post-modernity. In this endeavour, we have been influenced by feminist and other critical engagements with theorisations of late modern intimacy (Smart 2007; Heaphy 2007; Jamieson © The Author(s) 2020 S. Jackson and P. S. Y. Ho, Women Doing Intimacy, Palgrave Macmillan Studies in Family and Intimate Life, https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-28991-9_1

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2011) and by postcolonial critiques of parochially western theories of modernity (Bhambra 2007, 2014). In this short introduction, we locate ourselves in relation to our project, explain how we came to be collaborators, the intellectual impetus behind our work, what each of us brought to it and the challenges we faced in conducting the research and writing this book. We first met in May 2004 in Trondheim, Norway, at a conference entitled: ‘Heteronormativity: A Fruitful Concept?’ We were staying at the same hotel, went sightseeing together and discovered shared research interests in sexuality and intimacy. We stayed in touch and each invited the other to speak at conferences at our home institutions and Stevi then asked Sik Ying to contribute to a book on East Asian sexualities she was co-editing (Jackson et al. 2008). When the ESRC issued a call for bilateral projects with Hong Kong, Stevi saw it as an opportunity to further her interest in East Asian societies and immediately thought of Sik Ying as a potential partner. Thus began a collaboration that has continued and moved on to new projects—and extensive plans for the future. As is usually the case in feminist research, the work we have undertaken together reflects both personal and political investments. We have both lived through the social changes we describe here. We are of the same generation as the mothers in our sample and represent the two populations whose lives we document—white British and Hong Kong Chinese women. Significantly, too, our own life histories evince the interrelationship between the two locales and the heritage of British colonialism. Stevi, the daughter of a British sailor, spent two years in Hong Kong in one of the most turbulent periods of its history, 1966–1968, when her father was posted to the naval base there (HMS Tamar). As a teenager at the time, Hong Kong made a lasting impression on her and was central to her politicisation. Educated at the British forces’ school, St George’s, in Kowloon Tong and living in naval quarters in Happy Valley, she could have spent her entire time in the colonial ex-pat community. She chose not to do so, instead making the most of opportunities to see more of Hong Kong and meet local people, shopping in markets in Wanchai and Causeway Bay and enjoying the vibrant, chaotic street life. Hong Kong then was very different from the modern cosmopolitan city of today. Thousands of people lived in squatter settlements, in huts

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constructed out of scraps of wood, corrugated iron and plastic or in overcrowded unsanitary tenements; there were beggars in the streets (then a rare sight in the UK) and informal markets and hawkers everywhere. The rich lived in opulent mansions on The Peak or in Kowloon Tong (where Stevi went to school) and frequented exclusive shops and hotels in the centre of the city. Stevi also learnt about white privilege, which enabled her to observe excessive wealth at close quarters. Although her father was a naval rating, not of the officer class in forces still rigidly class segregated, the fact of being white gave her entry into spaces she could or would never have accessed in the UK. She could go into hotels patronised by the super-rich just to use the toilets, knowing her whiteness would protect her from challenge. She could even to go to entertainment venues at some of these hotels and meet the offspring of the rich and, being white, gain invitations to parties in their homes and even, once, on a yacht, and see at first-hand how they lived. Notably these were the local rich—she could never have ‘passed’ as of an acceptable class within the social circles of the white colonial elite. The very wide, and very visible, gulf between rich and poor, along with the racial divide and the virulent anti-Chinese racism of most of her British contemporaries, provided Stevi with an object lesson in the evils of colonialism, a lesson that had much to do with her later becoming a sociologist. In 1967, at the height of the Cultural Revolution in China, Hong Kong erupted in rioting against the colonial regime (see Chapter 2). There had been some riots the previous year over a fare rise on the cross-harbour Star Ferry, but this was something new and different. What started as a labour dispute escalated, led by Maoists leftists in Hong Kong, into mass street demonstrations, which met with considerable force from the authorities with the use of tear gas, baton rounds and live ammunition. Some of the leftists resorted to violent methods, including the use of homemade bombs and weapons. The protests lasted 8 months into early 1968. Stevi recalls travelling to school with grilles on the bus windows and soldiers armed with machine guns as protection as well as bomb disposal teams dealing with three devices placed in or near the naval ratings’ housing where she lived (the officers, tucked away in the salubrious neighbourhood of The Peak were less vulnerable). She does not remember being scared, just excited and, while opposed to the

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extremes of violence used, thinking that the protesters had a just cause. This experience, therefore, did not do anything to alter her critical stance on the colonial regime. Her time in Hong Kong planted the seeds of her later interest in East Asian societies. For all its problems, there was much about Hong Kong that she loved and which left her with a deep attachment to it and with a continued—and continuing—concern about its future. Sik Ying was only eight years old at the time of the disturbances, but one particular memory of them has stuck in her mind, and also tells us something about the contrasting lives led by the local Chinese and even humble members of the British population. At the time Sik Ying’s family (her parents, grandmother and 6 children) lived in Sai Ying Pun in one room of an apartment shared with two other families—a contrast with the roomy three-bedroomed flat where Stevi lived with her parents and sister. Sik Ying remembers one tragic and horrific incident from the riots: the death of the radio actor and social commentator Lam Bun, who was attacked by the leftists, doused with petrol and set alight in his car. The reason this mattered to an eight-year old was because of the significance of the serialised radio drama Dai Zengfu (Big/Real Man’s Diary), starring Lam Bun, in her daily life. Her mother listened to the show every night at 10 pm. She would bribe the children into helping her assemble plastic flowers and toys (factory outwork) by telling them that if they were able to work hard until Dai Zengfu started, they would be rewarded with late supper snacks—sesame soup, red bean soup and sometimes wonton noodles. As a result of Lam Bun’s death, which shocked the family, the much-loved show that had marked the end of their working day was terminated. Soon after the disturbances, Sik Ying’s family moved to a new public housing estate in East Kowloon. She was educated at St Paul’s School (Lam Tin), which, like most schools in Hong Kong, was church run, reflecting the colonial context in which Christian organisations and missionaries provided much of the welfare and education for the local population. St Paul’s was a school for girls run by the Sisters of St. Paul de Chartres, an order than had been active in Hong Kong since the midnineteenth century. Sik Ying went on to obtain her undergraduate and

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master’s degrees at the University of Hong Kong, where she was subsequently employed. It was, therefore, a thoroughly colonial education, modelled on the British system.1 Later, as a mature student, Sik Ying went to the UK for postgraduate study, gaining her Ph.D. from the University of Essex in 1996. Overseas education is valued in Hong Kong and in the colonial era British education was seen as the best available. Studying in the UK was also facilitated by the colonial system. Sik Ying’s Ph.D. was funded by a Commonwealth Scholarship, by a grant specifically for junior women academics who did not have a Ph.D. She also acquired a British passport as part of a special scheme to discourage educated people from fleeing Hong Kong prior to the 1997 handover to China. Sik Ying arrived in the UK in the early 1990s, by which time Hong Kong had changed dramatically since the 1960s. It had experienced rapid economic growth with GDP per capita rising substantially year on year from $714 in 1968 to $13,281 in 1990.2 It was still, by this measure, not as wealthy as the UK (with a per capita GDP of $20,808 in 1990)3 but was now identified as one of the ‘Asian Tigers’ and no longer as a ‘third world’ economy. The gulf between rich and poor remained, but the educated middle classes were doing well, enjoying high salaries and the benefits of a technologically advanced consumer society. On arriving in the UK, Sik Ying was shocked to find that the country was so backward, especially technologically. For example, the accommodation office at the Essex University was using pencil to record room bookings and allocation. She found British people polite but rather slow and inefficient after the hard-working fast-paced life in Hong Kong. She also felt that she was richer than her UK peers, could afford expensive designer clothes and long international phone calls to her boyfriend in Holland. Yet at the same time she was disappointed and disoriented by her encounter with the reality of life in Britain. Her English was not as good as she thought, despite being educated through the medium of English since she started secondary school, and she had a Hong Kong accent. Her understanding

1 Hong

Kong has recently moved to a school and university system more like that in the USA. Accessed 24 February 2019. 3 https://countryeconomy.com/gdp/uk. Accessed 24 February 2019. 2 https://countryeconomy.com/gdp/hong-kong?year=1990.

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of western culture was also limited in terms of the common-sense knowhow needed to navigate daily life and interact with the Europeans among whom she was living and studying. She was criticised for what she ate, how much she was able to eat and for remaining slim and felt that Asian women were looked down on. A Danish flatmate told her that she and other Asian women were not taken seriously because they looked too young and lacked confidence in public presentations. Yet despite these setbacks, she adapted and began to enjoy the slower pace of life in the recognition that gaining her Ph.D. would put her on the path to career success—which it ultimately did, while also setting in train the developments whereby her path would cross with Stevi’s. Stevi, meanwhile, had been teaching in a post-1992 University throughout the 1980s, when there were very few sociology posts available (see Platt 2003), but in 1993 managed to move to the more established University of Strathclyde, and then, in 1998, secured the Chair in Women’s Studies at the University of York. It was here, though teaching and supervising graduate students from East Asia that her interest in that part of the world was rekindled. Our lives, then, bear testimony to the interconnected histories of Hong Kong and the UK and give us something in common beyond a shared academic interest in intimate relationships. By the time we met, we had each, through different processes, begun to question the hegemony of ‘western’ knowledge, the ways in which theory generated from Europe and the USA was treated as if it were universal knowledge. Even among feminists keen to acknowledge differences among women and to champion perspectives from the Global South, East Asia was largely ignored. Sik Ying’s experiences in the UK had left her well versed in European theory but also, in combination with her life experiences, with a more critical perspective on the western world and its knowledge claims than she had previously been able to develop as a colonised subject. Returning to work at the University of Hong Kong, she could not help but be aware of the theoretical hegemony of western scholarship and ways in which knowledge from beyond the west was treated as peripheral, of only local relevance. Stevi, meanwhile, was striving to cast off the parochial western blinkers that had previously confined the scope of her academic vision and was beginning to see the privileges that her location in the ‘west’ had afforded her and make connections with the white

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privilege she had enjoyed many years before in Hong Kong. She had learnt from her East Asian graduate students who had also connected her to networks of scholars from the region, enabling her to discover the richness of feminist work being produced there but which was largely unknown in British sociology and women’s and gender studies. It was this that precipitated our first meeting in Trondheim. Stevi had noticed that the names of a small group of Hong Kong scholars appeared on the conference programme and wanted to meet them. Spotting a group of Chinese people at breakfast in the hotel she took a chance and walked over to their table, asked if they were the delegates from Hong Kong (they were) and introduced herself. We started working together on the proposal for the project in 2009, began to plan the research in 2010 and conducted the fieldwork over the next eighteen months. It was in some ways opportunistic, a response to a funding call that offered a rare opportunity for collaboration between UK and Hong Kong scholars. It was not, however, only opportunistic, as we had a genuine intellectual aim: to do work that challenged western knowledge claims. Even so, the UK and Hong Kong may seem odd cases for comparison as one is a nation and the other is a Special Administrative Region of China.4 This asymmetrical relationship, however, is part of what makes the comparison of interest. As our personal biographical narratives indicate, these two societies are a product of their interconnected histories and, as we will argue later, of the wider global connections that shaped the modern world. Working together was not always easy or straightforward. Although we had stayed in touch over the intervening years since our first meeting, we did not know each other very well when we began the project and there was, therefore, a certain degree of risk in collaborating and in not fully understanding each other’s approach to research or the intellectual baggage we each brought to it. It was very much a learning experience for both of us. We had slightly different intellectual agendas, differing theoretical and methodological concerns and intellectual histories in addition to our specific cultural locations. This affected what we each brought 4 While

here we use ‘UK’ in discussing the relationship between the two territories, elsewhere we deliberately use ‘Britain’ and ‘British’ since all the UK interviews were conducted in England and Wales rather than in the UK as a whole.

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to the research collaboration and how we undertook both the fieldwork and analysis. While Stevi was primarily interested in the changes in the lives of two generations of women in relation to theoretical debates on modernity and intimacy, Sik Ying was more concerned with and attentive to mother-daughter relationships. Both preoccupations are evident in the final form this book has taken. Both of us, however, always been interested in the everyday, the ways in which personal lives and intimate relationships are conducted within particular sociocultural and political contexts and how individuals make sense of their lives in those contexts. Working collaboratively across cultures has broadened our understanding of the complexity of the everyday and sensitised us to the importance of thinking not only about cultural differences, but also about the material socio-economic conditions and political circumstances in which our intimate and family relationships take shape. Collaborative working across cultures has also sensitised us to local specificities, leading each of us to question what we take for granted and make our own familiar strange—as when we find we have to explain aspects of our local cultures and conditions to each other. Attending to local specificities has also prompted us to think critically about the methodological and conceptual choices involved in doing comparative research. In particular, it is vital to do comparison symmetrically, not taking ‘the west’ as the benchmark against which others’ sexual mores and family practices are evaluated. In making comparisons and accounting for differences across the world we should not simply attribute such differences to culture or tradition, but also take account of wider historical, social, economic and political conditions through which cultural continuity and change are mediated. We should certainly not assume that there is a universal trajectory of ‘progress’ that all are travelling along, with some leading the way while others lag behind. We should avoid thinking of ‘them’ and ‘us’, the all too easy ‘othering’ of places outside the metropole. This means staying alert to the limitations of theories generated from western locations and the difficulty of having voices from the global periphery heard in what counts as the academic mainstream. As Raewyn Connell points out, in ‘the era of neoliberal globalization, the metropole continues to be the main site of theoretical processing’ affecting how scholars the world over do their work, so that the metropole’s

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theoretical hegemony has become ‘the normal functioning of this economy of knowledge’ (Connell 2015: 51). Issues of language and the conceptual possibilities it enables and delimits are part of this. In working together on Cantonese language data, as, respectively, native English and Cantonese speakers writing for an international audience, we are constantly trying to capture the nuances of expression in a Chinese language and make them intelligible to an Anglophone audience. We are then constrained to effect a further translation into the conceptual language of Euro-American scholarly convention. We hope this book will contribute to critical scholarship and to internationalising feminist and sociological knowledge, which requires attention to the range of issues we have raised: material socio-economic contexts, colonial legacies and western conceptual and Anglophone linguistic hegemony (see Jackson et al. 2017; Jackson and Ho 2018). Since we completed our fieldwork with mothers and daughters, the world has continued to undergo change. There has been much conflict on the global stage as well as the rise of populist political movements and increasingly autocratic regimes in states that are ostensibly democratic. The UK and Hong Kong have had their share of political strife—in the former over Brexit and in the latter the ongoing struggle for democracy, freedom and human rights. In Hong Kong the political turbulence, ongoing as we complete this book, has been particularly acute and was unforeseen when we began work on this project. Hong Kong needs to be understood in relation to China as well as in relation to its past colonial ties to the UK; both have shaped its particular conditions of life. When we began our research, conditions in China seemed to be becoming more liberal, but the PRC’s regime has grown increasingly authoritarian since Xi Jinping came to power in 2012. Rigorous censorship has limited the research that can be conducted on and in China and is threatening academic freedom in Hong Kong (Ho et al. 2018a). The revival of Confucianism in China and its emphasis on the centrality of the family to social stability is also being felt in Hong Kong through attempts to extend Chinese style ‘national and moral education’ to Hong Kong. The tightening hold of Beijing over Hong Kong’s local governance and, in particular, the denial of the democracy promised at the handover, led to a major popular uprising, the Umbrella Movement, in the autumn of 2014 and

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ultimately to the protests that began in the summer of 2019. These later protests were sparked by a bill (now withdrawn) allowing extradition of alleged criminals to mainland China but have broadened into wider prodemocracy activism. The reverberations of the Umbrella Movement, as our recent research demonstrates, had an impact on personal and family life (see Ho et al. 2018b, c), which prompts us to think about the future consequences of the 2019–2020 struggles, intensified early in 2020 by the coronavirus outbreak. These political developments, because of their urgency and immediacy, absorbed much of our energy and diverted us away from completing work on this book. At the same time, however, they offered us new insights and cast new light on the data we had gathered from our sample of mothers and daughters. Where relevant we use some of our more recent research in what follows to complement our earlier findings on Hong Kong family life. In the next chapter, we begin to explore and elaborate on the issues outlined above by discussing the theoretical and methodological framework of our study and then introducing our participants. In the following chapter, we set the lives of women in Britain and Hong Kong in historical context, emphasising the interconnections between the UK, China and Hong Kong that have shaped those lives. We might think that this matters only for Hong Kong, but it does not; Britain’s past empire, we will argue, shaped the ‘home country’ as much as its colonies. In surveying this history, we will use accounts from the women we interviewed, particularly the older generation, to demonstrate the changes that have occurred in the social life of each location since the end of the Asia Pacific War and the Second World War. In the fourth chapter, we address the central issue of our study: the diverse forms of family life in our two locations, the meaning ‘family’ has for our participants and the practices associated with it. This emphasis on family practices carries over into the following chapter (Chapter 5) where we make use of the concept of ‘practices of intimacy’ (Jamieson 2011) to analyse the relationships between mothers and daughters and how they have been sustained from the daughters’ childhoods into their young adulthood. The sixth chapter charts the romantic and sexual relationship trajectories of both generations of women, focusing how social change and sociocultural differences have shaped women’s partnership

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choices. We look to the imagined futures of the daughters in Chapter 7, bringing our attention back to notions of tradition and modernity in young women’s aspirations. In our final, brief, concluding chapter we reflect again on theories of modernity and how modernity is lived and experienced in specific contexts. Throughout the book, in making comparisons and accounting for differences between the two locales, we subject ideas of ‘cultural’ and ‘traditional’ differences to critical scrutiny and continually emphasise the importance of social, economic and political conditions through which continuity and change are mediated. This is a major strength of undertaking comparative research. Even when done on a relatively small scale, as in this study, it serves to demonstrate the social shaping of individual lives by attending to the varied ways that intimacy can be practised, family lives can be lived and gender relations can be constituted in differing circumstances. In detailing the lives of the women who participated in our study and the ways they told their stories to us, we also pay attention to their relational constructions of gendered selfhood within the forms of subjectivity available to them in changing times and in their specific locales. We see our analysis as exercising a feminist sociological imagination, which ‘enables us to grasp history and biography and the relation between the two in society’ (Mills 1970: 12), in this case in two very different societies with intertwined histories.

2 Conceptualising and Investigating the Gendered Consequences of Modernity in Britain and Hong Kong

Part of the impetus behind this project was our shared discontent with the Eurocentrism of much of the existing work on families and relationships—at least that considered more mainstream—and in particular a neglect of East Asia. Living, as we are told, in the ‘Asian century’, we cannot but be aware of Asian economic ascendancy, ‘the seemingly irreversible shift to the East, particularly to Asia, of the dynamism of global capitalism’ (Bhambra and Santos 2017: 4). As Dipesh Chakrabarty (2008) points out, Europe has already been provincialised by history in the sense that it has lost its central place in the world order, yet it continues, as an imaginary figure, to hold sway over much of the world and European social thought continues to exert a global influence on academic production. There remains a profound asymmetry between theory and research generated from the ‘west’ or the metropole and that generated elsewhere. Too often, parochially based western knowledge is assumed to be universal, while that generated elsewhere is categorised as ‘area studies’, as relevant only to a particular part of the world. The Taiwanese cultural theorist, Kuan-Hsing Chen, offers an acerbic commentary on this situation: © The Author(s) 2020 S. Jackson and P. S. Y. Ho, Women Doing Intimacy, Palgrave Macmillan Studies in Family and Intimate Life, https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-28991-9_2

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Europeans, North Americans … [and others have] been doing area studies in relation to their own living spaces. That is, Martin Heidegger was actually doing European Studies, as were Michel Foucault, Pierre Bourdieu and Jürgen Habermas. Once we recognize how extremely limited the current conditions of knowledge are, we learn to be humble about our knowledge claims. The universalist assertions of theory are premature, for theory too must be deimperialized. (Chen 2010: 3)

A number of other authors have drawn attention to the parochialism of Eurocentric knowledge claims, demanding recognition of theoretical and epistemological perspectives from the Global South or calling for a decolonisation of knowledge production (see e.g. Bhambra and Santos 2017). Feminist knowledge has not escaped such critiques, framed from a variety of locations and perspectives (e.g. Connell 2015; Giraldo 2016; Lugones 2010; Moletsane et al. 2015). While we are inspired by such writers, we are not here attempting anything as grand as a new epistemology. Our aim is more modest. Through a comparative study of one western and one East Asian society, we hope to call into question a set of very specific western knowledge claims: narratives about modernity, gender and intimacy. Some caution is necessary in approaching any analysis of societies other than our own, in particular in making comparison between ‘the East’ and ‘the West’. We use the terms west or western, east or eastern, for convenience and also because of the lack of easily understood alternatives and our dissatisfaction with currently available alternatives, such as ‘global North’ versus ‘global South’—both because of their lack of geographical specificity and because they simply do not adequately describe the Asian society with which we are concerned—Hong Kong. The vocabulary of east and west is also very widely used in many Asian countries, not least when Asians differentiate themselves from perceived western values and practices. We do, however, acknowledge the problematic nature of these terms. In the first place, ‘east’ and ‘west’ are cultural constructions rather than geographical absolutes: if one is located in Japan, the USA is geographically to the east. The common-sense geography that established the place of ‘the west’ in relation to ‘the east’ is a

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product of a history of western exploration, adventurism and imperialism, as well as relations among European powers that led to the Greenwich meridian defining what, in terms of longitude, was to the east or the west. This is more than a matter of the calculation of longitude. For westerners, the idea of ‘the East’ bears the marks of the orientalism through which it has long been imagined (Said 1978). The west, however, does not have a monopoly on imagined geographies; the ‘west’ as seen from the ‘east’ is also a construction. Thus, there is a need to be wary of these constructions and the ideological baggage they carry and also to avoid homogenising either ‘the east’ or ‘the west’. Secondly, comparisons are always made from a particular location. In order to avoid the worst consequences of this, the ‘othering’ of those from regions of the world distant from our own, it is imperative to pay attention to the voices and writings of scholars from those regions and exercise a degree of reflexivity about our own geographical and cultural locations and the intellectual preoccupations associated with them, as well as being alert to the imaginaries associated with the idea of modernity in different parts of the world (Appadurai 1996; Rofel 1999; Chakrabarty 2008; Bhambra 2007). It is equally crucial to attend to modernity’s ‘other’—tradition—which is also imagined from a variety of locations and perspectives and put to a variety of uses politically, particularly in resisting purportedly western influences. For example, the rhetoric of ‘Asian values’ has been used against claims for LGBT rights and gender equality (Lee 2016; Teo 2009) and, more generally, in nation building (Teo 2010; Jenco 2013). As Dirlik notes, it is common for countries ‘empowered by success in the capitalist economy’ to make strong, culturally based claims to versions of modernity different from those of the west (2007: 45–46). This could be said of Japan’s well-documented invention of tradition (Vlastos 1998) and China’s ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’. In such situations, Dirlik argues: Native pasts may serve as sources for claims to alternative cultures and knowledges. But these are pasts that are themselves inventions of modernity, that already have been reimagined in the face of challenges posed

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by a hegemonic Eurocentrism as well as by more than a century of social and economic transformation. (Dirlik 2007: 46)

This opposition between tradition and modernity is often based on essentialist notions of indigenous culture and ignores the evolution, reshaping and (re)invention of tradition. How modernity and tradition are co-constructed and how this dualistic understanding is deployed in both political rhetoric and academic theory requires some exploration, though with some caveats. Traditions and local cultural values are not mere inventions, but have a history and can give meaning to lives. They may also sometimes be resources for progressive resistance to western hegemony (see Jenco 2013). Moreover, as Phillips (2004) argues, tradition is not always invented and we do need to take account of tradition as cultural transmission, the way ideas, values and ways of life are passed down from one generation to another and persist through time. A balance needs to be struck between acknowledging the ways in which tradition is constructed and recognising that particular histories and cultural ideals do create persistent differences between countries and regions of the world. We remain sceptical about the political invocation of ‘Asian values’ or ‘Chinese tradition’—and also, of course, of ‘British values’— but also attend to the ways in which local traditions and culture feature in daily life, though always understood in their wider socio-economic and political contexts. In addressing modernity and tradition, we are also dealing with issues of gender and generation and adopting a feminist stance. There have, for some decades, been challenges to the European and North American dominance of feminist theory, but such endeavours have largely been framed in terms of an opposition between first world and third world women or, more recently, between Global North and Global South (Spivak 1988; Mohanty et al. 1991; Connell 2015; Giraldo 2016; Moletsane et al. 2015), with the most common points of reference being postcolonial societies in South Asia, Africa or Latin America. These have been important and influential analyses exposing both material and intellectual injustices. One effect, however, has been to marginalise women from wealthy East Asian territories within such discussions. Women from

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Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Japan or South Korea are neither western nor from the Global South (if the latter is conceived as comprising relatively impoverished or ‘developing’ nations). They are from places that, in economic terms, might be seen as included in the ‘metropole’, but in the academic literature continue to be treated as peripheral. While there is now a large body of research on gender in East Asia produced by western and indigenous researchers, much of which is feminist, it largely remains sequestered in ‘area studies’ and has only rarely been taken up by mainstream western academic feminism. When East Asia in general, and Chinese societies in particular, have been considered by western feminists this has, in the past, sometimes simply reproduced orientalist and essentialist constructions of eastern women. Writing in the 1990s, Jinhua Teng (1996) pointed out that Chinese women had historically received attention when they fitted into western political or theoretical agendas, whether colonial, leftist, developmental or feminist in character. They were thus variously portrayed as emblematic of cultural backwardness, victims of patriarchal tradition or revolutionary heroines. From these diverse positions Chinese women were treated as a homogenised, unitary category and Chinese tradition, whether conceived as continuing into the present or as transcended by socialist transformation, was represented as having existed unchanged over the centuries, as at ‘an eternal standstill’ (1996: 134). In early feminist engagements with China, essentialising Chinese women was an offshoot of treating women as a whole as a fixed, unitary category, subordinated by a universal patriarchy, but when ‘essentialism is informed by orientalism, one runs the risk of establishing a hierarchical relation between Western women and Chinese women that ironically reinforces the discursive subordination of Chinese women’ (Teng 1996: 141). Feminism has come a long way since the 1970s and it is now widely recognised that women are not a unitary category. Feminist work on Chinese societies has also grown and developed since then, and especially since Teng’s article was published. There is now a plenty of sophisticated and nuanced research on the gendered complexities of Chinese societies. Yet Teng’s hopes that women’s studies might provide an opportunity for ‘Chinese studies to end its segregation’, which has ‘meant its marginalization in the Western academy’ (1996: 144–145), remain unrealised.

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In the context of this book, it is vital that we recognise that not all Chinese majority societies are the same; Hong Kong differs from mainland China, Taiwan and Singapore. These societies may share a cultural heritage but this is not something that has remained unchanged over time and how it has changed, and how it has been re-shaped and reinterrogated in the past and present, has been influenced by their diverse histories, including the legacies of colonialism, western and Japanese. These societies also differ in terms of socio-economic conditions, their political regimes and their location within the regional and global geopolitical order. Even within the small territory of Hong Kong, there are differences of class, of age and generation, of antecedents (local or mainland) and individual biographies among women. It is as absurd to treat ‘Chinese women’ or ‘Chinese culture’ as unitary as it would be to regard British women or British culture as essential unities. Yet the imagined fictions of ‘west’ and ‘east’ continue to haunt us—we do not imagine ourselves to be immune from stereotypes of ‘the other’. This is where collaborative working between scholars from two different cultures can be an advantage, in sensitising us to local specificities, raising questions about what each takes for granted and enabling a mutual and reciprocal process of making what is familiar to each of us strange and, conversely, facilitating an appreciation of everyday actualities that might seem, to an outsider, alien and ‘other’ (Jackson and Ho 2018). Working between Hong Kong and the UK is a very specific project. Neither can be considered representative of their geographical region (Europe or East Asia) and thus cannot be used to generalise about East Asian or European social mores and practices. While this comparative case may be very particular, the historical relationship between the UK and Hong Kong, as coloniser and colonised, respectively, makes it of particular interest as an exercise in attending to the interconnected histories that have shaped the modern world (cf. Bhambra 2007). Both are now part of the rich, post-industrial world but British colonialism has left its mark. The particular niche Hong Kong occupied in the British Empire was associated with a neglect of the local population (see Chapter 3). Up to the 1970s, Hong Kong was characterised by ‘third world’ levels of poverty but it is now richer in terms of GDP per capita than the UK. World Bank figures indicate that in 1960 Hong Kong’s per

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capital GDP was less than a third of the UK’s (US$429.44 compared with US$1380.31). Since then Hong Kong’s wealth has grown exponentially, with a GDP per capita of $46,193.61 in 2017 surpassing the UK’s $39,720.44.1 The IMF ranks Hong Kong as the 10th richest economy in the world (with the UK ranking 28th).2 This is, however, only part of the picture; Hong Kong may be among the richest places in the world, but it is also one of the most unequal in terms of the distribution of income, ranking 9th most unequal, much worse than the UK (at 86th) and worse than comparable Asian economies (Singapore 32nd, Japan 63rd, South Korea 76th, Taiwan 81st).3 The most widely used, though far from perfect, index of inequality is the Gini coefficient, where the closer to zero, the more equal, the closer to one the more unequal. Hong Kong’s Gini coefficient has risen steadily from 0.45 in the 1980s to 0.54 in 20164 ; The UK has also become more unequal since the 1970s, from its historically most equal at around 0.24 to around 0.34 in 2015–2016, with the most significant rise, unsurprisingly, in the 1980s.5 Britain’s increasing inequality, reflecting the erosion of progressive taxation and the welfare state, while alarming in its consequences, has not produced the degree of stark inequality and grinding poverty evident in Hong Kong, where the policies of both the colonial and present administration have resulted in a lack of welfare provision and a huge gulf between rich and poor (Goodstadt 2013a, b, 2018). These conditions force Hong Kong’s inhabitants into self-reliance in a climate of economic uncertainty, with consequences for their personal lives, as we will see in subsequent chapters. In this postcolonial era, comparing women’s lives in two contexts, shaped by their differing relations to the legacies of colonialism and imperialism, offers us an opportunity to think about the gendered consequences of

1 https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/ny.gdp.pcap.cd?end=2017&start=1960&view=chart.

Accessed 3 February 2019. 2 https://www.businessinsider.com/the-richest-countries-in-the-world-2018-5?r=US&IR=T#29-

france-45473-1. Accessed 3 February 2019. 3 https://photius.com/rankings/2018/economy/distribution_of_family_income_gini_index_

2018_0.html. 4 https://www.socialindicators.org.hk/en/indicators/economy/11.6. 5 https://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/how-has-inequality-changed.

Accessed 3 February 2019. Accessed 3 February 2019.

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social change in terms of connected histories and intersections between local and global social relations.

Re-Thinking Intimacy and Modernity In taking as our point of departure debates on intimacy and modernity, we are immediately faced with a problem; the very concepts we are dealing with have, for the most part, been framed from a western perspective. Since the 1990s, the concept of intimacy has been used in western sociology to refer to the specific qualities of close personal relationships (Giddens 1992; Jamieson 1998; Gabb 2008). The advantages of this concept are that it potentially encompasses varied forms and dimensions of intimacy and does not specify who is on intimate terms with whom; it thus includes the terrain of family relationships while also tasking in extra-familial relationships as important aspects of contemporary sociality. The very breadth of the term may also be a drawback since it is understood in differing ways, not only in academic circles but also in lay terms, where it is often used primarily in relation to romantic, sexual relationships. Indeed, the term was first used in academic circles in the context of couple intimacy and this remains central to much research in this area despite the broader scope of the concept in use today (see Jamieson 1998, 1999; Gabb 2008). ‘Intimacy’, as a western concept, did not initially translate easily, linguistically and culturally, into many other contexts. It is usually rendered in Chinese as qin. As Jieyu Liu explains it, qin can be used as either an adjective or a noun and describes ‘the state of a very good relationship’. She continues: Qin is distinguished from Jin (close) in the common phrase ‘Jin er bu qin’ (a relationship can be socially recognized as close but not intimate); and so Qin in particular emphasizes the subjective feeling and the quality of a relationship and this is largely captured by the concept of intimacy. (Liu 2017: 1038)

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This term is also used in Cantonese (the language of natives of Hong Kong) and can be used in a composite way to refer to an intimate relationship, qin mi guanxi. This phrase is relatively new to Hong Kong but has become common usage, as in the title of a song by Hong Kong singer Sammi—a song that describes qin mi guanxi as surpassing romantic love, something that requires very deep feelings and a closeness based on near telepathic mutual understanding. A related, though distinct, term, which sounds similar in Putonghua (Mandarin), is qing (a term usually translated into English as ‘feeling’) and is even more multi-valent than ‘intimacy’ and is usually used as part of a compound term (e.g. ai qing, literally ‘love feeling’ meaning something similar to romantic love). The utility of the idea of intimacy in academic contexts in East Asia has been greatly facilitated by Jamieson’s conceptualisation of ‘practices of intimacy’, that is ‘practices which cumulatively and in combination enable, create and sustain a sense of a close and special quality of a relationship between people’ (Jamieson 2011: n.p.). This shifts us from a rather abstract quality of a relationship or feeling to what individuals actually do in terms of acts of care or affection. The emphasis on the ‘doing’ of intimacy is less abstract than intimacy alone and also allows for exploration of the many and varied ways in which intimacy can be expressed and enacted. This conceptualisation thus allows for contextual and cultural differences and provides a means of thinking beyond the parochially western, making it conducive to cross-cultural comparison. It also focuses on practices of intimacy as relational, which moves us away from view of the self, prevalent in western theory, as individualised and autonomous and thus makes it applicable to societies which do not have a liberal notion of individual selfhood (Liu 2017). The idea of ‘practices of intimacy’ is now being taken up by some Asian scholars; for example, in addition to Liu’s work, it is deployed in a study of Taiwanese young people’s use of communications technologies in maintaining friendships and love relationships (Yang 2014) and in a discussion of mainland Chinese men’s marital lives (Cao 2019). The concept has also been extended to include ‘negotiable intimacy’ in analysing the exchange of material assistance and emotional bonds between parents and their adult children in China (Xhong and Ho 2014) and we have recently adopted it in

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exploring the impact of political protest on Hong Kong family life (Ho et al. 2018b). In western theory, particular forms of intimacy have been associated with the development of modernity, but this relationship has been much contested. In the first place, the way modernity is framed is profoundly Eurocentric. In the long history of theorising modernity, dating back to the nineteenth century, western scholars have tended to assume (until very recently) that their parochially based theories are universally applicable. In much academic theorising, modernity has been seen as paradigmatically western, an assumption now brought into question (see Bhambra 2007; Chakrabarty 2008). If we define late modernity in the narrow sense in which it is usually understood (a sense that requires some interrogation), it is a condition characteristic of ‘developed’, post-industrial and wealthy societies. These now include East Asian nations and territories such as Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong, while China is in the process of a major modernisation project. These societies, with some common features but differing histories, cultures and socio-political conditions, therefore present scholars with an opportunity to think about the consequences of late modern social change for our intimate lives beyond the Euro-American arena and to reflect critically on Eurocentric theories. Yet it is not only western academics who need to do some re-thinking. As Chakrabarty argues, provincialising Europe not only means recognising that ‘Europe’s acquisition of the adjective “modern” for itself is an integral part of the story of European imperialism’, but that modernising nationalisms elsewhere have also been complicit in equating Europe and modernity (2008: 43). While Chakrabarty is largely concerned with the ways in which this idea of modernity manifests in the Indian context, it could also be applied to much East Asian scholarship. As a consequence of the hegemony of western theory, many East Asian scholars take the idea of modernity as paradigmatically western as a starting point, even as they modify and contest western theories in relation to their particular local contexts (see, for example, Tanabe and Tokita-Tanabe 2003; Yan 2009; Chang 2010b). A further problem of seeing European societies as the originators of modernity and everyone else as engaged in a game of catch-up, it that it ignores the interconnected histories that made the rise of

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European ascendancy possible in the first place (Bhambra 2007; Dirlik 2007). Bhambra (2007, 2010) argues that it is impossible to understand modernity without an appreciation of its history and the inequalities to which it has given rise. That history is not one of an endogenous European modernity, but of global interconnections involving colonialism, exploitation and dispossession. She notes, too, that those societies deemed pre-modern until they came into contact with western modernity were not stagnating in a state of unchanging tradition, but had their own histories and paths of development. Bhambra reminds us of what we ought to know: that the development of European modernity depended on knowledge and technologies from outside Europe as well as the colonial exploitation of other regions. She takes the history of the cotton industry, often seen as central to Britain’s industrial revolution, and thus its development to modern industrial capitalism, as an example. Cotton cloth was originally imported from India as, subsequently, was the knowledge of how to spin weave and dye it. The development of the cotton industry in the UK led to the UK out-competing India in global markets, while still importing raw cotton from India as well as that produced on slave plantations in the Americas (and slavery and the slave trade had also boosted Britain’s trade and global power). Britain later imposed tariffs on finished cotton from India, further undermining the latter’s industry and clearing the way for British exports. Britain became the world leader in cotton textiles by the end of the nineteenth century, a development that depended on destroying India’s industry. The connections to which Bhambra draws to our attention could be extended further. As we will demonstrate in the next chapter, they included the opium trade between India and Hong Kong, which played its part in the chain of trade and exploitation contributing to sustaining both Britain’s imperial projects and its domestic economic development. As Bhambra argues: …understanding Europe in terms of global interconnections will provide a better understanding of how modernity has developed and, at the same time, alter our understanding of what it means to be modern, and alter our understanding of the European ‘ownership’ of modernity as an originary project. (Bhambra 2007: 78)

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In addition to questioning the way modernity has been Eurocentrically imagined, we should also take note of the ways in which it has been imagined in gendered terms. Women can simultaneously be cast as bearers of tradition—as embodying it through their dress and conduct and as passing it on to their offspring—and as icons of modernity, as educated women who are emblematic of progress—and sometimes both simultaneously. In East Asia, modernisation projects have often involved redefining the roles of women and men, as often in ways that re-traditionalise as much as de-traditionalising them. The creation of the ‘good wife and wise mother’ ideal, which originated in Japan in the late nineteenth century and thence spread to China (Sechiyama 2013), was based on a fusion of (reinvented) Confucian tradition and ‘modern’, ‘scientific’ notions of motherhood. More recently, the retreat from Maoist ideals of gender equality in China as part of its post-reform period of rapid development has re-traditionalised gender divisions, with the emphasis on ‘natural’ feminine and masculine qualities and harmonious family relationships (Rofel 2007; Ji 2017; Ho et al. 2018a). In the context of western theory, classical theorists have been critiqued for positioning women, seen as domesticated creatures of the private sphere, as less affected by modernity than men (see Sydie 1994; Marshall and Witz 2004). Recent theory, with its emphasis on the relationship between intimacy and modernity, has instead placed women as agents of change, or at least as equally implicated in the posited changes in intimate life. This is evident in Giddens’ (1992) proposition that a ‘transformation of intimacy’ is occurring in western societies. Giddens’ argument is situated within a globally influential version of modernisation theory developed in European sociology from the 1990s, which posited that processes of individualisation and detraditionalisation within late, reflexive, second or liquid modernity were rendering relationships less stable and binding (Giddens 1992; Beck and Beck-Gernsheim 2002; Bauman 2003). Giddens proposes that older ideals of romantic love have been supplanted by the ‘pure relationship’, which lasts only as long as it ‘deliver[s] enough satisfaction for each individual to stay within it’ (Giddens 1992: 58), which is ideally democratic and egalitarian, and is founded on trust and a form of intimacy based on mutual self-disclosure. Beck and Beck-Gernsheim (2002) conceptualise personal relationships as

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‘elective affinities’; they have ceased to be ‘communities of need’ so that our ties to others are no longer secure and predictable. This argument, along with the individualisation thesis as a whole, has been subjected to numerous criticisms in the western context and has been modified and contested by some Asian scholars. While we position ourselves among those who are critical of the transformation of intimacy, individualisation and detraditionalisation theses, we (and they) are clearly not arguing that nothing has changed in the ordering of family life and gender relations. In much of the western world, families and intimate relationships have become more diverse and individuals do have more choice in how they conduct their personal lives—though some have more choice than others. It is also the case that neoliberal policies and ideologies are making individuals more responsible for their own lives. Yet these claims should also be tempered with recognition of the continued importance of close personal ties. There are good reasons to doubt that the claims made by Giddens and Beck capture the complexity of the way intimate relationships are forged and conducted in contemporary western societies. This being so, we should be even more wary of extending versions of the individualisation thesis to other social contexts. Commenting on Yan’s (2009) arguments on the individualisation of Chinese society, Stevan Harrell and Gonçalo Santos acknowledge the increase in personal freedoms in China but note that ‘this model of social transformation tends to overstate the extent to which individuals have become unmoored from family and other social and cultural ties’ (2017: 6). We are particularly concerned about the way this theory travels and is deployed beyond the western societies where it originated. In thinking critically about the global reach and influence of western theory, it is important to consider also the critiques of these theories within the west. While a few East Asian researchers acknowledge such critiques (see e.g. Koo and Wong 2009), prominent East Asian scholars have built their theory on the work of Beck and Giddens without considering the widespread scepticism about this version of western modernity (Yan 2009; Chang 2010a, b; Ochiai 2014). So why does this matter? There are two main reasons. First, if only some, very particular, western theorists are taken as representing the ‘truth’ of late modern social conditions

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in the western world and then taken as the basis of contrasts with Asia, false comparisons are being made. Secondly, modifying the theories of Beck or Giddens to fit China, Japan or Korea, while ignoring critiques of their work, leaves the account of western modernity untouched. If modernity is imagined from specific locations, then this applies to sociological imaginings too, to how sociologists imagine both their own and other societies. It is therefore worth considering briefly some of the problems western scholars have identified in these influential theories and the alternative images of western societies they have produced. One key theme in all the criticisms is the lack of evidence to support many of the claims Giddens (1992) and Beck and Beck-Gernsheim (1995, 2002) make about changes to intimate lives under late modern conditions—and their wilful neglect of existing research, especially feminist research, on these issues. Their claims are thus seen as more speculative than empirically grounded (Jamieson 1999; Heaphy 2007; Jackson 2015). There are, however, a number of more specific points made by their critics. First, Western societies can be imagined as overly de-traditionalised, as if only Asian societies have traditions, so that the European and modern are assumed to be opposed to the local and traditional—as in Tanabe and Tokita Tanabe’s account (2003). They argue, contra Giddens, that modernity in Asia ‘cannot be seen as a “post-traditional order”’, but involves a ‘complex self-reflexive endeavour to position oneself for and against “European modernity” and “indigenous tradition”’ (2003: 4, emphasis in original). It is easy to see why a reading of western accounts might give the impression that tradition in the West is dead—or no longer very salient to everyday life. Modernity is characterised as a ‘post-traditional order’ (Giddens 1991: 4) or as profoundly affected by ‘de-traditionalization’ Beck and Beck-Gernsheim (2001: 25–26). While neither Giddens nor Beck and Beck-Gernsheim argue that tradition is completely irrelevant to late modern life, they see it as no longer having institutional moorings; in the contemporary world tradition ‘loses its rationale’ (Giddens 1991: 206) or ‘has force only through the decisions and experience of individuals’ (Beck and Beck-Gernsheim 2002: 26). It is largely ‘invented’ tradition (Hobsbawm 1983) that is seen as having some purchase in contemporary times: as ‘chosen and invented’ to cope with the pressures of

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modern life (Beck and Beck-Gernsheim 2002: 25–26) or reconstructed and invented as a source of ‘moral fixity’ in the face of the ‘always revisable’ outlook of high modernity (Giddens 1991: 206–207). While tradition and modernity are often posited as polar opposites, in actuality they are not mutually exclusive. Modernity does not do away with tradition, but is shaped by it and reshapes it (Jackson et al. 2013). The detraditionalisation thesis thus tends to overstate the move away from tradition. Recent British research suggests that many heterosexual young people still hold to quite conventional approaches to marriage, commitment and gendered divisions of labour (Thwaites 2016; Carter 2018; Twamley 2018). Drawing on a number of recent studies, Carter and Duncan (2018) identify a mixing of the traditional and modern in family life, deriving both from social conditions and everyday practices. These findings confirm the argument advanced by Neil Gross (2005) on the continued relevance of tradition. He notes that there has been a decline in the normative constraints of regulative traditions around family life, but contends that this does not necessarily mean the demise of ‘meaning constitutive’ traditions, such as ideas of love and commitment, which continue to guide individuals’ investments in marriage and family relationships. If this is the case in the West then we should not be surprised that aspects of Confucian tradition continue to be ‘meaning constitutive’ in East Asia—and this should not be taken as indicative of a lesser degree of modernity on the assumption that western societies have done away with tradition. It is the case that traditions are often invented or reinvented over time—Confucianism being a case in point, as is the Japanese ie system (Ueno 2009)—or, indeed, the practice of British women taking their husbands’ names on marriage, which was not always a universal practice throughout Britain (Thwaites 2013, 2016). Although the decline in regulative traditions has introduced some choice in whether an individual adopts them or not, these choices are not random. As Thwaites (2016) points out, the particular tradition of women adopting their husband’s surname reinforces the idea of a male family head. That it was ‘chosen’ by many of her participants and simply taken for granted by others illustrates the continued normative power of meaning-making traditions. Indeed many referenced tradition

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in explaining their decisions, as well as a sense of ‘belonging’ to a new family. Thwaites’ research indicates that for many British women their sense of self is closely tied to family relationships and that they are, therefore, not fully individualised. Many researchers have contested the idea of individualisation, pointing to the ways in which (western) individuals continue to lead highly relational lives and construct relational selves (Smart 2007; Heaphy 2007). Relatedly it is argued, following Mead (1934), that a highly reflexive sense of self can only be constructed in relation to others, that reflexive self-hood is, can only be, social and relational (Adams 2003; Jackson 2011). It is not only a matter of defining oneself in relation to others, but close personal relationships continue to matter in how western individuals conduct their lives. A sense of obligation within families can still be found (Finch 1989; Finch and Mason 1993; Morgan 2011a), even when relationships break down (Ribbens McCarthy et al. 2003). In couple relationships, there is little evidence of Giddens’ posited ‘pure relationship’ which lasts only as long as it ‘deliver[s] enough satisfaction for each individual to stay within it’ (Giddens 1992: 58). Commitment remains important to couples in negotiating relationships (Carter 2012) and is evident in the motives of young lesbian and gay couples seeking legal recognition of their relationships where this has become possible (Heaphy et al. 2013) There is, in any case, an over-emphasis on couple relationships, particularly in Giddens’ account, whereas Beck and Beck-Gernsheim (1995) at least acknowledge parents’ investments in their children. Many doubt the rosy picture of the democratisation of couple relationships painted by Giddens; it is still women who take on the main burden of running households and raising children. Giddens also places too much emphasis on what Jamieson calls ‘disclosing intimacy’ at the expense of other practices of intimacy that keep relationships functioning (Jamieson 1998, 1999, 2011). Moreover, practices of intimacy are not necessarily democratic—even in the case of disclosing intimacy (Jamieson 1998, 2011). For example, disclosure between parents and children is usually asymmetrical with parents expecting to know far more about their children’s lives than vice versa—and expecting openness from one’s teenage children can be a form of surveillance and control. Parent–child relationships

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may have become less authoritarian in western societies, but they are far from being egalitarian; how democratic and open they are can vary from one western country to another (see, e.g. Schalet 2011), as well varying within any society. Bringing parent–child relationships into the frame also raises questions about the idea of ‘elective affinities’. Some relationships are clearly more elective than others. One may choose one’s lover or spouse but not one’s parents. Couples and individuals may now make decisions on whether to have children, when and how many, albeit within the constraints of fertility, the reliability of contraception and the availability of assisted conception or options for adoption. Once children arrive, however, parent–child bonds are not usually thought of as elective. Both normatively and legally, parents remain responsible for their children until they attain adulthood while children, particularly when young, remain dependant on their parents for their every need. Conversely, some affinities have always been elective, friendship being the primary example. Finally, Giddens and Beck and Beck-Gernsheim stand accused of presenting an overly homogenised ‘monochrome’ view of western societies (Smart and Shipman 2004), a white middle-class view of the world. They ignore class differences that might lead, for example, to more geographical mobility and hence movement away from kin among the professional classes than the less advantaged as well as the ethnic diversity of contemporary western societies. The ethnocentrism of these accounts is particularly marked, since there is strong evidence of the continued importance of kin ties in many minority ethnic communities (Smart and Shipman 2004; Heaphy 2007). To this charge of ethnocentrism could be added eurocentrism, in the failure to acknowledge the contribution of these same minorities, and their ancestors in their countries of origin, to the development of European modernity. Three points are central to our analysis and pertinent to both western and East Asian contexts. First, what Carol Smart (2007) calls ‘relationality’ remains central to late modern selves; secondly, ideas and practices deemed ‘traditional’ (albeit reconfigured within modernity) still play a part in personal life; and thirdly, gender inequality and heteronormativity persist—in old and new ways—in the social ordering of personal

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life. Having said this, we also need to consider what differentiates western and East Asian societies. First, we need to consider differing histories of specific nations and territories and their locations within colonial, neo-colonial and modernisation projects and processes. Secondly, we should take account of varied cultural traditions and how these have been reshaped by history and by contemporary social conditions in an increasingly globalised world. Thirdly, while gender inequality and heteronormativity are global phenomena they are not everywhere the same, differing both in degree and form (Jackson 2018, 2019). Finally, all these differences impact upon the ordering of intimate relationships, the practices through which they are sustained and how relational selfhood is constituted and experienced within them. In addressing these differences, some care needs to be taken over the version of ‘the west’ used for comparative purposes.

Modernity or Modernities? the Asian Experience To the extent that theorists from other parts of the world accept at face value accounts of modernity presented by Beck and Giddens, they leave untouched the idea that western modernity is an endogenous European achievement. If modernity is the outcome of a history of global interconnections (Bhambra 2007, 2010) or conceived as global capitalism (Dirlik 2003) then it is a singular entity. Does this leave us without a means of accounting for differences among the world’s regions and nations? The answer is no. Precisely because global interconnections are uneven and asymmetrical, as Bhambra emphasises, modernity is not lived and experienced in the same way everywhere. In some parts of the world and for some populations, modernity has been catastrophic. Even among the ‘winners’ in the modern world, the wealthy ‘developed’ nations, uneven and asymmetrical connections have continued effects. We cannot assume, therefore, that the whole world is following the same developmental path. The rich East Asian nations and territories differ in important respects from those of a comparable economic standing in Europe and North America and also from each other. Japan, South

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Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong—as well as Singapore, which is geopolitically South East Asian but culturally (as a Chinese majority society) and economically has more in common with East Asia—are often grouped together as sharing (in varying degrees) a Confucian heritage and by virtue of their economic success. Each, however, has its own distinctiveness as a result of its particular history; Singapore and Hong Kong were British colonies, the former now independent the latter now a Chinese Special Administrative Region; Taiwan and Korea were both colonised by Japan and subsequently both were subjected to periods of dictatorial government and martial law, bolstered by the USA during the Cold War as bastions against communism. Both underwent a late transition to democracy at the end of the 1980s and continue to be subject to considerable US influence. Japan itself became a wold power and expanded its sphere of influence during the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries before defeat in the Second World War led to the loss of its overseas acquisitions and its occupation by US forces. It then rebuilt to become the second largest economy in the world—though now, with the rise of China, the third. Despite differences among them, these societies share some features that set their modern conditions apart from those of the west, not only in terms of their indigenous cultures but also as a result of the timing and pace of change. At this point, it is useful to distinguish between modernity as a global condition and modernisation as a process, and often a project, undertaken by states keen to raise their standing in the world order. Both local characteristics and modernisation processes have had consequences for families and intimate relationships. The shared characteristics of East Asian societies make them a useful test case for thinking about modernity beyond the west or, as Chang Kyung-Sup puts it, ‘a crucial real-world reference in critically examining the empirical relevance of Western social sciences’ (2010a: 5). Chang was referring specifically to South Korea, but it is equally applicable to other East Asian capitalist societies. His account is the most sophisticated of attempts to engage with debates about late modernity and social change in Asian contexts. Chang is best known for coining the phrase ‘compressed modernity’, to characterise the East Asian experience of extremely rapid economic development and social change and their consequences (1999, 2010a, b, c).

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While Chang takes as given accounts of western modernity provided by Beck and Giddens (see Jackson 2015), the concept of compressed modernity does capture significant and important features of the East Asian experience and has been take up by others (Lan 2014; Ochiai 2014). It is as applicable to Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong as it is to South Korea, though the processes whereby they achieved rapid socio-economic development differ. These societies have all ‘successfully condensed what Westerners had experienced socially, politically, and above all, economically for over two centuries into an experience of less than half a century’ (Chang 2010a: 5). Japan, which embarked on a deliberate modernisation project in the late nineteenth century, is rather different; its modernity has been characterised as semi-condensed (Ochiai 2014). Initially Chang (1999) defined compressed modernityprimarily in temporal terms, but in his more recent work he analyses it as a complex matrix of temporal and spatial compression, taking account of internal change within South Korea, the effects of external influences and the interplay between them. In addition to its ‘explosive industrialization and economic growth’, South Korea’s exposure to Japanese and American influences and its own adoption of ‘various elements of western civilization’ have transformed its ‘spatial configuration’. The rapidity with which this has happened has created ‘intense competition, collision, disjointing, articulation and compounding between traditional, modern and postmodern elements’ and between ‘foreign/multinational/global elements and indigenous elements’. He suggests that there is a further layer of these colliding and competing elements with all the above in the mix (Chang 2010a: 6–7). A more succinct definition of compressed modernity is provided by Pei-Chia Lan: ‘a dynamic condition that involves historical and contemporary entanglements between Western and non-Western societies in colonial and postcolonial contexts’ (2014: 533). This does not necessarily mean that the modern equals western. Lan is concerned, as are we, to avoid a simplistic ‘West/non-West dichotomy’, but nonetheless to take account of the way in which compressed modernity and global socio-economic conditions impinge upon Asian societies. An alternative formulation, put forward by Ji Yingchun (2017) in relation to China, is ‘mosaic temporality’, which has features in common

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with compressed modernity in attending to a complex mix of indigenous and foreign influences, complicated further by the retreat from the Maoist past and the shift to a market economy. In the resultant mosaic, ‘tradition and modernity, the resurgence of Confucianism, the socialist version of modernity, the capitalist version of modernity, and the socialist heritage’ all figure (Ji 2017: 2), and in which the pieces of mosaic do not merely co-exist but shape each other. Ji is particularly concerned with the consequences of this for familial and gender relations within what she calls ‘mosaic familialism’, which helps account for the persistence, indeed intensification, of gender inequality in recent Chinese history. Here the confluence of the ‘resurgence of Confucian patriarchal tradition’ combined with the ‘neoliberal rhetoric of individual responsibility’ emphasises the traditional virtues of womanhood and at the same time represents ‘women’s sacrifices as their own personal choice’ (2017: 3). While Ji’s analysis is, in some respects, very specific to China, it serves to remind us that we cannot consider tradition to be a thing of the past, that change is not linear and unidirectional and that traditional ideas and practices may not only survive within modernity, but can be revivified and made use of under modern conditions. The PRC remains very particular in some respects, especially in the ways family life has been and is regulated. Leaving China aside, there are some convergences between capitalist East Asian and contemporary western modernities that are manifested in personal and family life: a trend towards late marriage and low total fertility, with birth rates falling below population replacement levels. Ochiai (2014) ties late modernity to a second demographic transition, but one that is manifested differently in East Asia from the patterns prevalent in many western societies—in the former, birth rates are exceptionally low, have fallen very rapidly and there is not the acceptance of alternative forms of personal relationships such as cohabitation and same-sex marriage common in many western countries. In Britain, although the population is ageing, birth rates have risen somewhat in recent years, with many births occurring outside formal marriage. Late marriage in East Asian societies occurs in a context of highly familial societies, where families are central to the provision of welfare to members and thus to survival. Reliance on families for support has been intensified due to neoliberal governance, which throws citizens

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back on their own resources. These conditions are often defended by governments as preserving ‘Asian values’—which serves as an excuse for poor state welfare provision, which is certainly the case in Hong Kong (see Chapter 3). As Ochiai argues, ‘rather than being a direct expression of cultural values (“Asian” or otherwise) familialist social systems are primarily products of socioeconomic conditions and policy decisions made in specific historical settings’ (2014: 217). We would concur and this observation is certainly relevant to the lives of the women we interviewed in Hong Kong. There is a paradox here, which has been extensively explored by Chang Kyung Sup (2010, 2014, 2019; Chang and Song 2010). As he notes, all the evidence suggests that social attitudes in East Asia still strongly endorse the centrality of family and yet at the same time there seems to be a retreat from family. Because of the excessive burdens families place on individuals (especially women), this produces a process of ‘defamilialisation’—not a desertion of family but a ‘tendency of individuals to decrease the familial burden of social reproduction by effectively limiting the scope and duration of family life’ (Chang 2014: 41). Late marriage and increasing divorce are the most obvious indicators of this trend; another that Chang identifies is the geographical separation of nuclear family members. Most commonly, this involves women staying with children and supervising their education, often overseas, while men devote themselves to their careers elsewhere. Thus ‘large numbers of married men lead single lives, despite – in fact because of – their commitment of family’ (Chang 2014: 55). This is a family strategy that prioritises men’s earnings on the one hand and, on the other, children’s education (left to women on a day to day basis), to ensure present prosperity and maximise the future success of the next generation. These husbands and fathers— known as ‘wild geese’ in Korea and ‘astronauts’ in Hong Kong may spend little time with their families. There are also other patterns that produce this situation. Hong Kong and Taiwanese men taking jobs or running businesses in mainland China, where rapid economic growth is creating new opportunities, often leave their wives and children behind. This produces effective defamilialisation within a family strategy. Shen Hsiuhua (2014) has described this, in the Taiwanese context, as giving both husbands and wives a ‘vacation’ from family obligations—women are

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freed from having to cater to their husbands’ daily needs, while men are freed from monogamy. These family strategies are class specific—that of a wife/mother and children moving abroad for educational purpose is clearly a means of middle-class social reproduction while other forms of family separation, for example a Hong Kong man taking a job across the border in China because of lack of local opportunities, may be available to those who are less privileged. These class-based strategies have varied consequences, one of which is the extent to which family members have access to trans-local cultural and social capital and foreign or ‘western’ ideas, which may affect how they live their lives. Asian families affected by compressed modernisation are not homogenous and are not all affected in the same ways by global–local interrelations. Lan coins the phrase ‘glocal entanglement’ to describe two levels of global-local entanglements, ‘those between societies with intersecting histories and often under asymmetrical relations of power’ and how ‘the local society as an uneven entity receives, engages and negotiates with these entanglements in a dynamic and disparate manner’ (2014: 534). These will have differential consequences within local societies and may both reflect and reinforce local inequalities, in terms of those who have access to the ideas and commodities that are seen as part of a ‘modern’ and cosmopolitan lifestyle. Modernity may be a singular global phenomenon but its impact is uneven both within and between nations and regions. The analyses developed by these Asian theorists emphasise the importance of ‘provincializing the Western experience of modernity and refraining from essentialising or homogenizing non-Western cultures and societies’ (Lan 2014: 544). It is also crucial to take account of the specific histories of given societies and the local and global socio-economic and political conditions that have shaped them. Hong Kong and Britain have very particular histories and an interrelationship that continues to influence lives today (see Chapter 3). It is in terms of these theoretical considerations that we analyse the lives of the women we interviewed.

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From Theory to Research Exploring issues of modernity and intimacy cross-culturally through qualitative methods and trying to take account of the complexities of differing experiences of modernity is no easy task. When we embarked on this project we found that existing methodological literature offered little help; much comparative cross-cultural or cross-national research is quantitative and writing on cross-cultural qualitative research tends to assume a researcher from one culture (usually from rich countries or the Global North) working in qualitatively different cultures (Liamputtong 2010; Cleary 2013), rather than an equal collaboration between natives of two research locations. We have discussed our methodology and its challenges in some detail elsewhere (Jackson et al. 2016, 2017). Here we seek to provide only enough information to explain how our data were generated through interviews with mothers and daughters and focus groups with young women, one in each location. Our guiding principle, in keeping with our concern to avoid privileging western perspectives, was to take a symmetrical approach to comparison and, in particular to avoid treating Britain as the norm against which Hong Kong was compared. Life history interviews with two generations of women provided a means of addressing the impact of social change on personal life, while recruiting pairs of mothers and daughters ensured a degree of shared background and experience within each pair and thus comparability between generations. It also enabled us to take account of continuities as well as changes, the transmission of family practices across generations and the consequences of mothers’ life experiences for their relationships with their daughters. We defined the characteristics of our desired interview samples fairly precisely to match the social characteristics of the British and Hong Kong women. We wanted to interview young adult women who were below the average age of marriage in both locations and defined the age limits as between aged 20 and 26. Further, since we were interested in exploring issues raised by debates around transformations of intimacy and individualisation, we decided to recruit young women with university-level education, those who were likely to have benefitted most from recent social change and who in Lan’s (2014) terms were more able to ‘appropriate …global cultural resources’

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and who therefore had more options open to them than those less educationally privileged. In the case of Hong Kong, this reflects the continued academic hegemony of the west, in terms of accessing western-style education locally (a colonial legacy) and, in some cases, being partly educated in the UK, the USA or Australia. We expected that the mothers of the young women would have more diverse backgrounds and experiences, though the fact that they had been able to rear educated daughters was likely to give them something in common. Finally, because of the complexity of comparing two societies and two generations we agreed that each sample should be culturally homogenous, recruiting from the majority ethnic group in each place: Hong Kong Chinese women and white British women. Trying to deal with the multi-cultural character of both societies within the resources and scope of a small study was simply too much of a challenge. Finding pairs of mothers and daughters who would both agree to be interviewed and where the daughters matched our age and educational requirements was not easy and took some time. We aimed to recruit twelve mother–daughter pairs in each location. We were eventually able to interview fourteen young Hong Kong women and twelve of their mothers and thirteen young British women and twelve of their mothers (51 individuals in total). The additional young women were those whose mothers were unavailable for interview for a variety of reasons. We employed two recruitment strategies, advertising for participants with the appropriate characteristics and seeking them through our personal networks. In Britain, most participants were recruited through advertising in two university towns, one in Northern England and one in the South. Personal networks—referrals from colleagues—resulted in the recruitment of four of the pairs. We had expected that most of the first contacts would be with the young women who would then approach their mothers; in the event as many mothers as daughters responded to our advertisements. In Hong Kong, all participants were recruited through personal networks. There were good cultural reasons for this. In East Asian societies, recruiting through personal networks works far better than any other method. It fits ‘somewhat more naturally with Confucian mores and expectations than attempting to recruit unknown individuals who lie outside networks’ (Park and Lunt 2015: n.p.). It is,

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therefore, much easier to develop rapport when participants are introduced through a known and trusted intermediary, which is one aspect of the importance of reciprocal personal connections and obligations, guanxi, in Chinese culture (see, e.g. Liu 2007). A few of the families were already known to us, while others were approached through the younger generation, via intermediaries in the various Hong Kong Universities. Once these young women agreed to be interviewed, they then approached their mothers who then had to be introduced personally to Sik Ying in a social context in order to gain the degree of trust necessary for the interview to proceed. The differences in recruitment, as we were later to discover, had a major impact on the conduct of the interviews. Most of the young women we recruited were still students, finishing undergraduate degrees or undertaking masters or doctoral degrees. Some were embarking on careers that reflected their educational qualifications, while others were employed in ‘stop-gap’ jobs because of an early career change or while waiting to undertake postgraduate degrees or other qualifications. Most were heterosexual though there was one lesbian in the Hong Kong sample and two bisexuals in the British sample. Most of the British young women were living apart from their natal families at the time we interviewed them, some with boyfriends, although most of the undergraduates returned to the family home in vacations. All the young Hong Kong women were living with their parents at the time of interview, although a number had been separated from their families at some time due to overseas education. The age and education/career stage of the young women are shown in Table 2.1. We gave all of them English pseudonyms, reflecting how they were known to us; most young Hong Kong women have English personal names in addition to Chinese ones, used in everyday interaction and often officially recognised on their identity documents—another legacy of colonialism. The mothers of the young women in the interview sample were all heterosexual. The mothers’ ages ranged from mid-forties to early sixties, with a wider range of ages among the British mothers. They were not from as varied backgrounds as we had hoped, especially among the UK women. Most, in both Britain and Hong Kong, had been upwardly mobile from working-class origins, though through very different routes (see Chapter 3). The British women had all completed secondary school

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Table 2.1 The young women British women Name

Age

Zoe

23

Rachel Laura

20 24

Julie Sarah Kimberly Olivia Andrea Pamela Samantha

Hong Kong women Education/ Work stage

Name

Age

Education/ Work stage

Jacqueline

25

PG student

Lily Sasha

20 24

UG student PG student

26 20 26 20 22 21

Career + p-t PG student UG student Interim job- career change PG student UG student Establishing career UG student PG student PG student

Nina Linda Donna Vicky Angela Lola

26 22 23 21

22

UG student

Helen

23

Bobbie Sally Gabby Anna

22 26 22 25

Establishing career UG student Establishing career UG student UG student Interim job before PG studies Interim job before PG studies UG student PG student Establishing career Establishing career

Emily 26 PG student Alexis 22 PG student Lucy 24 UG student Additional focus group participants: Bryony, Carla, Fay

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Additional focus group participants: Susie, Carrie, Celia, Jane

and all but two were university educated, with one having a Ph.D. and three others undertaking postgraduate degrees at the time of interview. The older generation of Hong Kong women had more varied educational backgrounds, ranging from two who had not completed primary school to four who had higher education, two of whom had masters qualifications. The majority of the British mothers could be described, in terms of their circumstances at the time of interview, as middle class but this included those in lower-middle class or poorly paid occupations, such as routine administrative positions, as well as those with professional careers. Four worked part-time and two freelanced. Two of the British women described themselves as full-time housewives. Hong Kong mothers’ occupations ranged from those with highly paid professional careers to those doing low paid work in the service sector. More of the Hong Kong women (five) identified as si-nai, the equivalent of a housewife,

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but this does not mean they had no waged work; rather it describes a primarily orientation to home-making and family rather than career. Most of these si-nai were undertaking some kind of paid work; one had two part-time jobs. Four of the Hong Kong mothers lived in public housing, which is a marker of working-class status; the others would be seen locally as middle class. All the Hong Kong women had been married, though two were divorced and two widowed. Among the British women, two had never married though one had a long-term sometimes cohabiting, sometimes living apart together (LAT) relationship. Of the rest, who had married, four were divorced, one of whom had remarried and the other was in a long-term cohabiting relationship. Details are given in Table 2.2. The choice of pseudonyms for the mothers was affected by how they were introduced to and known by us. All the British mothers were known to us by their first names and their pseudonyms reflect this. The situation in Hong Kong was more varied. Most used English personal names and one used her Chinese personal name, we have followed their practices in renaming them. Four however, were known to us only by a family name, whether their own or that of their daughter and thus husband (Hong Kong women usually do not take their husband’s family name on marriage, but children take their father’s family name). For these women we chose a common Cantonese family name and the prefix Ms. In all cases (with both mothers and daughters) we ensured that no names duplicated the real names of any of our participants. Interviews were based on a shared interview guide, which led participants through the stages of their lives from childhood into adulthood and, for the older women, marriage and parenthood, with a focus on relationships with others. Our questions were framed as openly as possible to elicit narrative responses, but with a few more direct questions towards the end, along with two vignettes to probe attitudes to sexual issues, which might be thought sensitive in Hong Kong (see Chapter 6). The guide was designed, as is usual in qualitative research, to be flexible enabling us to adapt to women’s specific circumstances and to vary questions in response to issues they raised, some of which we expected to be culturally specific.

63

62 49

55 52 52 50 45 52 49

Barbara

Patricia Karen

Diane Frances Cherry Ann Judith Susan Michele

Single, never married Never married Cohabiting Married Divorced Cohabiting Married Divorced Second marriage Married Divorced twice Married Married Yes Yes No Yes, part-time Yes, part-time Yes Yes

No Yes

Yes

Yes

Mei-Li Ms Lee May Ms Tsang Ms Lui Ms Au Maria

Rosemary Elsie

Ellen

Felicity

Mimi

59

Yes

Janet

Married

57

Nancy

50 58 46 52 58 54 56

52 49

47

47

50

Age

Name

Employed yes/no

Age

Name

Marital status

Hong Kong women

British women

Table 2.2 The mothers

Married Married Married Widowed Married Married Married

Married Widowed

Married

Divorced

Divorced twice

Marital status

Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Retired, voluntary work

No; training for new occupation Yes Yes

Sporadic employment Yes

Employed yes/no/other

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Most of the British interviews were conducted by a research fellow, Jin Nye Na, while most of those in Hong Kong were conducted by Sik Ying herself, but with help from a research assistant for some of them.6 The flexibility of qualitative interviewing means that no two interviews are likely to follow exactly the same format; interviews are interactional events and what goes on within them depends on a variety of situational elements. This potential variability is increased in collaborative research where more than one person is interviewing since each researcher is likely to have their own conversational style, which will affect their interaction with participants. In a study such as ours, where different members of the team were conducting interviews thousands of miles apart in different languages and different sociocultural settings additional issues arose. While we were updating each other on progress and sending each other summaries of the themes emerging from our interviews, each team lacked detailed knowledge of the ways in which local conditions were affecting the recruitment and interviewing practices of the other team. These differences did not become apparent until the two teams had an opportunity to meet face to face about halfway through the fieldwork. The British women, once recruited, were quite happy to devote a few hours to discussing their lives with a total stranger and, judging by the quality of the data generated, there were no problems in establishing rapport. This is not unusual in interviewing in Britain or other western contexts. Sik Ying, on the other hand, had to devote considerable time to building relationships with the older women and therefore often spent an extended period of time with them rather than the two hours within which most British interviews were concluded. This led to a significant departure from what had originally been planned, which was to interview mothers and daughters separately. This was entirely feasible in Britain given that most daughters had separate residences from their mothers; in the few cases where they did not, there was sufficient privacy to conduct separate interviews in participants’ homes. In Hong Kong, there were both cultural and physical reasons why this was not possible. The young Hong Kong women were all living with their mothers. They could easily be interviewed separately away from their homes, but once 6This

resulted from the higher level of funding afforded to the UK end of the collaboration.

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mothers were introduced it would have been culturally very difficult to separate them from their daughters in order to interview them and this was only possible in a few cases. Moreover, Hong Kong apartments are very small, affording little privacy for separate interviews within domestic space. The lack of private individual interviews does, of course raise questions both about issues the older women may have been unwilling to discuss in their daughters’ presence and therefore about the comparability of our data on the older generation. Moreover, since these were conversational interviews taking place within domestic space, the daughters were not a silent presence but were actively involved in their mothers’ interviews. There were, however, benefits to this situation in that interaction between mothers and daughters could be revealing. For example, Sik Ying was able to record an altercation between a mother and daughter about sexuality education (see Chapter 5). We could have decided to interview British mothers and daughters together, but this did not seem feasible as we had already completed half the interviews and recruited other participants for separate interviews. There would also have been practical difficulties in conducting joint interviews in Britain since many mothers and daughters lived considerable distances apart. The focus groups were conducted about halfway through the data collection process, the first of them in Hong Kong, with both Stevi and Jin Nye present. Unlike the Hong Kong interviews, which were conducted in Cantonese, the focus group discussion took place in English— in which all the young women, typically for those who are university educated, were fluent. Participants included the young Hong Kong women who had already been interviewed and a few we planned to interview later. Some brought friends along, which resulted in a rather larger group than had been anticipated. Like the Hong Kong focus group, the British one involved some of the daughters from the interview sample and a few other young women of similar ages and backgrounds—but for different reasons. In Britain, this occurred because of the impracticability of bringing together a geographically dispersed group, and we therefore invited the young women local to us and recruited additional members through advertising among graduate students.

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During the focus groups we experimented with a new technique, which proved to be very fruitful: discussing some of our emergent findings, illustrated with data, from the other location, enabling Hong Kong women to comment on British women’s accounts and vice versa. We have called this ‘cross-cultural data feedback’ (Jackson et al. 2017). The effect of this was to involve our participants in the process of making crosscultural comparisons, which brought into the open everyday assumptions about ‘the way things are’ in each setting that would otherwise not have been made explicit as well as issues that might not otherwise have emerged. It also alerted us to subjects we might explore more fully in the interviews we had yet to conduct. Two of the issues thus brought into sharp relief were modes of disciplining children and the regulation and monitoring of young women’s sexual conduct (see Chapters 5 and 6). Analysing our data brought us back to some of our theoretical preoccupations as well as throwing up related issues we had not originally considered—discipline and childrearing being among these. As is generally the case in qualitative work, analysis was a complex iterative process, in which we were constantly comparing across generations and locations. Ongoing consultation between us has been vital in order to ensure we understood the other’s perspective and were each able to provide necessary context essential in making sense of the data from our ‘home’ location—and this continued right through to the writing of this book. In interpreting the data, we consistently paid attention to the wider socioeconomic, political and cultural contexts of the women’s lives. Another complicating factor here, of course, was the issue of language given that the interviews were conducted in the native language of participants and that, while Sik Ying is fluent in English, Stevi does not speak Cantonese or read Chinese (beyond a few very basic characters). It is vitally important, however, that transcription and data analysis are conducted in the original language. Language matters, as there are often not direct translations of culturally specific terms so that translating our Chinese transcripts into English would have risked not only a loss of nuance but also possible distortion of meaning. Even those who are bilingual can find modes of expression delimited by the language they are speaking at any given time. How the Hong Kong women interacted in

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the focus group would have been different had they been speaking Cantonese (see Jackson et al. 2017). Because we did not wish the subtleties of our participants’ words to be lost in translation, we did not translate the Cantonese interviews in full. Instead, the Hong Kong team provided the British team with summaries of the interviews. This enabled us to identify broad themes across both sets of data, but we had to constantly return to the Cantonese data and discuss it with each other as we developed our analysis and think carefully about passages we wished to quote and we often spent considerable time discussing translations to capture the meaning as precisely as possible while ensuring that they made sense in English. In interpreting the stories of the women who feature in this book, working collaboratively as ‘natives’ of the two cultures concerned has been crucial in avoiding ethnocentric assumptions and cross-checking and questioning what we each take for granted from our own sociocultural locations. More generally, working collaboratively across cultures has broadened our understanding of the complexity of the everyday and sensitised us to the importance of thinking not only about cultural differences but the material socio-economic conditions and political circumstances in which family and intimate lives are lived and the history behind these conditions. It is to these histories, and the Hong Kong and British women’s location within them, that we now turn.

3 Interconnected Histories: Locating Women’s Lives in Time and Space

The lives of the women we discuss in this book have been shaped by differing social circumstances in separate locales on the opposite side of the world from each other. The older generation, the mothers, were born in the decades following the Asia-Pacific War and Second World War, from the late 1940s to the middle of the 1960s. The younger generation, their daughters, were born from the late 1980s to the beginning of the 1990s and came to adulthood in the twenty-first century. Over this span of time, there have been immense changes in social relations, including gender relations, in both Hong Kong and Britain but these changes have not followed the same trajectory and have been mediated by specific economic, sociocultural and political conditions. Importantly, this specificity cannot be understood only in local contexts but is, in large part, a result of the intertwined histories of Hong Kong and the UK and of their wider global connections. Crucially, Hong Kong’s history as a British colony has profoundly affected its current inhabitants and accounts for many of the significant differences between Hong Kong and British women as well as differences between Hong Kong and mainland

© The Author(s) 2020 S. Jackson and P. S. Y. Ho, Women Doing Intimacy, Palgrave Macmillan Studies in Family and Intimate Life, https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-28991-9_3

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China. Of course, cultural differences also figure here, but so to do material social, economic and political circumstances, which in turn have an impact on local culture and how ‘traditional culture’ is perceived. In this chapter, we will locate the women’s lives in historical context, focusing primarily on the mothers’ experiences from their childhood to early adulthood, covering the period from the 1950s to the 1970s. This was a time in which social conditions in Hong Kong differed markedly from those in Britain and our data reveal some stark contrasts in these women’s biographies. We will then bring the discussion up to date by considering the challenges facing women today. Before doing so, and in order to understand how the differences between Hong Kong and the UK developed, it is necessary to take a brief look at a longer history. Undertaking a study of two generations of women in two locations has alerted us to the importance of history in making sense of the lives we seek to document. This history has not only made Hong Kong and the UK what they are today, with attendant consequences for personal life, but is also important in other ways. Firstly, it provides an illustration of Bhambra’s (2007) argument that modernity is a product of connected histories rather than an endogenous European achievement. Secondly, it helps us to understand how conceptions of modernity and tradition relate to the past and how the past is now imagined, remembered or forgotten in the life narratives of the women we interviewed. Finally, it is absolutely vital in order to understand Hong Kong’s current political situation in relation to China and the wider context of China’s global geopolitical ambitions. History matters to the Chinese Communist Party (see Lovell 2012; Brown 2017, 2018; Bickers 2018), and it matters, too, in understanding China’s influence on the world stage. In particular, China’s current assertive nationalism ‘is rooted not in China’s present power, but in its past weakness’ (Bickers 2018: xxxii). This has implications not only for Hong Kong, but also for the world given China’s ‘aspirations to be a great, modern power restored to its rightful moral and geopolitical place’ (Brown 2017: 205). Given the brevity of our outline of this history, it necessarily simplifies complex events and processes, glossing over many details of China’s, Hong Kong’s and Britain’s past. In the case of China, we focus on issues pertinent to British imperialism and Britain’s acquisition of Hong Kong

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and then provide a short overview of the history of the colony from its foundation. Our coverage of Britain in the same period is similarly sketchy. Here it should be noted that there are differences in the histories of the constituent parts of the UK, for example in the particulars of legal and educational systems in Scotland, which were and are distinct from those in England and Wales. In our coverage of specific developments within Britain, we refer mostly to the parts of the UK from which we recruited participants: England and Wales. In referring to relations between China, Hong Kong and the UK, the whole of the UK is implicated—the British who traded with China, who lived and worked in colonial Hong Kong and the troops who defended it came from all parts of the UK (and elsewhere in its empire). For example, two Scots, William Jardine and James Matheson played a particularly pivotal role in the events leading to the founding of Hong Kong and in the colony’s early history.

Global Interconnections and the Founding of Hong Kong The story of how Hong Kong became a British colony—dating from the first Anglo-Chinese War or Opium War—exemplifies the global interconnections through which the modern world developed and is part of the wider history of British imperialism and colonialism, which were central to its rise as an industrial and military power. It should be noted that many of the technologies that facilitated European advancement—from paper to gunpowder, came originally from China. China was the world leader in technology, trade and administration until the sixteenth century. After the Ming dynasty went into decline and was supplanted by the Qing, China began to slip from its global pre-eminence but was not yet in decline. Indeed, the Qing Empire was rich and powerful and in the eighteenth century, under the Qianlong Emperor, expanded to encompass Tibet, Xinjiang and Taiwan. To Europeans at this time, the Qing Empire was ‘dazzling’ as ‘an unequalled vision of power, order and prosperity’ (Platt 2018: 9). To the Chinese, European nations were ‘beyond

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civilization’ and the Qing ‘Heavenly Dynasty’ was ‘in a position of superiority to all other countries’ rulers’ (Mao 2016: 6–7). China’s riches made it attractive to European traders, who had established sea routes to East Asia from the sixteenth century. By the end of eighteenth century, European nations had gained in power, wealth and military might, posing a threat to China of which the Qing rulers were still unaware. By the 1820s, Britain had become the premier power of Europe, the British East India Company was already well ensconced in India and Britain was expanding its trading and imperial ambitions, including in Asia. The British were, however, relative latecomers to China; the Portuguese settlement in Macau (now Macao) was the centre of the China trade from the mid-sixteenth century, whereby silver from the Americas found its way to China in exchange for tea, silk and porcelain. The Portuguese permitted the East India Company (EIC) to land in Macau and use it as a base for trading on an island in the Pearl River Delta (Huangpu, known to the British as Whampoa). In 1759, the Qing government designated Canton (Guangzhou) as the only legal port for overseas trade and in 1771 the EIC was allowed to open a post there. The EIC held a monopoly on British trade with China, granting some licenses to independent traders, until the 1830s when Britain appointed its first government representative, a Chief Superintendent, to oversee trade in Canton (see Carroll 2007; Tsang 2004). By this time, Britain’s global influence and maritime power had far surpassed that of its erstwhile rivals in Asia, the Portuguese and Dutch, thus Britain—‘master of the oceans, workshop of the world and an expansionist imperial power – came face to face with the Celestial Chinese Empire’, an empire that still considered itself to be the centre of the universe (Tsang 2004: 3). China had been able to conduct trade on its own terms from the sixteenth century. It sought to restrict foreign trade for a number of reasons: given its size and range of climates, it was self-sufficient in everything it needed, it considered its civilisation (not without cause) as superior to that of the ‘barbarians’ from Europe and sought to restrict European influence on its population. As a result, the conditions under which Europeans were allowed to trade were extremely restrictive; they had to conduct transactions through local Chinese merchants, known as cohongs. The main commodities Britain was importing from China

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in the early nineteenth century were silk and tea. Tea was particularly important since, by the 1830s, it had come to be seen as an indispensable part of British life. It was also heavily taxed and thus an important source of government revenue. Steve Tsang cites figures indicating that in the years running up to the first Anglo-Chinese War the tax on tea was enough to pay for around 83% of the costs of maintaining the Royal Navy (Tsang 2004: 6), the navy that was central to Britain’s imperial power. Britain had a substantial trade imbalance with China, since there was little that could be offered in exchange for tea and silk. This was remedied via the EIC’s Indian interests, one of whose major products was opium, then consumed for medical purposes in Britain and completely legal. Opium was illegal in China, but it was widely traded through Canton making huge profits for the British, along with a few independent Parsee traders from India. The Chinese authorities saw the influx of opium as impacting negatively both on its economy and on the morale of its people. The British, meanwhile, resented the restrictions placed on them by the Chinese and the condescension with which they were treated. Tolerated in the name of profit when the EIC was running the trade, it became more of an affront when an official British government representative fared no better. Things came to a head in 1839 when a Chinese official, Lin Zexu was sent to Canton to end the opium trade. He confined foreign merchants to their warehouses and confiscated, and then destroyed, their opium stocks. Britain and the East India Company sent an expeditionary force, which not only blockaded Canton but also attacked parts of China further north. Although China had invented gunpowder and firearms, by the early nineteenth century its military technology was about 200 years behind that of the European nations (Mao 2016). Britain won an easy victory that resulted in the acquisition of Hong Kong Island (where the harbour was already being used as a base for merchants and traders) in January 1941. The British, not content with this, used Hong Kong as a base for further attacks on China in the Autumn of 1841, fighting their way up the Yangtze river and threatening the city of Nanjing (then known as Nanking). The Chinese had little option but to capitulate. Defeat was a shock to the ‘Heavenly Dynasty’; China could not conceive that ‘it would not be a match for an “insignificant island yi”’(Mao

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2016: 489). Under the treaty of Nanking, signed on a British warship in August 1842 and ratified the following year, Hong Kong officially became a British Crown Colony. As well as granting Hong Kong to the British, the Chinese government paid an indemnity of 21 million silver dollars and agreed to open five ports to trade, including Canton, and end the cohong monopoly on managing the Chinese side of trade. From the Chinese point of view, these concessions were excessive and humiliating. This, the first of many unequal treaties and foreign incursions, is remembered in China as the beginning of a ‘century of humiliation’, something that continues to figure prominently in Chinese patriotic education (see Lovell 2012). The British, however, remained dissatisfied with China’s reluctance to trade on equal terms, ultimately leading to the Second Opium War, in which Britain was joined by France and the USA and which culminated in Anglo-French forces occupying Beijing, the burning of the Summer Palace and forcing the emperor into exile. The Convention of Peking (1860) ceded Kowloon Peninsula and Stonecutter’s Island to Britain, so that it now occupied both sides of the harbour. In the course of the war, other concessions had already been extracted, including more ports open to trade, access to China’s interior and tariffs on opium, effectively legalising it. These were eventful times in the British Empire, fuelling tension that may have contributed to the Second Opium War. The 1850s witnessed the Crimean war and riots and uprisings in many parts of the British Empire, notably South Africa and, in India, the Rebellion (or Mutiny). In China, this was the time of the Taiping Rebellion, further increasing tensions. The British administration in Hong Kong responded to the fears this provoked by implementing restrictions on the Chinese population such as night curfews. Despite these upheavals, the colony began to prosper from the 1860s. There had never been unanimous support among Britain’s politicians for establishing a small colony in such a distant location and the hopes of those who expected it to become a hub for the China trade were not initially realised since the opening of other treaty ports meant that much of this trade bypassed Hong Kong. Nonetheless, some individuals had already profited from the opportunities this rather fragile colony had to offer, including some local Chinese

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who collaborated with the British in the two wars and received substantial recompense for so doing, as well as British merchants who had made their fortune from trading opium in Canton. Prominent among the latter were William Jardine and James Matheson, who had been instrumental in persuading the British government to use military force against China and who are commemorated in Hong Kong street names. Jardine, Matheson and Co was the largest British trading company in East Asia by the time Hong Kong became British, was one of the first firms to set up there and continues to base its headquarters there and has over 400,000 employees (Platt 2018). The legacy of the opium trade persists into the present. A number of regional and global developments fostered Hong Kong’s growth from the 1860s onwards. The Taiping Rebellion led many Chinese, particularly merchants, to flee affected areas for the treaty ports and Hong Kong, adding to the colony’s potential for wealth creation. Another important development was the expansion of European colonies and the abolition of slavery within them, which created a demand for cheap, often indentured, labour. Many emigrants, escaping poverty and upheaval in China, transited through Hong Kong on their way to other British possessions or the USA, the latter increasing considerably with the discovery of gold in California in 1948. These ‘coolies’ worked on constructing railroads in North America and on plantations in British colonies. Emigration was technically illegal in Qing China, but a weak government coping with foreign incursions and domestic rebellion was in no position to prevent it. There was money to be made by recruiting agents in China as well as by intermediaries and shipping agents in Hong Kong (Keung 1999). Chinese migrants often suffered appalling working and living conditions, but many did manage to send remittances home, which again passed through Hong Kong, and contributed to the development of banking and financial services. This Chinese diaspora also facilitated the creation of trade networks that spanned the globe, further feeding into Hong Kong’s growing economy and its importance as a regional centre of trade. Opium, however, continued to play a central role, not only in Hong Kong’s domestic development, but also in Britain’s economy and a global

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web of trade and industry. John Carroll sums this up perfectly, clearly illustrating the connected histories that fuelled the progress of modernity: Britain’s global position depended on opium: Britain used the revenue from the opium trade to buy tea and silk from China and to support the occupation of India…Indian producers used revenues from opium to buy British goods. And British merchants used profits from selling British goods to buy cotton from the United States. (Carroll 2007: 22)

That Cotton, produced by slave labour until the 1865 abolition, was destined for the mills of Lancashire; thus Opium, through a series of intermediate steps, became central to cotton manufacture in Britain. In Hong Kong itself, the port through which most opium passed, it remained an important source of government revenue right up until the Japanese invasion in 1941. The trade was only abolished when Britain regained control after the Japanese surrender in 1945. In the meantime, Hong Kong had expanded. In the late nineteenth century, the colonial administration had been keen to enlarge its territory, but the British government was reluctant to do so. By the end of the century, however, Russia, France, Germany and the USA were competing with British influence in China, while Japan’s increasing military strength, demonstrated by its defeat of China in the Sino-Japanese War of 1895 and subsequent acquisition of Taiwan, made the British more aware of the strategic importance of Hong Kong. In 1898 Britain negotiated a 99-year lease on what became known as the ‘New Territories’, a larger parcel of rural land on the mainland plus a number of islands, amounting to about 365 square miles, ten times the size of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon Peninsula combined, with the exception of Kowloon’s Walled City, which remained under Chinese jurisdiction (Welsh 1997; Carroll 2007). The New Territories made the colony more viable, but the 99-year lease created the situation whereby the entire colony would eventually have to be returned to China—though this was not anticipated at the time. The British negotiators assumed that it was a ‘permanent cession in disguise’ (Tsang 2004: 40).

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Gender, Empire and Social Inequality in Britain and Hong Kong Britain’s empire continued to expand in the nineteenth century, increasing its wealth and influence, but of course this wealth was not shared equally; the poverty that existed throughout the Victorian era is well documented and the threat of the workhouse, the main remedy for those with no means of support, had hung over the working classes since the poor law reform of 1934. Industrialisation also had an impact on gender relations in Britain, with an increasing emphasis on domesticated femininity as an ideal, within what has become known as the ‘domestic ideology’ (Hall 1992; Davidoff and Hall 1987). In the early nineteenth century, the rising bourgeoisie moved their residences away from their factories and workshops and women, previously active in family businesses, were excluded from the public sphere of commerce and industry. Working-class women continued to engage in paid work, including in the cotton mills of North West England, processing the cotton purchased, through a chain of trade, with the proceeds of opium. Elsewhere they worked in a variety of occupations, almost always paid less than men of the same class, and child labour was also widespread. As the nineteenth century progressed, organised and skilled male workers began to agitate for a family wage sufficient to keep their wives at home; a domesticated wife became symbolic of status and respectability (Walby 1986). Middleclass philanthropists also saw this as benefitting the working class and as conducive to social stability. New ideals of femininity and domesticity also contributed to the exclusion of women and children from certain occupations, such as underground work in mining and restrictions on their working hours. These new gender ideals, the industrious husband and domesticated wife, came to be seen as markers of civilisation and propriety, differentiating the respectable British citizen from the underclass of the ‘disreputable poor’ at home and the colonised peoples abroad. This was also the era of ‘scientific racism’, the idea of a ‘natural’, biologically determined, hierarchy of ‘races’, which served to justify British rule over its colonies (Miles 2003). With the advance of an industrial society, a more educated population was required. A national system of education was established by an Act of

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parliament in 1870, but compulsory schooling (initially for children aged 5–10) was not introduced until 1880 and it was not free of charge until 1891. Working-class girls’ education was geared to training in domestic skills to fit them for their future destiny as housewives and, importantly, for work as servants. Demand for domestic servants was increased by the expansion of the middle classes and was one of the main sources of employment for working-class women. Women were excluded from higher education until the 1870s and not until 1920 did all universities grant degrees to women. With the beginnings of both a feminist movement and middle-class women’s philanthropy, there were campaigns to improve the working and housing conditions of the poor and to raise women’s status, as well as labour activism among working women. Some advances were gradually made, such as the Married Women’s Property Acts of 1870 and 1882, giving women rights to control their own property and earnings, which had previously become their husbands’ on marriage. By the beginning of the twentieth century, women were campaigning for the vote, finally won, for all women, in 1928. Welfare provision also improved in the early twentieth century, partly through the efforts of campaigning philanthropists who had revealed the extent of poverty in Victorian Britain and partly because an imperial nation needed fit and healthy fighting men. Recruitment for the Boer War had revealed the impact of poverty on the bodies of potential soldiers, causing serious concern. The liberal government of 1906–1914 laid some of the foundations for the welfare state, including such measures as allowing schools to provide free meals for children, introducing old-age pension for the over 70s and a national insurance scheme for workers, covering short term sickness. Nonetheless severe poverty persisted, especially during the depression years of the 1930s. It was not until after the Second World War that free health care, unemployment benefits, better pensions and other reforms made working-class life somewhat less precarious. This short sketch of changes occurring over the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Britain provides some context for understanding the ways in which the colonial authorities governed Hong Kong. If the welfare of the working poor was not a priority in Britain, it is not to be expected that the Hong Kong authorities would care much about the

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Chinese people they ruled over, especially given colonial racist attitudes. British interest in Hong Kong was primarily as an entrepôt, so that the local population mattered little to them. They had an interest in attracting Chinese merchants to the colony, since they served as go-betweens in the trade with China and contributed to wealth creation (Keung 1997; Clayton 2000; Carroll 2007), but the majority of the local inhabitants were seen as a largely disposable workforce of coolies for heavy labour and domestic servants. The British administration ‘had little interest in governing the local Chinese beyond maintaining stability and good order’ and the ‘local Chinese were largely left to their own devices’ (Tsang 2004: 67). The Chinese formed their own organisations to manage their affairs. There were no social services provided for the population by the authorities; it was European missionaries and local Chinese organisations that began to provide education, health care and welfare. The government was, however, interested in keeping the populace under control. The Chinese community was subject to restrictions on their freedom of movement through curfews, passes and all manner of regulations, though wealthy and ‘respectable’ Chinese could gain exemption from some of these controls. The priority was defending European inhabitants and their property, so that British justice for ordinary Chinese ‘meant intrusive policing, racial and class discrimination, and periodic campaigns of repression’, resulting in a one in ten chance of appearing before the magistrates in any given year (Munn 1997: 66–67). Europeans not only escaped such tight regulation, but if they did break the law, they were treated much more leniently than the local Chinese. Punishments for Chinese offenders could be draconian, including severe public flogging—inflicted on Chinese law-breakers, rather than Europeans. In the one case where a European, a Polish sailor, was sentenced to flogging, there was a huge outcry from European inhabitants. Flogging or caning was only abolished in 1990. Hong Kong was, from its beginning, a multi-ethnic society, but one that was largely ethnically segregated. Residential segregation was initially informal, with Europeans settling in specific areas away from the local Chinese, and was reinforced by class differences and gulfs in income and standard of living (Tsang 2004). Between 1888 and 1918 a series of

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ordinances were introduced that formalised segregation, reserving specific areas of Hong Kong Island for Europeans, maintaining their distinctive status and sense of superiority as the colonial class. Victoria Peak (known as The Peak) became an exclusive community of wealthy Europeans from where they could literally look down on those they saw as their inferiors (Lai and Yu 2001). In addition to the Europeans and Chinese, there were the Parsee traders involved in the opium trade and other Indians, mostly Sikhs and Muslims, employed in the police force. There were also Portuguese from Macau and Eurasians of mixed heritage, usually children of liaisons between local women and European men. While the Portuguese often intermarried with local Chinese, the British abhorred such unions. Eurasians were stigmatised as ‘symbolising moral degradation and racial impurity’ (Chiu 2008: 799). Eurasians did not easily fit into the Chinese community either, since they had lost their patrilineal ties to their ancestors—and it was through kinship and clan that the Chinese largely organised their social and economic lives (Carroll 2007). Even the all-important business of trade remained largely segregated along ethnic lines up to the beginning of the Second World War; the Europeans dominated the Chamber of Commerce, founded in 1861, which regulated trade and linked Hong Kong to World markets, while the Chinese organisations dealt with trade with South East Asia and overseas Chinese. Business between the two was arranged through compradors acting as go-betweens (Clayton 2000). In the nineteenth century, Hong Kong was also a very masculine society, not only in the sense of being patriarchal but also in terms of numbers—among both local and European inhabitants, men far outnumbered women. While Chinese, Portuguese and Parsee merchants who settled permanently in Hong Kong established families in the colony, migrant male Chinese workers were often separated from their families in mainland China. Many Europeans were single men or, if temporary sojourners, had left families behind them. British and other European women in Hong Kong included those who were middle class—they were the wives of colonial officials or were missionaries and teachers, with some running small businesses catering to the expatriate female population (Hoe 1991). The philanthropy becoming common among this class in Britain was also manifested in Hong Kong, some of which was

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directed towards local Chinese women, who had almost no rights and protections in law during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Various missionary societies set up schools for girls in Hong Kong, where converting them to Christianity was seen as a means of civilising the local Chinese population. These girls’ education was influenced by the same domestic ideology prevalent in Victorian Britain, but ‘the export and translation of it onto colonial soil by missionaries was loaded with religious interpretation under an imperial gaze’ (Chiu 2008: 791). While this education reinforced gender divisions, it did sometimes open up new opportunities for young Chinese and Eurasian women, albeit not for many of them (Chiu 2008). A major focus of activism was the campaign to abolish the mui tsai system (Hoe 1991; Lim 2015). Mui tsai, which literally means little sisters, were bondservants, girl children from poor families sold to richer households. In some families, they may have been well treated, but they were vulnerable to overwork, neglect and physical and sexual abuse. On adulthood they might be married off to men of their own class, but could also be sold on to brothels or as concubines (see Jaschock 1988; Lim 2015). This was, effectively, a form of slavery, which had supposedly been abolished in all British dominions before Hong Kong was colonised, yet the colonial authorities (in Singapore as well as Hong Kong) were reluctant to take action against it. It was recast as a ‘traditional Chinese practice’ and, since the authorities had assured local elites that they would not interfere with their traditions, it was allowed to persist. Campaigning against the practice began in the1870s, but really picked up in the 1920s (Hoe 1991; Carroll 2007; Lim 2015). The European women who spearheaded the campaign and brought the issue to the attention of the British parliament had a mixture of motives, both philanthropic and feminist. Among the former, which Lim (2015) describes as maternalist, she detects elements of racism in the campaign’s rhetoric. While some educated Chinese Christian women were involved, this could be seen as a twist on Spivak’s depiction of colonial paternalism as white men ‘saving brown women from brown men’ (1993: 93). In this case, most white male colonisers had little interest in rescuing Chinese women and it was white women who took up the challenge, with the attendant racism. The keeping of bondservants was technically (though not actually) abolished

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in China after 1911, which undermined the rationale of ‘respecting Chinese tradition’. There was, however, another argument made for retaining the practice—that without it, female infanticide was likely to increase as the only way the poor could rid themselves of unwanted daughters. This may well have been the case, but it was not suggested that the administration should do something to combat the poverty underlying this problem, still less challenge the gender order that made girls, rather than boys, into bondservants. The vigorous campaign against the mui tsai system brought Hong Kong to the notice of the British public, who otherwise probably had little interest in, or knowledge of, this tiny outpost of empire. It also proved to be an embarrassment to the British government from the 1920s. Against the wishes of both the Hong Kong administration and local elites, it was made subject to progressively tighter regulation from 1923 to 1938, including registration, payment of wages, age limits to the work girls could do and restrictions on selling them on. These measures did improve the treatment of those girls who were registered, but many were not. Maria Jaschok (1988) found evidence of the existence of mui tsai as late as the early 1950s while Carroll (2007) suggests the practice may have persisted to the 1970s. In the meantime, Hong Kong had undergone much change, especially as a result of upheavals in mainland China, the Asia-Pacific War and changes to its economy.1

War, Its Aftermath and Post-War Developments Whereas the First World War made a major impact on the UK and was followed by an eventful period in British history including the achievement of women’s and universal suffrage and the great depression, these developments made little impact on Hong Kong. The First World War had, for the most part, passed it by; more significant were events in 1 We

are aware that we are skipping a significant period in history here. Having established the interconnected histories that resulted in the establishment and development of colonial Hong Kong we have sacrificed coverage of the inter-war years in order to move on to the period in which the older generation of our participants were born and raised.

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China and Japan’s military expansionism. During the Second World War Britain experienced bombing and destruction in its cities, loss of life among both military and civilians, rationing and, after the war, a period of austerity—but, apart from the Channel Islands, not enemy occupation. The Asia-Pacific War was longer in duration and overlapped with civil war in China. The Qing dynasty had fallen in 1911, replaced by a republic, but the country was never fully under control of the new government and from 1927 China had been in a state of civil war between communist and nationalist forces. The Japanese invaded Manchuria in northern China in 1931 and in 1937 launched a full-scale invasion of China, occupying much of the East of the country. Many refugees fled to Hong Kong, an estimated 500,000 in 1938, and many banks and businesses relocated there (Carroll 2007; Tsang 2004). In December 1941, at the same time as the attack on Pearl Harbour, Japan moved against British possessions in Asia—Hong Kong, Malaya (as it was then known) and Singapore. The Japanese invaded Hong Kong on 8 December, taking only three weeks to defeat its defenders (see Snow 2003; Cracknell 2019). The colonial government surrendered on Christmas day. The occupation lasted until the final Japanese surrender in August 1945 and was devastating for Hong Kong. Most Europeans civilians were interned while military personnel became prisoners of war (experiences many did not survive). Although the Japanese represented themselves as freeing Asians from British repression, the local Chinese population were subjected to much brutality including countless rapes, beatings and summary executions; an estimated 10,000 civilians were executed. Some local elites managed to do better through collaborating with the Japanese, at least at first, with the worst suffering falling on poorer people. As the war turned against Japan, many died of disease and starvation owing to acute food shortages. The Japanese also repatriated many local people to China. Hong Kong’s population fell from 1.5 million to 600,000 (Snow 2006; Carroll 2007). After the war, colonial rule resumed (though this had not been a foregone conclusion). Hong Kong recovered quickly and the population began to grow again, swelled by a new influx of refugees with the victory of the communists and founding of the Peoples’ Republic of China. While some of these brought wealth with them, most had

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little or nothing and were disadvantaged relative to the settled population (Chiu et al. 2005). They also had nowhere to live. Many constructed their own housing, building informal squatter settlements, huts put together from any available materials. Our own memories of Hong Kong in the 1960s are of these settlements being a ubiquitous and highly visible feature of the Hong Kong landscape, with huts covering the hillsides in many areas apart from the central business district. Other newcomers crammed themselves into already overcrowded tenement buildings. Mimi, one of the Hong Kong mothers, told us about her family’s experience. They were among those who had left Shanghai for Hong Kong when the Japanese invaded China. Her father was a tailor and ‘was famous for making traditional Chinese clothes such as qipao and cotton padded jackets’. While he was setting up business in Hong Kong, they lived in a partitioned unit in an apartment shared with many other families. Somehow they survived the occupation. Mimi was born in the early 1960s. When she was two or three years old, they moved to a ‘better’ partitioned unit, which was ‘part of someone’s living room’, so they still did not have self-contained accommodation. This is where Mimi grew up, along with her three siblings. The family did not manage to improve their living conditions further until Mimi reached adulthood, when her father bought a property in Tuen Mun in the New Territories. In the years following the Second World War Britain underwent a period of austerity, with continued rationing until 1954, but this was soon to give way to a period of rapid economic growth, booming manufacturing industries and full employment. Better employment prospects, the welfare state, particularly the National Health Service (NHS) and free secondary education, along with a rapid growth in public housing in the 1950s, eased many burdens on working people. Nancy, one of the British mothers, described to us the impact this had on the family into which she was born. Both her parents came from ‘very poor backgrounds’ and had married at the beginning of the war. While her father had been away in the services for most of the duration, they had three children by 1946. Her account stands in sharp contrast to Mimi’s: They had a very small flat in London and then all the rebuilding was going on after the war and they had an opportunity to move to a big

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new council estate in Essex and this was a new start for them to go to what was a big three-bedroomed house and it was end of terrace so a big garden, I mean from a very very small flat…Where they moved from was basically from a slum clearance programme, so they moved to this house in rural Essex, its only as extension of London now, but it was out in the countryside then. They moved there in 1950 and I was born in 1953…they were economically far more secure, you know by the time I was born and certainly through my childhood, and so there was more money. I was the youngest one, but everybody [in the family] saw the benefit of the boom years after the war.

Not all British people were so fortunate; many continued to live in the slum conditions Nancy’s family had escaped, but generally the 1950s was a period of optimism and improvement in living standards. Hong Kong also experienced an economic boom in the 1950s, but without the benefits of a welfare state. It had lost its original raison d’être, not only with the ending of the opium trade, but also the closing of the border with China after 1950. Under these new economic conditions, the Hong Kong government took more control of the economy, but continued to endeavour to rule the colony cheaply and keep state intervention to what was required to facilitate business and commerce (see Clayton 2000, 2013). It did little to encourage manufacturing, which largely grew from below (Choi 1999). Manufacturing was already established before the war but expanded in the 1950s and was aided by an influx of capital from China when the Communists took over. Industry remained labour intensive as there was little incentive to restructure when the rapidly growing population ensured a supply of cheap labour, including that of many young women (see, e.g., Salaff 1995). Hong Kong produced textiles, plastic flowers and toys and also electronics such as transistor radios. Some of this production also involved homeworking, mostly undertaken by women, sometimes aided by their children. In his memoir of growing up in the squatter village of Diamond Hill, Feng Chi-Shun (2009) recalls assembling plastic flowers at home, just as Sik Ying and her family did. British people became aware of Hong Kong though such products and other cheap exports; ‘Made in Hong Kong’ was a familiar label. Since low costs were seen as central to maintaining Hong Kong’s competitive edge in the export market, the colonial state’s attitude to any

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calls for improvement in working and living conditions was one of ‘apathy, if not downright hostility’ (Choi 1999: 152). Hong Kong lacked welfare provisions but the government did invest, to a degree, in infrastructure and encouraged the growth of education, although it did not become free and compulsory until the 1970s. The one form of welfare the government did begin to provide, early in the post-war era, was housing. The growth of squatter settlements was a major cause for concern as the continued influx of refugees from China swelled the numbers of the homeless. The government did provide some minimal facilities for the squatters—one water tap per 500 people and one latrine compartment per 100 (Goodstadt 2013b, 2018) and began to build ‘resettlement blocks’ in the 1950s. The housing programme is often attributed to a major fire in the squatter settlement of Shek Kip Mei in 1953, but this has been convincingly contested by Alan and Josephine Smart, anthropologists who lived among squatters in Hong Kong for several years and who have also conducted extensive archival research (Smart 2006; Smart and Smart 2013). Not only were the government already considering strategies for the clearance of squatters before the fire, but there were also numerous other reasons, apart from the very real fire risk, that motivated the government. There was the fear of the disease that could spread easily in unsanitary, overcrowded conditions and many considered squatter settlements to be an eyesore. A crucial factor was that they were occupying land that could be used for lucrative development, and land sales were—and continue to be—a major source of government revenue. Smart and Smart (2013) argue that the attempt to clear away the squatters was part of a wider move to ‘formalize’ Hong Kong, to tidy away the informal economy of self-built housing, hawkers and street traders who were such a central part of Hong Kong life and its post-war vibrancy (see also DeWolf 2017). The resettlement blocks that sprang up in the 1950s and 1960s were grim—one family to a small concrete room, very rudimentary communal sanitary facilities, with a lack of privacy that was particularly problematic for women, and no kitchens. Cooking had to be done in the corridors (see Tu 2003; Goodstadt 2013b, 2018). They also did not solve the problem, as the flow of migrants from China continued to outstrip housing development. The upheavals of the Cultural Revolution led to a new

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wave of migration in which desperate refugees took extraordinary risks to escape to Hong Kong (see Chiu et al. 2005: 203–204). The parents of two of our focus group participants, Jane and Susie, came to Hong Kong at this time—in the latter case by swimming across the border. An idea of what this involved is provided by one of our own relatives, Sik Ying’s cousin. His father was a teacher and had taught under the KMT (Kuomintang, the nationalist government), and was therefore a KMT employee, which made the family ‘bad elements’. They were all sent down to the countryside in the Cultural Revolution and, on return to their homes in Guangdong, he, along with his sister and a group of young people, resolved to escape by swimming across the border. He wrote this account: We could not see any future. At that time, we knew that Hong Kong would accept illegal immigrants, and so we decided to prepare ourselves and started practising swimming. We practised every day and made sure that everyone could swim continuously for hours. I tried and got caught for the first time by the soldiers at the border and got repatriated. I was imprisoned for a while. When I was released, I started my exercises again. I succeeded the second time and crossed the border and escaped the border guards. I swam across Tai Pang Wan [Big Hawk Bay, also called Mirs Bay] and landed somewhere in Sha Tau Kok [just south of the border].

He was luckier than most in having a home to go to; he and his sister joined Sik Ying’s family in their public housing. This was not a resettlement block, but ‘low cost housing’, of a better standard, being selfcontained and designed for longer-term residents in housing need. Sik Ying’s family had moved from an old tenement building on Hong Kong Island to one of the first of these new estates, built in the 1960s. Ten people shared this desirable residence—two rooms—Sik Ying, her parents, her five siblings and the two cousins. This was far from being the worst overcrowding in Hong Kong. In 1963 a government working party reported that in the private rented sector it was ‘not unknown for 60 or 70 people to be living in a three bedroom flat’ (quoted by Goodstadt 2013b: 34). The tide of refugees from China was not stemmed until the 1984 Sino-British agreement (on handing Hong Kong back to China), which led to more effective policing of the border. Political change in China,

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with the end of the Mao era, economic reform and China’s ‘opening up’ to the outside world may also have helped ease the situation. It was only in the 1980s that squatter settlements gradually began to be cleared, and some of this informal housing survives to this day. Housing has remained a major problem in Hong Kong, despite the growth of, and improvements in, public housing—the major form of welfare that both the colonial and SAR governments have provided.

Education and Social Mobility; Unequal Opportunities Our depiction of social conditions in post-war Britain and Hong Kong is intended to give readers an impression of the very different societies in which the older generation among our participants grew up. The British mothers’ lived their childhoods in an already industrialised society (moving towards post-industrial) and after the establishment of the welfare state, while those in Hong Kong inhabited a colonial society marked by extensive poverty, with a per capita GDP less than a quarter of Britain’s at the time and with only a rudimentary and largely voluntary welfare system until the last decades of the colonial period—it was only in the 1970s that state welfare provision began to grow. Until then the colonial administration continued to neglect the needs of the Chinese population (Tsang 2004; Tang and Lou 2009). As late as 1965 it was claimed that state welfare was not necessary since the Chinese relied on their families for mutual support (Tang and Lou 2009); but family members had to rely on each other as they had no other recourse. Life in Britain was better, but it was far from egalitarian. Despite the gains made in the post-war era, many of the welfare provisions of the time, especially in terms of social security benefits and pensions, revealed the extent to which Britain was still a patriarchal society. Workers were assumed to be men, with women positioned as their dependants, as wives and mothers, which often resulted in intrusive policing of poor women’s personal lives. The inequities of the system attracted much criticism from the new wave of feminist writers in the 1970s (see, e.g., Wilson 1977). Women had been drawn into the labour market in large numbers during

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the war, but were expected to cede their places to returning servicemen afterwards, with a re-emphasis on female domesticity. In the 1970s, most married women were full-time housewives and a higher proportion of the western population were married than ever before. Yet things were changing, full employment and economic growth in the 1950s and 1960s had created more opportunities for women in both factory production and the clerical work associated with it, as well as in the growing state sector and service industries—at a time when jobs were very much segregated by gender. Increasing numbers of women were entering the labour market so that the male breadwinner model of family life was already changing (Lewis 1992, 2001), with attention being given to issues of women’s ‘two roles’ in the family and the workplace (Myrdal and Klein 1962). The mothers’ generation in our British sample had, on the whole, gained from the post-war developments, which opened up possibilities for them that had not existed for their own mothers, particularly through education, enabling many of them to be upwardly mobile from workingclass origins; only two of them had clearly middle-class backgrounds, Michelle and Cherry, one the daughter of teachers, the other the daughter of an officer in the military and a teacher. Most had benefitted from the increased economic security of their families, free secondary education and the expansion of higher education, both universities and polytechnics, in the 1960s. Despite this growth, however, in 1970 the participation rate in higher education was only 8.4% (Bolton 2012), with men outnumbering women about 2:1. Our sample is not representative in this respect; far more of them had received higher education than would be expected (and more than we expected), ten of the twelve. Karen, the most academically successful, had a Ph.D. and three others were pursuing postgraduate qualifications at the time of interview: Judith, Michelle and Frances. All but Ann and Patricia had undergraduate degrees. Patricia, who was born in 1948, followed what was probably a more typical path to limited upward mobility for working-class girls of the time—from school to secretarial work. In reflecting on her experience, she highlights its gendered dimensions. I suppose girls weren’t encouraged to be academic then unless you were exceptionally bright… I think if I’ve had had time spent with me and

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encouragement when I was younger things might have been different, because I’m not thick or stupid you know, but anyway I went to a commercial college where all I did for two terms was shorthand and typing so it was very intensive and I passed my exams in those two terms so I started work, I was 17 in the December and I started work in the April

The welfare state by no means lifted everyone out of poverty and it was still a realty for many in the 1960s and 1970s (Coates and Silburn 1970; Townsend 1979). Ann, one of the youngest of the British mothers, was born in 1960. Her parents had been divorced when she was 10 years old. Her mother, a factory worker, struggled to bring up five children. Ann recalls the stigma attached to receiving free school meals (available, still, on a means-tested basis to poor children) and the way the school dealt with this: ‘you were sort of singled out, all the children with free school meals, “here are your coupons.” Whereas I think these days it’s done more [discreetly] people don’t know which children are on free school meals’. For Ann, higher education was never envisaged as a possibility: ‘we weren’t a university family’ was how she put it. Among the majority of the British women who did gain degrees, there were two common narratives: benefitting from the previous generation’s frustrated ambitions and, especially among the older cohorts who passed the 11+ and went on to grammar school, the idea of a ‘natural progression’ on to higher education. These two narratives were not mutually exclusive—often they both featured in accounts of educational experiences. The parents of this generation, growing up in the inter-war years and during the Second World War, had often lost out on education and encouraged their children to grasp the opportunities they had lacked (see, e.g., Devine 2004). Stories told by a generation who were denied education have become woven into their daughters’ narratives of educational success. Diane describes both her parents as being unable to achieve their potential and the encouragement she received from her mother who was ‘very aware of the value of education’ and therefore her ‘homework always came before chores’. Similarly Karen said of her father, ‘I think he was always very upset that he hadn’t finished his education because of the war, so I think I did have a great deal of support’. Janet had a

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rather different version of this narrative of benefitting from parents’ frustrated ambition. Although she describes her origins as working class, her mother, very unusually, had gone to university and trained as a teacher, but once married had fallen foul of the marriage bar, which, until after the war, had excluded married women from many professional occupations. In those days if you got married you had to give up your job, well professional job certainly. So she had to give up teaching to get married and I think she always resented that, so I think that’s where it all came from, her encouraging [sister] and I to be independent so we wouldn’t have to feel as though we were sacrificing ourselves because I think you know she absolutely loved teaching and it was a big decision for her, but that’s what people did then and it was accepted thing that you got married and you had to do what the social norms were.

In some cases, families made considerable sacrifices to ensure their daughters’ educational success. Susan was one of six children. She recalls being unable to join the Brownies because her parents could not afford the uniform and, like Ann, refers to the stigma of free school meals. Her four older siblings had all passed the 11+ and gone to grammar school, but by the time she was due to go to secondary school the 11+ was abolished. Her parents then paid for her to go to a fee-paying grammar school, despite the hardship this caused, but ‘there was never any question that I wouldn’t go there’. She reflects on her awareness of the cost but also not being ‘appreciative enough of the sacrifices people were having to make because I was going to that school’. Like many of those who went to grammar school, this meant entering a world where a university education became a possibility. Susan deploys the ‘natural progression’ narrative, but with a recognition of the lack of options available to girls who did not succeed. It never occurred to me not to go [to university], I didn’t even think about it…going to a grammar school gave you that – if you were clever enough you went to university, if you weren’t, well you could perhaps be a nurse or work in a bank. Those were the only options.

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Janet, who describes herself as having been without specific career ambitions, spoke of her transition from school to university in very similar terms: I went to a grammar school and it was kind of accepted that if you were of a certain education or whatever you did well in exams then you would move from one step to another step so I never really knew what I wanted to do at all apart from the fact that I knew I wanted to be able to be independent.

Not surprisingly those from more privileged backgrounds, Cherry and Michelle, describe a relatively unproblematic transition from school to university; it was simply followed from gaining good ‘A’ levels; if you didn’t, as Michelle put it, you were ‘left behind’. For others the path to higher education was not so smooth and predictable. Karen, despite being the best educated, did not initially do well: her ‘A’ levels were not good enough to gain access to university. She therefore worked for a few years before doing a degree as a mature student. Diane, too, went to university as a mature student after a number of false starts. One of only 4 in her primary school class who passed the 11+, she went to the local grammar school where she took ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels but did not attain high grades. After school she moved to London, sharing flats with friends and had ‘some really fun jobs like London Zoo and a sex shop in Kensington Market’. Later she tried to gain admission to university but her A level grades were too low. After marriage she tried an Open University degree, which went well at first but was disrupted by childcare and never completed. She finally succeeded in gaining a degree from her local university. She later tried to do an MA but again family problems disrupted it; ‘we had lots of problems with illness with my husband’s parents and in the end it was just too much of a problem and I thought I don’t really need to do this now, I was doing it for me because I wanted to do it…and it was a difficult choice to make in some ways’. Once again she sacrificed her own ambitions for the sake of her family. While some of the British women faced challenges in gaining an education, the Hong Kong women typically negotiated much greater obstacles. The mothers in our Hong Kong sample had on average less

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education their British women counterparts but, like them, were better educated than was usual for their contemporaries. Gaining an education for children was not easy. The Hong Kong education system was modelled on the British one with O and A level equivalents (HKCEE and HKAL), but was not free. Free compulsory education was not introduced until the 1970s—1971 for primary and 1978 for secondary schooling. Until then, poor families often gave priority to boys’ education, with girls generally having lower levels of schooling than boys (Mak 2009). In schools run by charitable organisations, fees were low and affordable to most, but there was the added pressure of finding money for uniforms and school textbooks (which were not provided free). The extent of poverty among those who did have some schooling was revealed by a social welfare report, which estimated that almost 70% of schoolchildren were undernourished and recommended a school meals service for the worst affected, which was rejected by the colonial administration (Goodstadt 2013b). This puts complaints about the stigma of free school meals in Britain into perspective. To add to the problems of educating children, many families were large; for example, Ellen was one of seven children, Elsie was one of eleven. Nonetheless, all had at least some education. Only four had entered higher education: Maria had a Bachelor’s degree, Felicity and Rosemary had MBAs and Ms Au had qualified in Chinese medicine. Most of the others had secondary education, but May had only primary education and two, Mimi and Ms Tsang, had dropped out part-way through primary school. Here, among both the educationally successful and the unsuccessful, the dominant narrative was one of struggle: either their families struggled to survive and to enable them to be educated or they themselves struggled against the odds. Given Mimi’s impoverished living conditions in her partitioned unit, it is not surprising that she did not fare well educationally. In addition, her mother died when she was five years old and, as the eldest of three children, she was expected help out: I was the one who sacrificed the most in the family…When I finished school every day I had to help out in the kitchen. I began helping out and cooking at age 7. As my father was getting older, the need for another

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breadwinner was stronger so I had to give up further study after primary 3, even though I had always been an achiever at school, as much as I can remember. I started earning money right after.

Even for families that were better off than Mimi’s, life was often hard and required the co-operation of the whole family to ensure survival and future prosperity. Girls and young unmarried women were expected to contribute their wages, labour or both to their families (Salaff 1995). Ms Lui’s parents were farmers in the New Territories who were ‘neither rich nor poor’ and her early childhood was a happy one, with the freedom to roam about outdoors. The absence of her father overseas, however, meant she had to leave full-time education after primary school and go to work in a garment factory. She managed to complete her secondary education at night school. Whether or not they worked outside the home, it was normal for daughters of Hong Kong families to take on domestic responsibilities, and most of the women we interviewed mentioned this. Often the eldest would act as a second mother to younger siblings. Ellen was from a better off family than Mimi, but as the eldest of seven children had to pull her weight in making the family enterprise function, as well as studying hard at her school work. She told us ‘my mother expected me to take care of the housework as well as the younger brothers and sisters … I also needed to work in the shanzhai gongchang [pirated goods factory] that my family ran’. Despite these responsibilities, and claiming not to be very able academically, Ellen managed to complete five years of secondary schooling. Rosemary’s family also ran a small businesses, a dai pai dong (cooked food stall), which celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2019. She recalls how hard her mother had worked: ‘My mother used to wake up at 4 or 5am every day for the preparation. I remember how my mother had to carry pots of hot water across the street to open up the mobile tea shop every day. It was a dangerous thing to do’. Her mother also brought up eight children, four sons and four daughters. The dai pai dong involved the whole family: ‘All of my brothers and sisters have helped with the running of the business and it supported the living of my whole family’. Indeed, it enabled the family to pay for Rosemary to receive part of her

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schooling abroad, which gave her the qualifications to go on to undertake a degree at Hong Kong Open University. As Alan and Josephine Smart point out, small enterprises such as these, originating as part of Hong Kong’s informal economy, ‘offered paths to survival and even upward mobility for the poor and new arrivals’ (2013: 73), which has been the case for Rosemary’s family. Such opportunities no longer exist in Hong Kong. There are still dai pai dongs but, like that of Rosemary’s family, they have been tidied away into indoor cooked food markets and no longer so readily provide a way of making a living for those with almost nothing to their name. Not all had the support of their parents to continue in education, though there was usually someone in the family who encouraged them. With the emphasis on daughters helping out in the home or in small family businesses, education was not always a priority. Mei-Li finished secondary education despite her mother’s disapproval. She described her mother as ‘feudal’ in only encouraging her brothers’ schooling. Elsie studied at school until the third form and then transferred to evening class for her HKCEE: ‘the school I used to study at did not offer education beyond form 3, so I needed to look for another school and my parents did not help me at all’. She did not do well in her exams because she had to work in the family business and found studying tiring. Her parents owned a chalou, a traditional teahouse serving morning and afternoon tea and dim sum. She said: ‘My parents wanted me to work for them instead of studying or working for other people’. It was her elder sister who encouraged her to find a factory job and then clerical work and establish some independence. Felicity was one of the luckier ones, though she said her parents largely ignored her and that she did more than her share of housework ‘to get their attention’. Her brother supported her to go to university in Australia. The struggle narrative contrasts strongly with the ‘new opportunities’ and ‘natural progression’ narratives of the British women. Also present in many of the British women’s narratives is the trope of the ‘happy childhood,’ which is unsurprisingly rare in the Hong Kong accounts. The British women often described secure and carefree childhoods: ‘my childhood was lovely I enjoyed my childhood’ (Janet). Even if there was little money to go round, childhood could be depicted as ‘poor but happy’, as

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it was in Ann’s and Barbara’s accounts. More privileged women could also look back on positive memories; Cherry had ‘really enjoyed’ her early childhood, moving to different countries when her father was posted overseas. Not all paint such a rosy picture and some childhoods were affected by personal misfortunes or family tensions. Judith and Patricia both complained of strict, overbearing fathers; Frances’s childhood was clouded by her mother’s long-term mental illness and Michelle’s father had suffered a nervous breakdown when she was a small child. Two suffered the death of a parent when they were ten or eleven years old, Barbara, her father and Susan her mother, which disrupted their previously happy lives. In general, though, the British women did not experience the hardships described by their Hong Kong contemporaries. Despite the emphasis on struggle in the Hong Kong women’s narratives, they expressed no resentment against the colonial government; they did not hold it responsible for the conditions that made life so hard. The past neglect of the local population has either been forgotten or was simply not seen as contributing to the hardships they faced as children or relevant to the stories they told us. Possibly, after Japanese occupation or escape from China, the colonial administration seemed relatively benign. It may also be that the upward mobility they achieved, though family businesses and the existence of moderately affordable education, has coloured their view of the past. It also enabled them to construct a positive narrative of self, of having the courage and tenacity to succeed against the odds. A further factor is that the Hong Kong SAR government is no better than the past colonial administration, while the Beijing government is increasingly undermining the autonomy Hong Kong is supposed to enjoy as a Special Administrative Region.

Protest and Change: 1960s and 1970s In the 1960s and 1970s, some of the mothers were still children, others were in their teens or early adulthood. This era is often remembered in the UK in terms of the ‘swinging 60s’ and the ‘sexual revolution’— though the 60s did not swing for all, as we have illustrated in Ann’s account of her childhood and there was less a revolution in sexuality than

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a culmination of gradual change. There were, however, some legal and social changes in the late 1960s and early 1970s that affected gendered and sexual lives, such as the liberalisation of divorce and censorship, the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality, the availability of oral contraception and the beginnings of equal pay and equal opportunities legislation. This was an era of counter-cultural movements, women’s liberation, gay liberation and new left activism. Those who went to university in the 1970s recalled the influence of feminism, left-wing politics, ‘the pill’ and the hippy movement on their lives—and certainly these generally liberalising trends affected how they conducted their sexual and romantic relationships (see Chapter 6). The 1960s and early 1970s were still periods of full employment making those who entered university at that time relatively relaxed about managing the transition to work. Life in Hong Kong was very different. In the 1960s Hong Kong was still a very visibly poor society. In addition to the squatter settlements and resettlement blocks, many families lived on small boats—sampans—and there were still rickshaws in the streets, though mostly used by tourists and elderly locals. Women carried babies on their backs in colourful embroidered slings, often to work—and many returned to work within days of giving birth. Men and women toiled building new high-rise towers with no safety equipment. Workers had almost no legal rights or protections, worked long hours and had limited or no entitlements to sick pay, maternity leave or paid holidays. Some improvements were made in the working conditions of factory workers in 1959 and 1962; they gained an entitlement to twelve days of sick leave at half pay and the working hours of women were reduced to sixty per week, but they still had no rights to a rest day or paid maternity leave. Moreover the enforcement of these laws was lax and many occupations remained unregulated (Clayton 2007). It was, as we saw in the introduction, a labour dispute that sparked off the serious disturbances in Hong Kong in 1967. These events certainly shocked the British administration, particularly given the chaos of the Cultural Revolution in China at the time, with some border incursions by the Peoples Liberation Army and the fear that China might invade. These events are often seen as a watershed in Hong Kong history (Cheung 2009), leading to reforms from the late 1960s into the 1970s which provided somewhat more employment protection, social

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assistance, a new public housing initiative and health care, as well as free compulsory education. Many of these reforms were already under discussion before 1967, under pressure from successive governments in Britain and proposed by more progressive elements in the colonial bureaucracy (Clayton 2013; Goodstadt 2013b, 2018). From the post-war period onward, however, attempts to improve working and social conditions in Hong Kong were repeatedly stalled and delayed. The administration failed to act on recommendations of reports into social conditions it had itself commissioned and resisted demands for change coming from the government in London and from international bodies. It was repeatedly argued that Chinese people did not mind bad working and living conditions. A key factor here was the power of the business community. While the government refused to provide some of the incentives to businesses offered in other East Asian jurisdictions, such as subsidies and cheap land rents, the deal it made with the commercial sector was to keep taxes low and resist moves that might increase labour costs. The reforms introduced in the 1970s were, therefore, piecemeal and limited (Goodstadt 2013b, 2018), but were sufficient to persuade the populace that the government ‘had become relatively reasonable’ (Cheung 2009: 140). In any case, by the end of the disturbances, the extreme violent tactics adopted by the leftists had alienated most of the population and led them to side with the colonial administration. One of the reforms of this era was significant in terms of gender relations: the abolition of polygyny. There had been a campaign for marriage law reform for some decades, spearheaded by the Hong Kong Council for Women, which had been founded in 1947 by elite expatriate and educated Chinese women (Lim 2015). Replicating the resistance to abolishing the mui tsai system, the colonial administration defended the retention of polygyny as ‘respecting Chinese tradition’ even though the nationalist government in China had attempted to abolish it and the PRC had succeeded in doing so through the 1950 Marriage Act. It was, of course, only elite Chinese men who could afford secondary wives and concubines, so this was another case of collusion between the

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colonial administration and local elites. Legally sanctioned polygyny persisted longer in Hong Kong than in any other Chinese majority society and was finally abolished in 1970 (Lee 2003; Lim 2015).

From the 1980s Onwards The daughters in our study were born in the late 1980s and early 1990s when further global changes were afoot with the rise of neoliberalism and, in Hong Kong, the impending return of the colony to China. It could be said that Hong Kong was always already neoliberal given its lack of welfare and the emphasis on individuals and families being responsible for their own well-being, In the UK, the breakdown of the so-called postwar consensus, which had sustained commitment to the welfare state, is usually dated to the period of Margaret Thatcher’s premiership (1979– 1990) and carried through to subsequent Conservative and New Labour administrations. The 1980s saw tax cuts for the rich, large-scale privatisation of state controlled utilities, the sale of council (public) housing, attacks on the trade unions and efforts to cut expenditure on welfare. At the same time, from the 1980s onwards, the labour market was undergoing restructuring, affecting both class and gender relations (Irwin 2005). More women were entering the labour market; by the 1980s, most married British women were employed and their earnings were becoming crucial for family finances. Secure, well-paid and skilled manual jobs of the kind monopolised by men were in decline, undermining the ‘family wage’ and the privileges previously enjoyed by white working-class men (Williams and Neely 2018). Partly this was a result of political decisions such as the closure of the mines in the 1980s and the privatisation of sectors of the economy, partly it was a result of technological changes rendering old skills redundant and finally because of outsourcing of industrial production to parts of the world where labour was cheaper—and less unionised. Britain was becoming a ‘post-industrial’ society. The world, however, is not post-industrial. There is still a demand for the manufactured goods previously produced in Britain and other countries in the Global North; industry has moved elsewhere—and one key site of industry today is China. China’s ‘opening up’ and economic

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reform post-1979 led initially to the creation of Special Economic Zones (SEZs), in which Foreign Direct Investment was encouraged through preferential business conditions and the availability of a pool of cheap labour provided by migrants from the rural hinterland. This opening up to foreign capital and companies was then broadened out to many other coastal sites and eventually inland areas as China’s modernisation project gathered momentum. Now much of the world’s industrial output comes from China. Its exports, particularly in light industries, include highprofile global brands, such as Apple’s iPhones, which are manufactured in China by the Taiwanese company, Foxconn, under a labour regime whose conditions of work would not be tolerated anywhere in Europe (see e.g. Pun and Chen 2012). The first SEZ was set up in 1980 and was on Hong Kong’s doorstep, in Shenzhen, just across the border with China. Shenzhen has expanded from a fishing village to a mega-city of over twelve million registered inhabitants and an actual population, including unregistered migrants, of about 20 million and is part of the much larger megalopolis of the Pearl River Delta, which has developed over recent decades. The availability of much cheaper labour and facilities just across the border led to most of Hong Kong’s factories relocating there. In addition to the business opportunities, this created another, gendered, set of opportunities—for Hong Kong men working in China or travelling on business there to keep a ‘second wife’ (bao ernai ) across the border (see Ho 2014; Xiao 2011; Ho et al. 2018). This is a well-known source of anxiety for many Hong Kong wives. It was mentioned by a number of our participants and had directly affected two of them—Mimi and May. The opportunities, both economic and erotic, that China’s opening up created for some have been matched with a decline in opportunities for others in hastening the end of Hong Kong’s industrial era, with the consequent loss of many working-class jobs, as was happening in the UK. Between 1991 and 2001, employment in manufacturing fell dramatically, among skilled and semi-skilled workers by 19.3% and among ‘plant and machine operators’ by 34.8%, while the labour force as a whole was growing. The growth was in work in services, from the humble, such as shop workers, to managers and professionals, whose numbers increased substantially (Chiu and Lui 2009: 83). Hong Kong’s economy

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had shifted to one based on finance and other services. Financial and banking institutions had long been a central aspect of Hong Kong’s economy, dating back to its history as an entrepôt; for example, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) was established in 1865 and incorporated in 1866 to facilitate the China trade—and is now a global brand, though no longer headquartered in Hong Kong but in the UK. Hong Kong was already becoming a major global financial centre by the 1980s, and its importance as such grew with China’s opening up. The resultant restructuring of the labour market contributed to the widening gulf between rich and poor even as Hong Kong’s overall wealth continued to grow (Chiu and Lui 2009). Since one of the growth areas was investment in real estate accompanying the global commodification and financialization of housing (Madden and Marcuse 2016), it also contributed to putting a decent place to live beyond the reach of those unable to secure the still scarce public housing. Alongside this economic transformation, there were other major changes in Hong Kong society, politics and culture. One of these was the emergence of a distinctive Hong Kong identity: the ‘Hongkonger’, which commentators generally date to the1980s (Carroll 2007; Tsang 2004). In part this was the result of a settled population, rather than the transients and refugees of the past, and a young adult generation who had grown up in Hong Kong. Although, as Carroll (2007) points out, some settled local inhabitants had distinguished themselves from mainland Chinese since the late nineteenth century, now this sense of distinctiveness was beginning to characterise much of the population. This development is also attributable to Hong Kong’s increasing prosperity compared with the Mainland at the time and the ‘efforts of the Colonial government to foster a sense of identity’ and, most of all, in the early 1980s, ‘the realization that Hong Kong would revert to Chinese sovereignty in 1997’ (Carroll 2007: 168), which was formalised in the Sino-British Joint declaration of 1984, ratified in 1985. It is understandable that China would want Hong Kong returned: it symbolically marked the beginning of the end of ‘a century of humiliation’. Hong Kong people had no choice in the matter—they were simply handed from one form of colonial subjection to another. The colonial administration’s belated attempts to introduce greater democracy raised objections from China and were abandoned. Since the handover, Hong

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Kong’s population has been divided on the issue of the relationship with China, with some defiantly asserting their Hong Kong identity, others accepting or even embracing their Chineseness. Most of those who participated in a study in the early 2000s were somewhere in between, defining themselves as Chinese but Hong Kongese or Honkongese but also Chinese (Matthews et al. 2008). In the last few years, and especially since Xi Jinping became president of China, there has been increasing disquiet over Beijing’s growing interference in Hong Kong affairs, undermining the freedoms it was supposed to enjoy under ‘one country two systems’. This helped fuel the major pro-democracy protests in 2014 and 2019, which further strengthened the Hong Kong identity. According to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Programme of the University of Hong Kong in June 2019, 75% of those aged 18–29 identified exclusively as ‘Hongkongers’ (rather than Chinese or hybrid Hong Kong/Chinese). Among the population as a whole, over half did so (POP 2019). Hongkongers’ sense of distinctiveness from ‘mainlanders’ has acquired new significance since the handover. It is manifested not only in the sphere of politics, with resistance to Beijing’s rule most evident in the 2014 and 2019 protests, but also in everyday complaints about mainlanders. Increasing numbers from across the border visit as tourists and newly rich Chinese have bought property in Hong Kong and are seen as exacerbating housing problems. There have also been moral panics about pregnant mainland women coming to Hong Kong to give birth; they have been depicted as locusts consuming Hong Kong’s limited resources. It has been argued that mainlanders, rather than being seen as fellow Chinese, have become racialised as ‘other’ and inferior (Lowe and Tsang 2017). While many of those campaigning for democracy oppose this racialisation, not all do there is no doubt that anti-mainlander feeling has increased in the context of the 2019–2020 protests—not helped the coronavirus outbreak in China in early 2020, which has intensified the hostility to those from the mainland who are now seen as carriers of disease. One particular feature of the antipathy to mainlanders is that they are seen as less civilised, In part this reflects changes in Hong Kong society and culture; over the last half-century. As Hong Kong evolved into

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a much richer society, it has undergone, in Elias’ terms, ‘a civilizing process’ (Elias 1994). In the western context, Elias argues, the concept of civilisation ‘sums up everything in which Western society of the last two or three centuries believes itself to be superior to earlier societies or “more primitive” contemporary ones’ (1994: 3), and which also served to justify colonialism. Western societies do not, of course, have a monopoly on defining civilisation; China, in particular, has recently developed its own conceptualisation of a ‘socialist spiritual civilization’ (see Ho et al. 2018). This has not prevented Hongkongers from regarding their neighbours across the border as lacking the manners that define civilised and civil conduct. It is not uncommon to find reports in the Hong Kong media, or on social media, about mainlanders’ rudeness and lack of decorum, from the loudness of their speech to allowing their children to urinate in the streets, spitting in public and not knowing how to use a western-style toilet bowl.2 An important element in the civilising process, for Elias, is a transformation in manners, especially in the management of bodily functions, their ‘isolation from public life’. This is partly a result of the development of technologies that facilitate this development (e.g. advances in plumbing) but it also reflects ‘the advance in the frontiers of shame and the threshold of repugnance’ (Elias 1994: 114). Spitting is a pertinent example, and one that Elias discusses as having been common in European societies until a few centuries ago but is now considered disgusting and something that, in recent times, ‘many Europeans find particularly unpleasant when travelling in the East’ (1994: 128). Loud throat-clearing and spitting was once a ubiquitous feature of Hong Kong street life. In his memoir of childhood in Hong Kong in the 1950s, Martin Booth (2005) recalls being particularly fascinated by this phenomenon as a small boy. Most Europeans, like the travellers mentioned by Elias, found it objectionable and one of many practices that justified racist attitudes to the Chinese population. It was still common in the 1960s and early 1970s but has now almost disappeared among Hong Kong people, but 2 For

a mainstream media example see: https://www.scmp.com/comment/article/1499786/ protect-hong-kong-tourism-stigma-bad-manners. For a debate on social media see: http://www. city-data.com/forum/asia/2877387-chinese-mainlanders-manners.html. Both accessed 5 March 2019.

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not among the mainland Chinese. Thus the ‘threshold of repugnance’, here and in relation to other bodily functions, has advanced among Hong Kongers such that they can now express the same disgust at mainlanders’ behaviour that Europeans had previously expressed towards them. There are other ways, too, that Hong Kong manners have changed in the direction of more orderly behaviour, such as the institutionalisation of queuing, so that it might be possible to see a parallel in the formalisation of manners and the formalisation of the physical environment that Smart and Smart (2013) see in the clearing of squatter settlements and the decline in open-air markets and street trading.3 While Hong Kong people come to terms with being part of China and their uneasy relationship with both the Beijing government and mainland incomers, they continue to grapple with the bread and butter issues of living in a rich society marked by growing inequality and insecurity. Even those who are relatively well off cannot always guarantee their long-term security, particularly in the context of recurrent economic crises. The lack of welfare and pension provision, and generally inadequate occupational pensions, leads many middle-class Hong Kong people to invest in the stock market, which can make them vulnerable to the vagaries of the market. Mei-Li’s experience is illustrative. Her husband had been successful in business and they owned a few properties, but were hit hard by the Asian Financial Crisis in the 1990s and by subsequent economic shocks. They lost much of what they had accumulated, including the luxury apartment in which they had lived, and had to move to more modest accommodation in Fo Tan, in the New Territories, where housing is less expensive than in more central districts. Nonetheless, Mei-Li is proud of how she coped with this setback. She opened a laundry shop in order to earn money to support the family and contributed to restoring their financial security, if at a lower level than before.

3 It

is worth noting, however, that the formalisation of manners is not always a linear, one-way process and that in some spheres of life there are trends towards the informalisation of manners (Wouters 2006, 2007), especially in relations between men and women and in their romantic and sexual conduct (see Chapter 5).

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Twenty-First Century Lives In both the UK and Hong Kong, life has become more difficult for many as a result of economic crises, political uncertainty, precarious employment and fewer predictable opportunities for young people. Changing conditions, locally and globally, create a new set of challenges for the daughters of the women whose lives we have discussed in this chapter. Where their mothers were either upwardly mobile or maintained middleclass status, it is not so certain that their daughters will be successful. Even a good degree does not guarantee career success. In the UK, we have witnessed increasing precarity of employment, the erosion of welfare benefits, cuts to council services and a rise in homelessness. Food banks and people living on the streets have become commonplace. Even the professional classes cannot guarantee a secure future given changes in the job market and the end of generous final salary pension schemes. Yet Britain’s welfare state, undermined though it has been, still offers greater protections than are available in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong SAR government has continued the many of the worst features of the colonial regime in its lack of provision for the poor. Pensions are a case in point. Elderly people, unless they have financial resources or their families can support them, are reliant on the means-tested ‘comprehensive social security’—and means testing includes taking the wider family’s income into account, which sometimes acts as a deterrent to claiming it. One of the saddest, and very common, sights in contemporary Hong Kong is the work very elderly people undertake to survive—pushing heavy trollies around the streets, whether to load and unload delivery trucks or, especially among old women, to collect piles of cardboard for resale. They can also earn a pittance by handing out advertising fliers to passers-by. That they are reduced to such measures in their later years reflects the lack of pension provision. The idea of a universal old-age pension had been floated and blocked five times between 1967 and 1995 (Goodstadt 2018). A Mandatory Provident Scheme was introduced in 2000, but it will be a few decades before anyone will benefit from it and it is flawed in many other respects, raising demands, again, for a universal retirement pension. In 2013, in a parallel with past practices, the government commissioned a report of the feasibility of such a scheme from the

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University of Hong Kong and then proceeded to dismiss it. The team was led by a much-respected academic expert on social policy, Professor Nelson Chow. Their report recommended a universal, non-meanstested benefit for all over 65 funded by the government and employer and employee contributions. It was put out to public consultation but in such biased terms that it was easy for the government to dismiss it as unaffordable and as unfair—on the rich, who would have to contribute more. As we were completing this book, in January 2019, a fresh scandal broke when Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, proposed to raise the age at which comprehensive social security allowance was paid to the elderly poor from 60 to 65. With remarkable insensitivity to the living conditions and harsh lives of those affected, and the toll it takes on their health, she asserted than since she could work beyond the age of 60 so could everyone else. At the same time, it was reported that for every dollar the Hong Kong government collects in tax (which is not its only source of revenue) it spent only 97 cents. The public outcry led to a partial climbdown by Lam, and the introduction of a supplementary payment to those social security claimants aged 60–64. The lack of a universal pension and the continued reliance on means-tested benefits alone will continue to disadvantage not only the very poor, especially those deterred from claiming, but also those struggling just above the level at which social security is paid. Housing is an issue in both Britain and Hong Kong. The shortage of affordable housing is exacerbated by the use of property as an investment by the wealthy, pushing up prices and helping to deny those less well-off a decent place to live. A further problem is the lack of public housing or, as it is known in the UK, social housing; in Hong Kong the public housing building programme slowed down after the turn of the millennium. Between 2000 and 2010 government spending on housing was cut by 57%, new public rental units completed fell by 71% and the price of private flats rose by 68% (Goodstadt 2013b: 47–48). In Britain, the legacy of the sale of council housing and lack of adequate alternatives has meant that many of the houses once available for rental by the less affluent have now been bought by the middle classes. The price of housing continues to rise except in depressed areas with few job opportunities. Even those

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young people, such as the daughters in our sample, who have a university education—and even if they secure good jobs—are being priced out of the housing market and may not be able to envisage buying a home, leaving them at the mercy of the private rental sector. Young Hong Kong women simply stay living with their parents, while their British contemporaries tend to rent-share with friends or boyfriends or they become ‘boomerang children’, returning to the parental home if they cannot survive. In both places, there are hidden slums, hidden homeless, as well as people living on the streets. In Hong Kong, the problems are particularly acute. At the time of the handover, it looked as though Hong Kong might be on the way to solving its housing problem with 52% of the population rehoused, but the cutbacks to the public housing programme were accompanied by a slow-down in building in the private sector. While old tenement blocks continue to be demolished—and their erstwhile tenants left to fend for themselves—they are largely being replaced by luxury developments well beyond the reach of ordinary people. Meanwhile much of the older private housing stock, into which many Hong Kong people bought during the later colonial era, was not built to last and is now rapidly deteriorating. The situation has been worsened by the subdivision of many of the already small apartments for rent, putting more strain on the worn wiring and plumbing in dilapidated buildings. These sub-divided units (SDUs), though illegal, are tolerated by the government, despite the fire risks and other problems they pose, because of the lack of any alternative affordable rentals. They are the only recourse for many Hong Kong people, including young people who move out of the parental home. It is estimated that 200,000 tenants are living in these new slums, 70% of whom are employed and most of the rest being their dependants (Goodstadt 2018: 99). At the ‘better’ end of this rental market SDUs have tiny private bathrooms and sometimes rudimentary cooking facilities. These would therefore be a little better than those Mimi lived in as a child. At the other end, they offer only a sleeping space, often not even partitioned by more than a curtain, with bathroom facilities shared by many residents. These are typically occupied by the elderly poor—the only homes they can afford.

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We draw attention to these conditions in Hong Kong to underline the continuing problem of extreme poverty, the lack of even basic safety nets and the ways in which the neglect of the needs of the population established in the colonial era has continued. We would hope that none of our participants end up in such dire circumstances, but in today’s world few can afford to be complacent about their future and their children’s future. Nonetheless, the Hong Kong women we interviewed were better off than many. Neither the British nor the Hong Kong samples are representative of their local populations, but the stories the women of the mothers’ generation told us about growing up in Britain and Hong Kong illustrate trends in social change in both locations. For many of these women, they are stories of success, of upward mobility, though achieved under very different conditions. We recognise that their stories are the result of processes of remembering and forgetting, of what they chose to tell us at the time and of their reconstructions of the past from the standpoint of the present (Jackson 2010). As narratives, they are also indicative of the way these women made sense of their lives. As such they form an essential backdrop to issues we discuss in the following chapters: the meaning of family; relationships between mothers and daughters; the negotiation of romantic and sexual relationships; and women’s understanding of life in the late modern world, including their anticipated futures.

4 What Makes a Family? Meanings and Practices

The families of our participants have been formed in times of change and are products of individual biographies located within the specific histories of Britain and Hong Kong. Changes in the structure, meaning and practices of family life since the mid-twentieth century have been observed in many parts of the world and have given rise to new approaches to the study of personal and domestic life. In both European and East Asian countries, attention has been drawn to demographic shifts such as late marriage, falling rates of marriage, rising divorce rates and low fertility (Castells 2010; Therborn 2004). These trends have also featured in analyses of late modernity and its consequences, including the much debated concepts of ‘de-traditionalization’ and ‘individualisation’ (Beck and Beck-Gernsheim 2002) and have been associated with such notions as a ‘transformation of intimacy’ (Giddens 1992) and a shift from ‘communities of need’ to individualised ‘elective affinities’ (Beck and Beck-Gernsheim 2002). These characterisations have, however, been contested (Jamieson 1999; Heaphy 2007; Smart 2007; Gross 2005) and their applicability beyond the western world has been questioned (Jamieson 2011; Jackson et al. 2013; Qi 2015). None of these critics is arguing that nothing has changed. British and American authors © The Author(s) 2020 S. Jackson and P. S. Y. Ho, Women Doing Intimacy, Palgrave Macmillan Studies in Family and Intimate Life, https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-28991-9_4

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recognise, and often emphasise, the increasing diversity of family life, while Asian writers attend to the particularities of change in specific national, regional and local contexts. What is under debate is how we should understand change, diversity and the ways in which family life remains meaningful under changing conditions (see Chapter 2). The idea of ‘the family’ has been in question for some time. In the UK, as early as the 1980s, it was argued that ‘the family’ was more of an ideological construct than a lived reality (Barret and McIntosh 1982). By the 1990s, sociologists were beginning to abandon the concept of ‘the family’, shifting away from thinking of the family as an institution. There were a number of reasons for this. In addition to failing to capture the diversity of family forms existing within and between societies and across time, the idea of ‘the family’ implies an undifferentiated unit, masking differences, divisions and inequalities within families. It also presupposes a static entity, underplaying changes within families across the life course and tends to conflate family and household, ignoring the range of kin and non-kin who can be counted as ‘family’ whether or not they are co-resident. These issues are all, of course, highly relevant to a project comparing family lives across cultures and encompassing two generations of women. Having said this, it is important to recognise that the idea of ‘the family’ still has a hold on the public imagination in many countries. Particular ideals of family life are deployed in political rhetoric and inform government policies. While many politicians in the western world have learnt to acknowledge the diversity of family life and to speak of families in the plural, this is not always so elsewhere. This issue might seem irrelevant in a Chinese society since Chinese languages lack articles and singular/plural forms, so that ‘the family’, ‘family and ‘families’ are indistinguishable, encompassed by a single term (jiating in Putonghua and gating in Cantonese). Yet the way the term is used can denote something similar to ‘the family’ as in the political ideology of the Chinese Communist Party, where (the) family is defined as (the) cell of society and the foundation of social stability (Sigley 2006), which is not so far away from older functionalist sociological conceptualisations. In Hong Kong policy, too, ‘the family’ is often referenced, for example, in the argument that providing too much welfare would undermine Asian family values and

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responsibilities (Goodstadt 2009, 2013a). Thus the political use of ‘the family’ has material consequences for citizens. What is also significant, for our purposes, is the symbolic and emotional resonance of the idea of ‘family’ (with or without the definite article). Personal life may have become more varied and less predictable in recent years, but the concept of ‘family’ remains meaningful for most individuals and a touchstone of everyday existence. This was certainly the case for our participants, in both Britain and Hong Kong. In this chapter, we will outline the varying forms of family life and associated practices our participants described to us and discuss what family meant to them. We briefly discuss changes in family life over time in our two research locations and sketch out the living arrangements of our participants’ immediate families and households before going on to consider their varied understandings of ‘family’. We discuss the ways in which families are valued as well as the bonds of obligation and affection that bind them together. In so doing we begin to bring out the differences and similarities between family life in Hong Kong and Britain and to relate these to local socio-economic conditions and cultural practices. This will serve to set the scene for analyses of more specific aspects of women’s family lives in subsequent chapters. First, however, we will discuss the conceptual frameworks that have influenced our research.

Conceptualising Family Life In avoiding a monolithic concept of ‘the family’ while acknowledging the continued importance of families in everyday life, the most productive approach developed over recent decades is the ‘family practices’ framework associated with the work of David Morgan (1996, 2011a, 2011b). Rather than treating ‘the family’ as an institution or a pre-given entity existing independently of its members, family is seen as something individuals ‘do’ in their daily lives through the everyday activities, rituals and habits that constitute family life. This idea has been widely applied and further elaborated in a variety of contexts (e.g., Donovan et al. 2001; Hockey et al. 2007; Nordqvist 2017) and been built upon through the concepts of ‘displaying family’ (Finch 2007) and ‘practices of intimacy’

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(Jamieson 2011). The former adds a new dimension to family practices, conceptualising display as ‘the process by which individuals, and groups of individuals, convey to each other and to relevant others that certain of their actions do constitute “doing family things” and thereby confirm that these relationships are “family” relationships’ (Finch 2007: 67, 73). The concept of ‘practices of intimacy’ extends the practice idea in another direction, taking it beyond an exclusive focus on family to consider how any personal relationships are sustained as close and special. Family practices include display and practices of intimacy, but not all family practices necessarily involve display or promote intimacy. Finch (2007) sees display as increasingly important as families have become more diverse and fluid and may not automatically be identifiable as such; they thus require display to confirm the familial characteristics of particular relationships. Display is an interactional process, which, to be effective, must be interpreted as conveying the meaning of family belonging. It therefore requires validation from an appropriate audience, both within relationships being defined as ‘family’ and, in some circumstances, from external audiences. Finch argues that it is not only less conventional families that need to display their connectedness. While many routine and taken for granted family practices do not give rise to display, she maintains that in an era where the quality of familial ties matters as much as mere membership of a household or kin group, ‘all relationships require an element of display to sustain them as family relationships’ (Finch 2007: 71, emphasis in original). She does acknowledge, however, that there are degrees of intensity in the need to display in different circumstances and over time. Like family practices, the concept of display had been deployed and modified by a number of researchers, sometimes critically (see, e.g., Dermott and Seymour 2011a; Jones and Hackett 2010; Seymour and Walsh 2013; Share et al. 2018). While the concepts of family practices and display are useful in the context of a comparative study, sensitising us to how family life is done and made to work in differing sociocultural settings, they do have limitations. In seeking to move away from ‘the family’ as an institution there is a danger of neglecting what continues to be institutionalised, the way family is defined by state and other agencies which therefore dictate, for a variety of purposes, who is deemed to be responsible for or dependant

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on whom. For example, Britain may now recognise a variety of family forms, but the welfare and health systems still define dependency and responsibility within limits. This is even more important in Hong Kong, where official definitions of family are both narrower, in that alternative family forms are less recognised, and broader in that ties beyond the conjugal and household unit have figured in policy decisions on support for the elderly, for example, in ‘the CSSA’s insistence on getting a contribution from family members’ (Goodstadt 2013a: 216).1 More generally, focusing on families as co-constituted can shift the attention away from inequalities in families, although Morgan (2011a) does take these into account. The emphasis on agency and interaction also plays down the broader material structural constraints on family life, which can profoundly affect practices and display. Moreover, differences of class, ethnicity and sexuality influence how relationships are seen by others and the extent to which displays of family are prompted by, and subject to, external surveillance (Heaphy 2011; Gabb 2011). As Heaphy comments, displaying family ‘is intimately linked to reproducing family as an institution and to powerful discursive frames and meaning systems through which relationships are constructed, given meaning, legitimated and “othered”’ (2011: 21, emphasis in original). We cannot, then, ignore the normative and material patterning of family life; to do so, as Heaphy notes, is to risk ‘being uncritically oriented’ towards the kinds of reflexivity proposed by Beck and Giddens (Heaphy 201l: 25), overplaying choice and freedom. In comparing Hong Kong and Britain, the material and normative shaping of family life will become apparent. In a different vein, Petra Nordqvist (2017) argues that an emphasis on doing family, on families as produced through everyday activities, while useful in many respects, ‘has functioned less well as a means of capturing more discursive and ideological dimensions of family life’, pointing out that people ‘deploy, even live, ideas and concepts of what makes a family’ (2017: 886). She prompts us to consider how families are ‘thought’ as well as done and how the thinking and doing of family are intimately interwoven; the activities through which families function in the day to day are, as Nordqvist says, entwined with ‘feelings, imaginations, dreams 1 CSSA—Comprehensive

Social Security Allowance.

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or claims’. The subjective aspects of family matter and these are as much emotional as cognitive (see also Gabb 2011). The meanings and practices of family life cannot, we would argue, easily be separated from each other. We should also note the ways in which the specific meanings deriving from and generated within any family’s practices are negotiated in the context of the discourses and ideologies circulating within localised cultural contexts. One of the most significant aspects the family ideologies is the extent to which heterosexuality remains normative. This may be far more obvious in Hong Kong, where there is no official recognition of same-sex relationships, than in Britain. The family practices framework easily accommodates same-sex families, recognising that many of those in same-sex relationships in both western and Asian contexts are engaged in constructing their relationships as family (Heaphy et al. 2013; Pai 2017). This, however, reveals the power of the normative or ideological and may constrain the ways in which same-sex couples display family in order to conform to norms of ‘proper’ family life—and can disqualify or marginalise those whose displays fall short of approved standards (Heaphy 2011; Gabb 2011; Nordqvist 2017). Although notions of practices and display take a broad view of what might constitute a family, they have been seen as heteronormative in that they still privilege family and thereby ignore those who eschew family life altogether or seek alternative modes of living with others that are not constructed as ‘family’ (Roseneil 2005; Gabb 2011; Heaphy 2011). In applying these concepts, we certainly do not take heterosexuality as given, but see it as fundamental to the ordering of gender and family, as well as impinging on the lives of those who seek to escape heteronormative constraints (see Jackson 2006, 2018; Jackson and Scott 2010). The families we encountered were doing heterosexuality as well as doing family. A few individuals were resisting heterosexual constraints, while some, in the accounts they gave us, were actively shoring up a sense of family as heterosexual (see Chapter 6). Heterosexual family relations are very central to this comparative study of Britain and Hong Kong. While we started by recruiting two generations of women as a proxy for investigating social change, the fact that they are members of families and that their family relationships were central to their lives cannot be

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ignored—though they did not all understand family in the same way. We did include extra-familial relationships in our inquiry and these appear in some of what follows, but sometimes these were drawn into a family frame by our participants, for example, through defining friends as family or evaluating boyfriends as potential husbands. One response to prioritising families over other close personal relationships is the idea of ‘practices of intimacy’, since these may or may not be family practices, however family is defined. It can also, we argue, potentially deal with thinking and feeling. It is congruent with and supplements a family practices approach rather than challenging it—and in this book we are largely concerned with practices of intimacy within families. Although we have discussed this concept in Chapter 1 and highlighted its applicability to cross-cultural research, it is worth reiterating the definition here in order to draw out some of the nuances of this approach. Practices of intimacy are those through which individuals ‘generate and sustain a subjective sense of closeness and being attuned and special to each other’ (Jamieson 2011: 1.2). This approach enables us to incorporate thinking and feeling as well as doing: thinking because it refers to a subjective sense of closeness, feeling, because it refers to being close to and attuned to each other. Jamieson, like Smart (2007), emphasises relationality, the self as embedded in social ties, but that this involves reflexive, meaning-making, social selves is implicit rather than explicit. We regard this as essential to understanding how individuals locate themselves within families and the wider societies of which they are a part. Here we would include emotional reflexivity (Holmes 2010), which is particularly important in family relationships where individuals’ orientation to and ties with others are imbued with emotion. Families may be co-constructed by reflexive, agentic individuals, but they are not free to make their families and live their family lives any way they choose. The practices framework should take into consideration the material and cultural contexts that help shape the everyday meanings and practices through which families are constituted. In discussing display, Brian Heaphy suggests drawing on the concept of scripting to think about ‘how displays are linked to family discourse at a cultural level’, how individuals bring particular cultural ideas about families to their relationships but also renegotiate them in intra-familial interaction

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(2011: 35). This interactionist approach derives from John Gagnon’s and William Simon’s work on sexuality and has been widely used in that field (Gagnon 2004; Gagnon and Simon 2001; Simon 1996; Plummer 2007; Jackson and Ho 2014b; Jackson and Scott 2010). It can also be usefully applied not only to displaying family but also to family practices more broadly and to practices of intimacy. This is not a mechanical approach whereby pre-given scripts are acted out, but involves a complex interplay between three levels of scripting: cultural, interpersonal and intrapsychic. Cultural scripts, or what Gagnon and Simon call ‘cultural scenarios’, refer to meanings that circulate within a society through, for example, media representations and political rhetoric as well as commonsense ideas. It is at this level that norms and ideologies come into play, where cultural traditions may continue to exert an influence. These do not directly determine how people live and understand their family lives but provide resources on which to draw in making sense of relationships and guiding conduct within them. The meanings deriving from cultural scripts are reinterpreted, renegotiated and modified through interpersonal scripting in everyday interaction within families and are thereby adapted to actual practices, through which further modification can occur. At an individual, intrapsychic, level they are further reinterpreted through reflexive conversations with the self in which each person makes sense of their relationships, the meanings of them and their feelings about them— which then feedback into intra-familial interaction. This conceptualisation helps in understanding how normative and ideological constructions of what families are and how they should be inform family life in a non-deterministic way, leaving room for agency and interaction without denying the wider discursive context. Applying this idea may help us to identify the different scripts deployed in British and Hong Kong contexts. Yet there is one further dimension of the social that should not be forgotten—the material socio-economic and political contexts within which scripting occurs. We need to consider how both material conditions and cultural conventions shape the living arrangements within which family practices occur, as well as the historical and political factors that have shaped family forms.

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Changing Family Forms and Practices Any assessment of change in family life must take account of the histories and configurations of kinship ties and domestic life in specific sociocultural contexts. For some time western scholars have recognised that there has never been a single family form in the west (Anderson 1980) and increasingly a degree of past diversity is being recognised in relation to Chinese families (see Koo and Wong 2009; Harrell and Santos 2017). Thus the assumption that families were once stable entities taking predictable forms may well be unfounded. There are, however, some significant differences between Chinese and British families. In Britain households based on nuclear families and monogamous marriage have long been the norm, though this does not necessarily mean that there were no other household members or that extended kin did not offer mutual support. Chinese families were, until the middle of the last century, ideally extended through patrilineal ties and could, especially among the wealthy, be polygynous, with men being permitted multiple wives or concubines. Moreover, though patrilineal inheritance has been a feature of British history, the sense of patrilineage was much stronger in Chinese society, indeed an organising principle of the social order, ensuring that families had ‘long-term continuity’ (Fei 1992: 85). Patrilineage was also associated with reverence for ancestors and deference to elders (filial piety). Thus individuals were embedded in ‘and defined by a net of family and kinship relations, representing merely a temporary point between ancestors and future decedents on the long rope of [the] descent line’ (Yan 2009: 280). This produced a sense of family as existing through time and engendered particular forms of family relationships, structured in terms of gender and generation in which younger members, especially women, had little scope for autonomy. In mainland China this form of family was disrupted after 1949, though not entirely eradicated. More recently, in the reform era, some of its features, especially gendered and generational hierarchy, have been re-valorised. While Hong Kong shared the same Chinese cultural background, its post-war history has differed. It was once assumed, following the logic of functionalist analysis (e.g., Goode 1963) that the decline of the patrilineal extended family was occurring as an inevitable consequence of

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the modernisation that began in the post-war period (see, e.g., Wong 1975); more recently, however, it has become clear that the matter is more complex. Patterns of kinship have changed, becoming less ordered by patrilineal connections, but obligations between generations have, as will become apparent, persisted. This has led some to question whether individualisation can occur in Hong Kong (Ng et al. 2009; Koo and Wong 2009). These issues are further complicated, especially in relation to gender, by Hong Kong’s past as a British colony. The colonial government’s policies resulted in the prolonged maintenance of patriarchal social institutions, such as the mui tsai (bondmaid) system and polygyny, in the name of ‘respecting the social customs and practices of Chinese society’ (Lee 2003: 4; see Chapter. 2). This cannot be seen as attributable solely to indigenous culture but, as Lee (2003) argues, was a result of the colonial government’s complicity with a narrow local elite seeking to preserve their privileges; the effect was to ossify patriarchal practices as immutable tradition. In both Hong Kong and the UK, patterns of family life have changed in recent decades but from different starting points, producing both similarities and dissimilarities. Among the similarities are those demographic trends often seen as consequences of modernity—high female labour force participation, later marriage, more divorce and low fertility. The total fertility rate has risen slightly in the UK in recent times, but at 1.8 in 2017 was still below population replacement level (World Bank, n.d.). Hong Kong, like other East Asian territories, has super low fertility, at 1.12 in 2017 (Census and Statistics Department, Hong Kong 2018). Not only is fertility very low, but the drop in birth rates has been extremely rapid, a result of the accelerated second demographic transition associated with compressed modernity (Ochiai 2014). The colonial government recorded a dramatic drop in crude birth rates after the 1950s from 36 live births per 1000 population in 1960 to 19.7 in 1971,2 when the total fertility rate was 3.41, dropping to 1.97 in 1981 (Census and Statistics Department, Hong Kong, 1972, 2005). These demographic trends are reflected in our sample. Many of the Hong Kong mothers had numerous siblings but most had limited their own children to two 2Total

fertility rate data are not available prior to 1971.

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or three, whereas there was little difference between generations in numbers of siblings in the British sample. Table 4.1 offers a snapshot of the mothers’ relationship status and household composition at the time of interview. In neither sample did our participants live in multi-generational households. Extended families, once common in Chinese societies, comprised only about 10% of Hong Kong households by the first decade of the twenty-first century (Koo and Wong 2009). In the UK only 0.3% of households are defined by the Office for National Statistics as ‘multi-family households’, including both related and unrelated families (ONS 2017). Living arrangements reflected the women’s relationship histories. In both our samples, household composition in some families had been affected by mothers’ divorce or separation and, in some cases, re-marriage or re-partnering. Eight of the older generation of Hong Kong women had lasting marriages compared with six of the British women. Two Hong Kong women were widows and two were divorced. While four British women had been divorced, two had subsequently remarried, one of whom was divorcing her second husband, and one was cohabiting. Two British women had never married, but one of them was currently in a long-term semicohabiting, ‘living apart together’ or LAT relationship. This is only a snapshot, however, and does not do credit to the complexity of some of the women’s personal ties and the biographies that had shaped them. The households existing at the time of interview included single women and couples with and without children, but notably all the Hong Kong mothers were still living with some of their children while only a minority of British mothers were doing so. In part, this reflects the ages of children; there were more school-age children among the Hong Kong mothers, but it also reflects different patterns of residence between Hong Kong and the UK, with adult children more likely live apart from their parents in the UK. In Hong Kong, the tendency for unmarried adult children to remain with their natal family is a consequence of both cultural norms and the astronomical costs of housing.

None

Young children only

5

Adult children only

4

2 2

Adult+ younger children

1

4 1

1 3

None

1

1

1

Adult children only

Adult+ younger children

co-resident with husbands

Young children only

a Records numbers of households with children not numbers of children in households b Some single mothers have live-out boyfriends c The married category refers to women who have been married only once and are still

Single mothersb Never married Divorced/separated Widowed In couple relationships MarriedC Remarried after divorce Cohabiting after divorce Semi-cohabiting/LAT

Relationship status

British families

Presence of children in mothers’ householda

Hong Kong families

Table 4.1 Relationship status of mothers and dependant/adult children in family home at the time of interview (numbers of households in each category)

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The Mothers’ Children Children are often regarded as making a family. In English the phrases ‘having a family’ or ‘starting a family’ mean to have children. As Julie, one of the young British women put it ‘I don’t think me and my husband, I wouldn’t say we’re a family, call us a couple…for me a family has to include children’. Children, particularly sons, have historically been vital in Chinese families in the past because of the importance of continuing the lineage and having offspring to fulfil ritual obligations to ancestors in a lineage system where genealogical ties were privileged over conjugal ones (Fei 1992). In Confucianism, the most unfilial of acts is to have no children (see, e.g., Evans 2008). Sons were also traditionally important to women in terms of enhancing their status within the family. Having a son who would grow up and marry would enable a woman to develop what Wolf (1972) calls a ‘uterine family’, in which she became a motherin-law with her own power base ruling over daughters-in-law (see also Harrell and Santos 2017). This situation is an aspect of what Kandiyoti (1988) called the patriarchal bargain, whereby powerless daughters-inlaw in Asian patrilineal families could, by bearing sons, hope to improve their position. The decline in the importance of lineage, as well as the rising costs of rearing and educating children, contributed to the dramatic fall in birth rates in Hong Kong since the 1960s. The effect of this over a generation is exemplified by Elsie, who had 10 siblings but only two children. Having between one and three children was the norm in both Hong Kong and British families, though one Hong Kong mother, Ms Tsang, had four. The conditions in which the mothers had and brought up their children, however, could be very different in the two locations. All the mother’s generation in Hong Kong had their children within marriage, which was not the case in the British sample where two, Janet and Barbara, had never married while another, Karen, had not married until two years after the birth of her daughter. In this respect they might be considered fairly representative of their local contexts; among Hong Kong women born in the 1950s and 1960s fewer than 4% of births took place outside marriage (Gietel-Baten and Verropoulou 2018), whereas in the UK the percentage rose during the 1980s, when the daughters were

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born, from 11.8 to 27%. Not all the women had remained with the same partner since they bore their first child. Relationship breakdown and the formation of new relationships can mean that women are rearing children alone, or with partners who are not biologically related to their children. Two of the British women, Janet and Frances, each had one daughter whom they had raised as single mothers since they were small (a few months old in Janet’s case and 4 years old in Frances’ case) and one, Karen had established a long-term cohabiting relationship after her divorce. Two mothers, one from the UK (Barbara) and one from Hong Kong (Mimi), had children with different fathers. Mimi has been married and divorced twice. She had one daughter by her first husband, who was brought up by her second husband as his own. Barbara illustrates the varied informal patterns existing in the UK, which might, at first sight, be taken as indicative of the fluidity and fragility of family ties. She has never married, has two daughters by different men and at the time of interview was in a ‘living apart together’ relationship with the father of her younger daughter. She has, however, remained in this same relationship for over 30 years and explained the decision to set up a separate residence in terms of being close to the college her daughters had attended—some distance from the rural family home—rather than as a separation from her partner. This remains a family in which ties are close and mutual support is important. In her interview, Barbara made it very clear how committed she was to her long-term partner and how important the relationships was to her (see Chapter 5), Laura, Barbara’s daughter, described her childhood as ‘normal’ and happy and both mother and daughter testified to the closeness of their family relationships. Although producing children is often seen as making a family, is not always unproblematic. The most dramatic case was Ms Tsang. She had several miscarriages by the time she was 26 when she and her husband adopted another woman’s daughter: ‘They already had a few daughters and they didn’t want this one… I just had to give a li-shi [lucky money/red packet] and then it was done’. She subsequently managed to carry a pregnancy to term, giving birth to another daughter who was born with a cleft palate. ‘I was so disappointed. I cried …I really didn’t want her. I put her in a travelling bag and dumped her on the back

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stair’. At the urging of her cousin, she kept the child, but received negative comments and abuse from neighbours who said that she must have done dreadful things in a past life to have such a daughter. She then had another daughter, Sally, born without any disability,3 and a son who has Asperger’s syndrome. Her life was difficult enough but then her husband died of cancer when she was 31, leaving her with four children, two of whom had health problems. This story reveals some of the ways in which older meanings and practices of family persisted in Hong Kong and continued to affect some of the mothers’ generation into adulthood. There is evidence here of son preference, in the willingness of a mother to hand over a surplus daughter to another woman though an informal arrangement,4 and of the stigma associated with disability—a stigma not only affecting the individual concerned, but also resulting in a loss of face for her family. We have one instance of children born with disabilities in our British sample, but there was no indication in the interview of it affecting the social standing of the family. There was also more support available. Nancy had three daughters, two of whom shared a congenital disability, and expressed her gratitude to the NHS, which had provided the treatment enabling her daughters to live normal lives: ‘I bow down to the National Health Service every night before I go to bed, I really, we’re so lucky…but I mean the difference that’s made to both Zoe and [other daughter]’. This situation, however, did have some consequences for mother-daughter relationships (see Chapter 5).

Meanings and Practices of Families: Within and Between Households The types of households in which mothers reared their children and in which they lived at the time of interview varied, though none included more than two generations. It should be remembered, however, that

3 Sally 4The

developed a benign brain tumour in early adulthood which has affected her muscles. adoption was later legally formalised.

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family and household are not coterminous and that family relationships extend beyond the borders of households. In both Hong Kong and Britain family ties and obligations beyond nuclear family households have been documented (e.g., Finch 1989; Koo and Wong 2009), but these have been far more important, both materially and culturally, in Hong Kong. This is not just a matter of the persistence of differing traditions but is also a product of local social, economic and political conditions—particularly welfare systems and patterns of industrial and post-industrial development—which have impacted on the lives of our research participants. When Elsie’s husband died a few years prior to the interview, she moved with her son and daughter to the district where most of her ten siblings lived, and into the same public housing block as her mother. She subsequently developed breast cancer. Her family have rallied round to support her and the children, and are very much part of their daily lives. Linda, Elsie’s daughter, says that despite the family’s limited means. ‘I would never consider myself poor as my relatives would always offer help [if needed]’. Others, too, told of the continued importance of extended family ties. The Dai Pai Dong set up by Rosemary’s parents (see Chapter 3), which has been in existence for over 60 years—now in an indoor cooked food market—continues to be the focal point for the family, where Rosemary, her siblings and their children meet up regularly. In Hong Kong, grandparents and other relatives often continue to provide care and support—many of the daughters cited aunts and grandmothers as very significant in their upbringing. Suzie’s parents, for example, left her and her siblings in the care of grandparents while they worked in their family herbal medicine business, which necessitated frequent travel to the mainland. In general, wider kin played an important role in family life among our Hong Kong participants. Other research has found that the great majority of Hong Kong people maintain contact with their extended families, spend major festivals with their wider kin, visit frequently and attend regular family gatherings (Koo and Wong 2009). This is helped by geographical proximity. Hong Kong is a small place and even when people move away from their families, unless it is to go overseas, they are within easy travelling distance—one or two hours away at most. By contrast, geographical mobility has meant that

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the wider families of the British women were often dispersed. The extent of contact with kin was very much contingent on where they lived. Many of the daughters, therefore, had no regular contact with relatives beyond their immediate natal family. Whereas Janet’s paternal grandmother had lived with her family when she was a child and she had occasionally visited her much-loved maternal grandmother, who lived some distance away, her daughter, Zoë, had little contact with family other than her parents and siblings. As she told us, ‘the family’s very scattered out so I don’t see a lot of them’. Where the wider family lived close by, there was often a great deal of contact. Alexis and Pamela often saw relatives who lived near them, while Rachel regularly spent time with an aunt. Both Sarah and Pamela had been looked after by grandparents when they were young and their parents were at work. Both described close relationships with them. Pamela said: My grandmother’s quite important coz for the first four years [until her younger brother was born] my mum did go back to work so it was, well her mum, my grandma who would look after me on a day to day basis, take me to and from nursery school, so I have a very close relationship with her, and still do as a result of that. I spent a lot of time with her.

In addition to relationships with wider kin, there were instances in the British sample of families effectively extended by divorce or separation, indicating how the breaking up of a relationship can actually create new family bonds. After splitting up with her daughter’s father, Karen remained on good terms with him, as did her parents, and describes him as like a brother. Sarah, her daughter, recalled a happy childhood with two sets of parents—her mother and her partner and her father and his partner, with all of them being close. She said ‘as far back as I can remember my parents have always been good friends…I just was used to, from quite a young age, going from house to house and spending half a week with my mum and half a week with my dad’. Rachel and Olivia also grew up between households. Rachel’s mother, Janet, had never married and had split from her father when Rachel was a baby. She told us ‘I lived with mum half the time, my dad half the time. At my dad’s house there’s my step mother, my brother, my two sisters who are like my half-brother

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and step sisters’. Rachel, like Sarah, saw this as quite normal as many of her friends’ parents were divorced. She also seemed to view her complex family as a bonus. When asked whether she wished her parents had married and stayed together she said no: ‘I love my brother and my sisters. I wouldn’t want to not have them, so I wouldn’t change anything’. These cross-household living arrangements were not found among our Hong Kong daughters. Two of the mothers had divorced, Felicity and Mimi, Felicity’s daughter, Lily, did not appear to have much of a relationship with her father, since he had never been at home much, and claimed that the divorce had not affected her: ‘One night, my mother told me and my sister that she had divorced from daddy, and that was that’. She likened her father to a stranger and considered her close family to comprise just her mother and her sister. Mimi’s daughters did have relationships with their estranged fathers. Mimi described her first exhusband as being on good terms with her (and his) eldest daughter, whose wedding he had attended. Jacqueline’s relationship with her father, Mimi’s second husband, was less amicable. Although the relationship was rather strained, due to his affair with a mainland women and subsequent marriage to her, she did visit him from time to time. She described her father’s new wife and child as a separate family and referred to her halfbrother as her ‘father’s son’ rather than a brother. She thus drew a clear boundary between her family and her father’s, displaying not only who counted as family for her, but also who did not. Where a Hong Kong marriage is ended by death rather than divorce relationships with affinal kin are more likely to be maintained. Indeed traditionally a Chinese woman became a member of her husband’s family on marriage, even after his death, though her situation within it might be precarious unless she had a son. Ms Tsang was in many respects a traditional filial daughter-in-law. Although her husband had died 21 years before we interviewed her. Her daughter, Sally, said of her: I really admire my mother keeping a close relationship my father’s side of the family all these years even after my father passed away. None of them are living in Hong Kong – some in Macau and some in the Mainland. Somehow I feel that she is even closer to them than to her own side of the family.

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The varied forms of family among the British sample may explain why some defined family much more loosely than by close kin. Olivia represents the most extreme case, in that she described family life in terms of contingent relationships consistent with Beck and Beck-Gernsheim’s ‘elective affinities’: ‘family’s what you make of it, how many people you call your family it doesn’t mean anything about blood – and family’s also fluid. Family doesn’t mean forever’. A number, in both generations, included friends in their idea of family, including Olivia’s mother, Frances, Karen and her daughter Sarah, as well as Emily, who said ‘family means people that you’re close to, people that you love and your friends, your close friends, are as much your family really’. Some of the more conventionally married included friends in their definition of family such as Nancy—although, in this case, her daughter, Zoe, did not; instead, she included only her parent, sisters and her boyfriend, with whom she cohabited. In Hong Kong, it is much rarer to find friends being defined as family and none did so within our sample. Family here is defined in more exclusive terms, as a unit of parents and children at its core and extending to wider kin. Families in Hong Kong remain bounded by kinship and affinal ties. Another aspect of differing family life in Hong Kong and Britain is the relationship between parents and young adult children. All the Hong Kong daughters were living with their parents, though some had lived independently while studying abroad. Helen, for example, had lived with her girlfriend when both were studying in the UK: ‘We had a really great time living together in UK last year. I wanted to stay in UK for longer, the longer the better. I almost didn’t want to come back’. She was not finding it easy to adapt to being back in the heteronormative environment of the parental home and was looking forward to undertaking a PhD in the UK when she could legitimately leave again. The other young Hong Kong women seemed to take it for granted that they lived with their parents, as this is a typical pattern even when young people go to university (unless overseas) and start work; most will move out only when they marry. This may be a cultural norm, but it is also a necessity given that housing costs in Hong Kong are among the most unaffordable in the world. The British daughters generally left home to go to university and might return home during vacations while undergraduates, but

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once past that stage were expected to become independent of their parents and did not anticipate returning except in a crisis—the breakdown of a relationship or inability to find a job and support themselves financially. This was the case with Laura, for example, who had divorced her husband and left the armed forces, and was living temporarily with her mother, Barbara. In the UK the phenomenon of ‘boomerang children’, those who return to the parental home because they cannot sustain an independent household, is seen as a social problem, indicative of rising housing costs and lessening of economic opportunity for the young. Even though the number of young people aged 20 to 34 living in the parental home has increased in the last two decades, only 20% women in this age group were doing so in 2017 (ONS 2017). The vast majority still move out of the family home. Families in Hong Kong are frequently characterised by a strategic collective orientation in order to secure survival and advancement where there is limited public provision of services and a very limited social security safety net. The well-being of a family may require the absence of some members. Travelling to or working in mainland China is now a common practice in Hong Kong (Ho 2012). Ellen’s husband, Sasha’s father, works across the border in China. My husband works in an industry that is no longer growing in Hong Kong. The only way out is to go to work in mainland China. If I didn’t let him go, no one would be earning an income. Moreover he needs job satisfaction too. I know some people do not let their husbands work on the mainland to reduce the chance of him having an affair. But if he really listened to me and stayed in Hong Kong I do not think he would be happy either. Why be like that? Why deprive him of a career?

The concern about husbands’ fidelity while away is in part engendered by the widespread practice of bao ernai , keeping a second wife, among Hong Kong and Taiwanese men working in mainland China (Ho 2014; Shen 2008, 2014; Zhang 2011). Maria, whose husband was frequently away on business trips to the mainland, said that she sometimes worried about this as there were many similar cases among her friends, but she did not think her husband had cheated on her. She said, ‘he would have

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too much to lose. I would not stand for it and would leave him’. May and Mimi did have direct experience of husbands’ affairs with mainland women. May had made a considerable effort to save her marriage, but Mimi had divorced her husband on learning of his ernai in China (who he subsequently formally married). Felicity had experience of a husband having multiple affairs while away on business and she too was divorced as a result. A strategy aimed at advancing the family’s collective welfare can thus lead to its dissolution. Another variant of strategic family separation that features in the research literature on Hong Kong is the ‘astronaut family’, which usually involves a wife and children living abroad while the husband and father continue to work in Hong Kong flying back and forth for family reunion (Ho 2002; Tam 2003; Abelmann et al. 2014; Waters 2006, 2015). This strategy was common in the run-up to 1997 when there was much uncertainly about Hong Kong’s future and has continued since. We have one such case in our sample. The Au family, originally from mainland China, had pursued settlement and ultimately citizenship in New Zealand as a means of leaving China permanently. Both husband and wife had been civil servants and party members but, Ms Au told us, when her husband was posted to Hong Kong they seized the opportunity to emigrate: It was not yet 1997 but people had already gone crazy. We did it through professional migration, because my husband has a University degree in Beijing in International Trade. So he knows about finance and trading with the outside world and doing business. And the communist party sent him here. Immediately after we applied for immigration because there is an age limit, but with a university degree you can apply

The family settled in New Zealand and stayed for five years, which enabled them to gain citizenship. During this time Mr Au, while technically resident in New Zealand, continued to work in Hong Kong and flew back and forth between his workplace and family home. While in New Zealand, Ms Au gave birth to a son. This was, for her, another advantage of moving out of China: ‘the communist party would not allow you to give birth to another child’. When they moved back to

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Hong Kong, they retained their New Zealand citizenship but became Hong Kong residents, which does not require citizenship. They have no regrets about leaving mainland China and relinquishing their PRC citizenship and see Hong Kong as a better place ‘because of the British civilization that has been left to us… In Hong Kong you can protest, on the mainland you would be in handcuffs for even thinking about it’. While her husband had worked for the CPC all his life, deep inside, she told us, he resented Communist authoritarianism. One advantage of becoming an astronaut family, in Hong Kong as elsewhere in Asia, is that it enables children to benefit from an overseas education. Indeed, this is one of the motives for this family strategy reported in the literature on Hong Kong and other parts of Asia (Huang and Yeoh 2005, 2011; Waters 2006, 2015). It is also not unusual for children to be temporarily absent to pursue education abroad, as was the case for many in our sample. This, however, is all part of the family survival strategy—what has been called ‘instrumental familialism’ (Chan and Lee 1995; Lee 2003)—a strong sense of family solidarity aimed at promoting the material interests of the family as a whole. Thus there is no contradiction between solidarity and separation—the two are encompassed within an accepted script for safeguarding or advancing the fortunes of the family. Such strategies should not, however, be seen as purely instrumental as they also indicate an affective attachment to the idea of the family as a collective, despite the risks these practices entail. So families are not simply about survival or economic advancement; they are valued as both an idea of how life should be lived and for the actuality of the care and support (ideally) available within them. A collectivist orientation was not absent among the British women, with many stressing the centrality of family bonds, even where relationships were not always harmonious. As Zoe, a British daughter said: ‘my own family especially immediate family are just, they’re so important, um we’ve had our ups and downs certainly … but I do love them I really do’. As in Zoe’s case, British women talked of family ties in less strategic and more emotional terms than their Hong Kong counterparts. When asked what family meant to them, both the mothers and daughters often talked in terms of unconditional love. This is a common trope of family relationships in Britain and can be seen as part of the conventional scripting

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of family life. This is not to deny the reality of the emotional connection within families and was often expressed with considerable feeling: A family loves you unconditionally, I think, coz I think, sort of even being an adult, when your last parent dies I do think there is a bit of a feeling of, oh, you’re on your own now, even though you’ve been an independent person and making your own decisions for quite a long time, so yes, that’s what I think, family are the people that love you unconditionally. (Susan, UK mother) You can behave appallingly, you can do horrible, horrible things and your family are the people who, they probably will judge you for it a little bit, but they’ll still love you, it’s completely unconditional, you can do anything and your family will still try and do their best for you, they’re not, yeah, I suppose they’re the people who will support you regardless of what you choose to do. (Lucy, UK daughter)

The Hong Kong women also saw the support of family as unconditional in that they knew they could behave badly without losing their anchorage within it, but did not discuss this in terms of love. They did sometimes talk of love between mothers and daughters, but only one Hong Kong woman spoke of unconditional love. This was May, who framed it in terms of a Christian ethic of love and her decision to remain with her husband despite his affair with a mainland woman. She said she felt God expected her to ‘endure’ and that she should work at loving her husband unconditionally, whatever happened. British women were not exclusively concerned with love and also, sometimes, mentioned obligations. Michelle, Lucy’s Mother, in contrasting her natal family with her current situation said, ‘family was all about duties and responsibilities as well as about care and support [when she was a child], um, I suppose that’s still there, you do have responsibilities towards people who love you and who you love as well as hoping that they’ll give you support’. Clearly, obligations do continue to matter in Britain as in Hong Kong; parents’ and children’s emotional bonds carry with them a sense of responsibility for each other, which is central to the meaning of family and informs family practices. The difference is that

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duty and responsibility are more central to Hong Kong families or featured more prominently in the way the women chose to display their family to researchers.

Reciprocity, ‘Filial Piety’ and Obligation An obvious obligation of parents is to care for and rear their children and oversee their education, which involves a complex array of family practices. As we discuss in the next chapter, childrearing practices in the two locations differ in a number of ways. One aspect of this is that the Hong Kong mothers invested far more in their daughters’ education, materially and practically, than the British women. This does not reflect a lack of care on the part of the latter, but rather reflects differing material conditions of life and meanings of family. For Hong Kong families, educational investment is part of a deliberate family strategy for survival. Lying behind this investment is an expectation of reciprocity, a product of ideals of filial piety. As Evans puts it: ‘Filiality – the requirement that children fulfil expectations of material care and ritual respect of their parents – has long been considered a pillar of China’s cultural and social tradition’ (Evans 2008: 172). While the practices associated with filial piety are undergoing change in both mainland China and Hong Kong, it continues to be meaningful for families and is also promoted by both the Hong Kong SAR and PRC governments (Goodstadt 2013a; Qi 2015; Zhang 2016; Liu 2017). It is seen as central to Chinese tradition and its Confucian culture—and as antithetical to what is seen as ‘western welfarism’. For example, in 2006 the head of the SAR government’s Women’s Commission argued for strengthening this ‘traditional Chinese virtue’ in order to ‘reduce the pressure of increasing social welfare expenditure’ (quoted in Goodstadt 2009: 38). While government promotion of ‘family values’ has also been a feature of recent British history, the use of Confucian concepts of filiality gives the Hong Kong version of it a particular twist as an appeal to Chinese culture and a marker of a specifically Chinese negotiation of modernity (Goodstadt 2013a; Shae and Wong 2009; Tang and Lou 2009). While filial piety is advocated for political purposes, it is not merely an ideology imposed from above;

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it continues in many respects to inform the family practices of Hong Kong’s residents (see Koo and Wong 2009; Ng et al. 2009; Wong 2009). It is also necessary given the inadequate welfare system that it serves to justify. Although filial piety is a specifically Confucian value, ideals of caring for older generations and ethically informed family practices more generally have been reported in British research (e.g., Finch 1989; Morgan 2011a). Asian filial piety, however, is far more strongly normative, and this was reflected in our data. The young British women talked a great deal about their affection and admiration for their parents, at least as much as the Hong Kong daughters did, but they had a more limited understanding of their obligations as daughters. They anticipate that they may have to make arrangements for the care of their parents when they are elderly, but do not expect to provide care themselves—instead, like Laura, they were more likely to talk about finding suitable care home or other care arrangements for their parents. Laura’s mother, however, does not expect her daughter to provide for her. Bryony’s father often helps her out financially and jokes with her that he expects her to provide for ‘the best possible [care] home’ in his old age—but this, she insists, is ‘only a joke’. Bryony claims that she would be willing to help provide for her parents financially but that ‘there is no assumption that I will move near them or anything like that’. Where parents do hope for more than material support, their daughters may not be willing to provide it. This was emphatically underlined by Julie, who had considered the possibility of moving near her parents when they were older, but not to do the work of caring. I have told them that, which didn’t go down too well, that if they are ill or elderly, that I will make sure they’re cared for but I will not be the one doing the caring, you know … I think mum was a bit shocked when I said that …but I don’t think that that necessarily is my responsibility, you know, I’ll make sure they’re cared for, but I don’t think I should be expected to do it.

Other parents did not want their children to be responsible for them in old age at all. Emily, for example, says that her parents ‘plan to look after

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themselves’ financially and do not ‘want to put any pressure’ on their children to care for them. Things are different in Hong Kong. Linda, for example, says that since her father’s death ‘I started to think that I should take up the “mother” role in taking care of the family (her mother and brother) to let them have an easier life’. She wants to continue living in the close extended family in which she grew up and to care for her mother: ‘I need to live with my mother after I am married. If my boyfriend cannot accept it, I would not marry him’. This is unusual even in Hong Kong, where couples expect to set up their own households on marriage. There is, nonetheless, still an expectation that children will provide and often pride in their ability to do so, as was the case with Ellen: ‘Sasha [her daughter] always says that she and her husband will support us and that she would buy us an apartment. I believe that she can do it. We should not underestimate our children’. The most striking evidence of the difference between British and Hong Kong daughters revealed by our data is the ‘monthly contribution’. This term is widely understood in Hong Kong and refers to the regular financial payment that adult children are expected, and expect, to make to their parents’ household, whether or not they live with them and as soon as they are able. The young British women did not see it as a responsibility to contribute to their parents’ household—especially when they do not live with them, though those few who live or have lived with their parents since they began earning may make a small contribution to their own keep. Most of the daughters in our Hong Kong sample, however, were making substantial regular payments to their parents (between a third and half their income) and expected to continue to do so throughout their parents’ lifetime. This is in keeping with others’ findings: nearly 71.49% of Koo and Wong’s respondents agreed that ‘children have the responsibility to give parents financial support’ but more, 78.32%, said they actually did so (2009: 37). This seems to be a specifically Hong Kong practice and is not reported in the literature on mainland China, where young adults are often receiving financial support from parents rather than giving it (Yan 2016). Koo and Wong found that young Hong Kong people at the beginning of the careers were less likely to be supporting parents, as were those on the lowest incomes. In our sample, the

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picture was somewhat different, possibly because the daughters, though young, were unmarried. Only two admitted not making a monthly contribution. While Lola did not do so, she was putting the money aside to support her parents in their old age. Celia, who comes from a wealthy professional family, was being encouraged to save for her imminent marriage rather than give money to her parents (though she said ‘when they get old I will probably be mostly responsible for looking after them’). On the other hand, Jacqueline, from a much poorer family and still a graduate student dependant on a scholarship (HK$13, 100 a month at the time, about £1070), made a substantial contribution. She says: ‘Every month, after paying for tuition fees, the government non-means tested loans [from her undergraduate studies] and monthly contribution for my mum, not much is left from the HK$13, 100’. In her case the money was materially important. Her mother, Mimi, had only sporadic, low paid employment and relied on alimony from her ex-husband and her daughters’ monthly contributions to keep the family going. The Hong Kong daughters did not explicitly define the monthly contribution as a repayment to their parents, but it was clearly a practice that was strongly normative and viewed as central to how families should work. That this was so widely accepted suggests the persistence of a tradition that is ‘meaning constitutive’ in Gross’s (2005) terms—and possibly also regulative given the lack of welfare provision and the strength of parental expectation. It is estimated, for example, that over 60% of the income of pensioners in Hong Kong comes from inter-generational transfers (Lin 2011). This tradition, however, is hardly an ancient one, since it is the product of a modern wage economy: in the past Chinese children would more often have provided labour rather than cash. The gendered dimensions of children’s obligations have also changed. As Odalia Wong (2009) has found, while women are still the ones who provide physical care, both daughters and sons are making a financial contribution—traditionally the son’s responsibility; a daughter would not have been expected to contribute to her natal family after marriage, when she became part of her husband’s family. Moreover, even in the recent past, it would have been the daughter-in-law who provided physical care (a pattern remembered by some of the Hong Kong mothers we interviewed). This shift to a more matrifocal pattern of care and support, which is

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reflected in our sample, demonstrates both the persistence of tradition and the ways tradition is modified or reshaped under modern conditions. Declining birth rates are likely to be contributing to this pattern (see Wong 2009). There are also other consequences of having fewer children in that each one will have to shoulder a larger share of the burden of supporting their elders. Given today’s exceptionally low total fertility rate, there will be even fewer young people to support the older generation in the future.

Conclusion This chapter has provided an overview sketch of the shape of families in Hong Kong and Britain, the meanings families have for individuals and the practices informed by these meanings and which, in turn, sustain them. These issues will be further explored in subsequent chapters, but here we want to comment on the utility of such concepts as family practices and practices of intimacy and associated terms such as displaying and performing family. We have always, in previous work (Jackson 2006, 2018), emphasised that meanings and practices are closely intertwined and therefore concur with Nordqvist (2017) that an emphasis on doing family needs to include thinking and imagining family, how family is discursively constructed both within families and in the wider culture. To thinking, we would add feeling; family ties are affective and family life can involve a range of both positive and negative emotions. When individuals talk to researchers about their families, they are engaged in a form of displaying family, telling us, in Janet Finch’s words ‘this is my family and it works’ (2007: 70). The accounts our participants gave us and how they chose to represent their families conveyed something of the meaning of family to them as well as information about family practices and is suggestive of differential scripting of meanings, practices and display in Hong Kong and Britain. The British women were far more likely to use an emotional register when talking about family relationships, what was felt within families, whereas the Hong Kong used a more practical vocabulary: what family members did for each other.

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Despite the differential emphasis on feeling and doing, however, there was evidence of care and support within families in both locations. Part of the meaning of family is where the boundaries around family were drawn, and this also differed. For the British women, family could include friends, ex-partners and their new families, step-siblings and half siblings as well as units of parents and children and sometimes wider kin. For the Hong Kong women, family was largely understood as comprising co-resident and wider kin and thus its boundaries were more clearly defined. Finch’s argument that display has become necessary because of the fluidity and diversity of family forms may therefore seem less relevant to the Hong Kong context, where family diversity is less marked and not so publicly acknowledged. We would argue, however, that there are ways in which it is relevant in the Hong Kong context. How a family maintains its boundaries, creating a sense of who belongs and who does not, and what should be kept within the family and what need not, may involve not only display but also concealment. Concealment is a common feature of relations within families; there are things some members may deliberately keep from others. There are also some aspects of family life that are deliberately not displayed to outsiders, as captured in the British idea of ‘not washing dirty linen in public’— and in the Hong Kong context this is bound up with the maintenance of face. Families in both Britain and Hong Kong seek to control what is displayed. This information control is a way of marking the boundaries of family and in this sense very close to Goffman’s (1976) idea of performance, of front-stage and back-stage. While Finch sees display as going beyond performance and the associated metaphor of fixed actors and audiences as inappropriate to the shifting audiences of family display, we would see some aspects of display—and concealment—when oriented to external audiences as involving performance (see also Share et al. 2018). This is particularly the case when displays go beyond simply claiming that ‘we are family’ to demonstrating moral rectitude. In Zhang’s (2016) analysis of the display of filial piety by young mothers in Northern China, both those performing and receiving an act of filiality were shown to have an interest in it being displayed to others to demonstrate that was is being done, thus giving face to both the filial daughter and her elders. This is also highly applicable to Hong Kong

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families. Even a private display such as the much cited example of the family photographs on display in homes—as common in Hong Kong as it is in Britain—is potentially a display of family to visitors and, as they are also increasingly posted online, to a much wider audience. Such displays involve conscious choice: which photos are selected, which hidden or destroyed and which, now, are digitally enhanced. Families make wider choices in what is performed or displayed to outsiders. Some family events typically involve both a staged performance and display. The Chinese wedding banquet is performance and display par excellence; the number of tables indicates a family’s wealth and status, while it also involves a display of the wedding photographs of bride and groom, which have typically been taken, in a scenic spot and in full wedding regalia, some time before the wedding. Of course, most family practices and displays are more mundane, and not all family practices involve display. Some practices may be deeply meaningful to family members, others treated as more routine, just how things are done, but given internal differentiation and inequality within families, what is deeply meaningful to one member may be taken for granted by others. Family practices can involve anything and everything that sustains the family. They can include the routine domestic and care work essential to keep the home running and ensure that family members are clothed, fed and ready for work, school and other activities necessary to their lives. Family practices also involve the divisions of labour, gendered and generational, through which this work is accomplished. These may be relatively habitual and unreflexive, but they are often effortful tasks, some of which involve considerable planning and hence reflexive processing. They can also be meaningful tasks, demonstrating care for others, but in Finch’s terms do not constitute display unless they are interactionally interpreted as conveying the meaning of family connection. Some everyday family practices, such as the domestic and emotional labour of wives and mothers, may fall into this category and may simply be taken for granted by other family members. This can result in a lack of appreciation and validation of a woman’s contribution to sustaining family relationships. The monthly contribution is a Hong Kong family practice that could be seen as displaying an appropriate sense of relatedness within families,

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of being a filial daughter, although it was so normative that it was often taken for granted. A failure to display filiality in this respect, however, would certainly be noticed. Sik Ying provides an example of a failure to display appropriately within her own family. While she and her sister fulfil their duty to give their mother a monthly contribution, her brother, who has established a successful career and family in the USA, does not, although he sends money occasionally. This is seen by their mother as both a failure to acknowledge the money invested in his overseas education and to validate her sacrifice in using her savings for this purpose. The response to this failure to display family relatedness appropriately is indicative of its deeper meanings, which we discuss in more detail in the next chapter. Practices of intimacy overlap with but are not coterminous with family practices—not all family practices engender intimacy and not all intimacy takes place within families, however defined (Morgan 2011a). It is impossible to judge just on the basis of what family members or families collectively do whether or not a particular practice is a practice of intimacy since it depends on the meaning it has for those involved. This can only be glimpsed from the way people talk about it or represent it to researchers. Any family practice can also be a practice of intimacy, but only if it contributes the creation and maintenance of ‘a sense of a close and special quality of a relationship’ (Jamieson 2011). Family practices, and even practices of intimacy, do not always result in unity within the family—they can be divisive and also associated with inequalities, plays of power and emotional blackmail. Families are not always harmonious and those that seem so may manage to hold together with little sense of ‘close and special relationships’ among members. Conversely, argumentative families can sustain intimacy through verbal contestation, or through the way they ‘make up’ after a row. Some of the things our participants associated with love, care and closeness may be surprising; we had the predictable, such as eating together and sharing leisure time, but also instances where bickering and parental discipline were cited as indicative of loving and caring relationships. We would therefore argue for a broad understanding of practices of intimacy rather than ruling out practices that we ourselves might see as antithetical to intimacy.

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Family practices, practices of intimacy and displaying family all emphasise the co-construction of meaning, interaction between family members and relational selfhood. The relational self is a reflexive and social self (Jackson 2010, 2018); reflexivity is founded in self-other relationships, the ability to reflect on oneself from the perspective of another and, in turn, reflexivity enables co-operation with others, the ability to locate ourselves in relation to others, orient our actions towards them and anticipate the consequences for our relationships with them. How this reflexive relationality plays out in the context of families, involving doing and thinking and feeling, is highly variable within and across differing sociocultural contexts. There were, however, patterns in our data indicating different understanding of what makes a family in Hong Kong and Britain. These patterns indicate that the making of families involves more than individual agency and reflexivity and the interactional co-construction of family. These reflexive, interactional processes make use of locally available cultural scripts, albeit renegotiated within family interaction, and occur in specific social environments wherein the material actualities of life promote certain forms of family life while simultaneously constraining what is possible. We will explore some of these issues further in the next chapter where we look more closely at the practices that shape and sustain mother-daughter relationships.

5 Mother–Daughter Relationships

Parent–child relationships are an obvious instance of Jamieson’s (2011) observation that practices of intimacy are not necessarily egalitarian. Even into adulthood, when relationships could be expected to become less hierarchical, traces of the parental control exercised in childhood persist. In this chapter, we will focus on the ways in which the mothers and daughters talk about their relationships with each other and what this might tell us about family practices, practices of intimacy and forms of authority within British and Hong Kong families. From the accounts of both mothers and daughters, we explore some of the key differences between Hong Kong and Britain in the ways in which daughters were raised—particularly the greater pressures on Hong Kong daughters to succeed. Here, two major points of contrast between our two research locations emerged: how mothers disciplined their daughters and how they sought to manage daughters’ sexual conduct. We will then go on to discuss how, as young adults, daughters’ relationships with their mothers continued to be affected by local conditions and culture. In this context, we will look again at practices associated with filial piety in the context of exploring the practices of intimacy through which mothers and daughters seek to maintain the bonds between them, explaining how these © The Author(s) 2020 S. Jackson and P. S. Y. Ho, Women Doing Intimacy, Palgrave Macmillan Studies in Family and Intimate Life, https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-28991-9_5

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practices are embedded in the rhythms of family life and the material circumstances of Hong Kong and British families. We begin from the daughters’ childhoods and the ways in which they have been reared and educated.

Childrearing, Discipline and Surveillance One central sphere of family practices is the care and upbringing of children. Childhood and childrearing practices are not the same the world over—as should be evident from the contrasting childhoods of the Hong Kong and British mothers (see Chapter 3). Anthropologists and historians have revealed considerable change and variation in ideas of the child, childrearing practices and the extent to which children participate in adult life (Heywood 2001; Lancy 2008; Wells 2009). Institutionally, childhood has been shaped by education systems, family policies and state regulation, which have progressively removed children from the workplace in most of the world’s richer countries and increased their time spent in education—considerably later in Hong Kong than in Britain. Boundaries between childhood and adulthood are marked by legislation that sets the ages at which young people can marry, engage in sexual relations, drive, drink alcohol and vote. There has also been increased concern internationally with childrens’ rights, enshrined in 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Associated with these changes are particular ideas about children and childhood, including the rise of ‘scientific’ theories of childrearing, which emerged in western societies from the nineteenth century onwards. The most obvious consequence of this is the developmental paradigm, the idea of a gradual, ‘natural’ process of maturation, which should be fostered by ‘good’ parenting and education to ensure that children gain access to particular skills, knowledge and experience at ‘appropriate’ ages and are protected from anything deemed age-inappropriate. The modern child has become the focus of innumerable projects that purport to safeguard it from physical, sexual and moral danger, to ensure its

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‘normal development’, to actively promote certain capacities or attributes such as intelligence, educability and emotional stability. (Rose 1989: 121)

Childhood has thus been constituted as an object of the scientific gaze through such disciplines as psychology, social work and education, which have claimed expertise in monitoring, categorising and managing childhood and children. These expert knowledges have in turn shaped common-sense thinking and everyday attitudes to and practices of childrearing—but they have done so unevenly. In the western world, they originated in privileged sectors of the middle class and only gradually spread more widely; even now they are not universally adopted. As a result of western academic hegemony, these ideas have become widely disseminated globally as truths and as markers of modern parenting. They have not, however, been taken up in the same way in all places and have uneven effects in the local contexts to which they have been imported (Lan 2014). Pei-Chia Lan’s analysis of the campaign for educational reform and parental education in Taiwan in the late 1980s and 1990s exemplifies the glocal entanglements by which local and global influences, she argues, are differentially received and negotiated by differing sectors of society (see Chapter 2). As she points out, members of a given society ‘have differential access and exposure to a variety of transnational interconnections and cosmopolitan engagements’ (Lan 2014: 534). This campaign for more humanistic, less authoritarian schooling, including the abolition of corporal punishment, converged with a move towards more permissive, less disciplinarian parenting and the promotion of parental education. It was spearheaded by ‘cultural elites with substantial overseas experience’ who took the role of ‘agents of modernity’, but who were careful to avoid the dichotomy between western and Chinese values and present ‘humanistic education as a universal value rather than foreign model’ (2014: 541–542, emphasis in original). This also involved strategies to educate parents in attending to their children’s needs and communicating more effectively with them. The middle-class parents Lan interviewed had bought into this, citing books and articles that influenced them. They aspired to adopt ‘the Western paradigm of permissive parenting’, not just as a break with tradition but also as ‘an indicator of

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cosmopolitanism, to distinguish themselves from lower-class people with limited global exposure’ (2014: 543). Working-class parents had neither the time nor resources for the intensive parenting these ideas required, while educators’ expectations of parental involvement in schooling simply placed an additional burden on them. This analysis helps make sense of some of the differences in childrearing practices we found within and between the two locales in which we conducted our interviews. While Lan focuses on class, we found that classed orientations to childrearing were complicated by age, generation and locality, as well as mothers’ reflections on their own childhood. Moreover, while Hong Kong and Taiwan share certain similarities and Hong Kong has been at least equally exposed to foreign, especially western, influences, the childrearing practices of many of the Hong Kong mothers—and, indeed, some of their daughters’ views on the subject—depart radically from the style of parenting endorsed by most of the British women. Hong Kong parents, as a whole, exerted much stronger control over their daughters and placed greater emphasis on discipline. Lan’s emphasis on specific local histories and the part played by agents of change within them should prompt us to pay attention to the local contexts and life experiences that produce these differences. Whatever form of childrearing parents practice, be it authoritarian or more liberal, children remain under parental control, although this is partially delegated to other adults, such as teachers. Parents continue to have considerable rights over their children, if modified by the recognition of (some) rights of the child and in many respects govern their children’s lives. Parents, and especially mothers, are also responsible for their children in a very fundamental sense, held responsible and accountable for their care, upbringing, well-being—and their conduct (Jackson and Scott 2013). Parenthood, and motherhood in particular, can also be seen as a reflexive project. Mothers will often reflect on their own upbringing in rearing their children and account for their parental practices in terms of their own childhood experiences. A number of British mothers, including Patricia, Michelle, Judith and Cherry, mentioned having had a strict upbringing, but most wanted to, and did, allow their daughters more latitude. Only a few of the British daughters mentioned strict upbringing, including Julie, who saw it as less strict that of her mother.

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Zoe described her mother as strong and ‘scary’ and said that she had been over-protected because of her disability, though her younger sister, with the same congenital disability, was allowed much more freedom. Hong Kong daughters much more frequently mentioned strict upbringing. Hong Kong mothers often had a hard time as children (see Chapter 3). They put considerable effort into ensuring that their daughters’ lives were better, but this in itself tended to impose more restrictions on them than were experienced by the British daughters. A prominent theme that emerged from the Hong Kong data was the use of severe and systematic physical punishment to discipline children. This issue came to our attention in one of the first interviews conducted in Hong Kong, with Mimi and her daughter Jacqueline. Jacqueline had witnessed a great deal of physical violence between her parents when their marriage was breaking down (see Chapters 4 and 6) and clearly found it deplorable, yet she did not see the severe beatings she received from her mother as unacceptable and was reluctant even to classify them as violence, unlike the flights between her parents. Her reasoning was that she always knew her mother loved her. Beatings, for her, were a normal part of parental discipline. Her mother, Mimi, commented: ‘It is only in recent years that she has come to understand why her mother had to scold her and beat her in order to teach her what she can do and what she cannot do. At last she sees the point!’ In the Hong Kong focus group, the issue of punishment was raised again. Half of the twelve participants (Jacqueline, Lola, Jane, Donna, Angela and Susie) had received severe beatings as children, with the use of a variety of implements such as sticks and rulers. Lola and Jane had clearly found this terrifying, so much so that Lola, normally very articulate, found it hard to put the experience into words. Jane explained her mother’s actions in terms of the cultural transmission of childrearing practices from one generation to the next and also the way that her mother displays family to outsiders, in this case oriented to demonstrating the appropriateness and effectiveness of her disciplinary practices. Jane was nonetheless critical of these claims: She beat us up when we were young …to her, this is the way that she thinks is really helpful that’s why she can talk to other people and say,

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‘oh I have a good daughter because I know how to teach them’… they remember what their parents did to them and in some way they agree, see this is a good way or the only way, so I get exactly the same thing.

Faced with such accounts Jacqueline insisted that her case was different. Although she described her beatings graphically—‘my mum used a stick and pah, pah, pah’—she saw this as legitimate in the service of love and correction: ‘when she hit me and my sisters she really talked about the reason, the thing that we did wrong and if we didn’t do that wrongly then it wouldn’t happen’. She received some support from Susie and Angela. Susie said that a beating was acceptable if the child knew she was loved and if it was made clear that she was being disciplined because she was not disciplining herself. Angela told us that she was regularly beaten with a feather duster, with her mother counting down ‘ten, nine, eight.’ etc., but saying all the time ‘I love you’. Angela felt that this was excessive— she would beat her own child ‘but five times would be enough’. The group was divided on this issue, though some viewed hitting a child as more acceptable if the child knew why she or he was being beaten and felt loved. They also differed on whether they would beat their own children. Jane, who simply could not reconcile love with beatings, was adamant that she would not beat her child, while Donna saw this as a necessary part of childrearing: Although what I learnt at school [from a psychology degree] teaches me that we should not physically punish the child, I still think that it is necessary as the child needs to be afraid of the parents to a certain extent. You can’t spoil them too much! (Donna)

Donna had evidently had access and exposure to transnational sources of knowledge and opinion on childrearing (cf. Lan 2014), yet resisted this approach with its connotations of modernity and expertise, preferring to make a judgement on the basis of her own upbringing. It is unlikely that the mothers of these young women were unaware of contemporary parenting discourses—these circulate in Hong Kong as in Taiwan. The difference is that there has never been a concerted parental education campaign here comparable with that in Taiwan depicted by Lan (2014).

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It may also be that mothers recognised that their actions were potentially reprehensible but sought to render them justifiable in terms of love and being for their daughters’ own good. Possibly, too, it is seen as a traditional Chinese practice to be preserved though, of course, it is no more traditionally Chinese than traditionally British where the old aphorism, ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’, was still in circulation during Stevi’s childhood in the 1950s. Although Hong Kong banned corporal punishment in schools in 1991, there is no protection against it in the home, beyond more general child abuse legislation. A widely reported survey conducted by the organisation Against Child Abuse in 2014–2015 indicates that the practice is widespread. 54% of children aged 6–13 had received physical punishment in the past year, while 70% received such treatment occasionally, with the use of such implements as coat hangers and rulers common.1 Children were punished in this way not only for disobedience but also, and often, for poor school results. The experiences we recorded seem, therefore, fairly typical. Physical punishment was not an issue that had featured in our interviews with the young British women, though some of their mothers recalled being beaten as children. When it was mentioned at all as part of the lives of the British mother–daughter pairs, it was to refer to the slapping of children as an occasional, exceptional and regrettable occurrence. Cherry provides a good example. She had been ‘terrified’ of her mother, who hit her frequently and had resolved never to use violence with her own children. She had, however, had a difficult time with her elder daughter who, though an ‘absolute delight’ as a small child, became a ‘bolshie’ teenager, completely out of Cherry’s control. She admitted, ‘I did actually hit Andrea once or twice when I was driven absolutely mad, but nothing serious, nothing like my mother did’. Whereas the British mothers had grown up at a time when corporal punishment was widespread in schools and common in families, by the time they were raising their daughters, attitudes and the legal framework had changed. Corporal punishment was outlawed in state schools in the UK in 1986, 1 See

https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/law-crime/article/1778175/hong-kong-childrights-group-calls-total-ban-corporal and http://www.ejinsight.com/20150428-corporalpunishment-by-parents-a-big-concern-says-hk-child-rights-group/. Both accessed 28 July 2019.

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though it persisted in private schools until 1998 in England and Wales, 2000 in Scotland and 2003 in Northern Ireland. Hitting a child had ceased to be seen as acceptable by many British parents by the time it finally became illegal under Children Act of 2004. Parents can, however, defend smacking a child as ‘reasonable punishment’—and many parents continue to do so—but it is a definitely illegal to use any implement other than the flat of a bare hand. Hitting children has been completely outlawed in Wales and Scotland and many other European countries but not yet in England, where banning slapping of children altogether remains controversial. When we shared the Hong Kong focus group discussion on punishment with the British group, most participants were horrified. They recalled occasional smacks, and in Bryony’s case being hit with a slipper, but not the systematic and severe beatings suffered by those in Hong Kong. They had been disciplined through withdrawal of privileges and also, when they were very young, parents just ‘turning their backs and walking away’ (Fay). All agreed that control though guilt the most effective parental strategy: Carla: … but like the disappointment thing, that, ‘I’m very disappointed in you’, that was used a lot … just anyone telling you they’re disappointed is horrible. All: yeah. Emily: a positive thing as well, like my parents as well as doing the whole disappointment thing and stuff they just sort of show you examples of good behaviour as well like, oh look at such, so she’s really well behaved, so you’d know what was expected, what you emulate as well as what you shouldn’t do, you’d have examples or like stories in which, you know, the kid was really well behaved and got rewarded or something like that, you kind of got it ingrained in you that way as well, it’s good to behave in this way, and if you behave in this way then we’d be very disappointed. Stevi: so that ‘disappointed’ really gets to you? Carla: mm, yeah it’s horrible. Alexis: still does now, if someone, if my dad says I’m really disappointed, even now you feel really guilty.

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Bryony: they don’t even need to say it sometimes. Both my parents have got this one kind of sigh. My mother just goes [sighs in imitation] she doesn’t need to say anything and it just completely does that whole disappointed thing exactly – and it’s just so cutting.

Further exploration of parental discipline strategies in both sets of interviews confirmed that this was a marked difference between our two samples. This should not, however, be taken to mean that guilt and shame were unimportant in the disciplining of Hong Kong children— rather that they worked in conjunction with corporal punishment, which could itself be experienced as shaming. Whether or not the Hong Kong mothers resorted to beating their children, most seemed to endorse an ‘authoritarian’ approach to childrearing, valuing obedience and setting clear boundaries for conduct. In western literature, authoritarian parenting has often been assumed to be characteristically working class. On the one side, doubt has been cast on the empirical validity of such claims (Chan and Koo 2011); on the other, it has long been argued that middle-class ideals ignore the material conditions of working-class lives and that they have been used to stigmatise working-class parents, especially mothers (Walkerdine and Lucey 1989; Gillies 2008; Lan 2014). Among our Hong Kong sample childrearing styles were not class specific; none seemed to endorse a democratic approach, what psychologists call ‘authoritative’ (as opposed to authoritarian) parenting, which involves negotiation and reasoning with children, controlling them without undue restrictions and rigid rules (Chan and Koo 2011: 386). The reasons why Hong Kong mothers do not adopt this style of parenting bear some resemblance to explanations of British working-class mothers’ practices and orientations in that they are grounded in socio-economic realities (Walkerdine and Lucey 1989; Gillies 2008), in this case not related to class but to more general conditions of life on Hong Kong— at least among all but the very wealthy. Like the British working-class mothers in Gillies’ study. Hong Kong mothers valued close interpersonal ties, loyalty and obligation over individuality. Moreover, ‘practices that foreground democracy and negotiation’, held to be ‘risky’ among British working-class families with ‘limited choice and power’ (Gillies

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2008: 1093), may also seem inappropriate in a hierarchical, competitive society that has never been democratically governed. Add to this the cramped conditions in which most Hong Kong residents live, allowing children little space, and authoritarian parenting becomes understandable. Discipline, while a means of controlling children, is not simply an empty manifestation of adult power; that power is exercised for a purpose. One aspect of parental responsibility is the moulding and shaping of children, raising them ‘properly’ within the norms of any given society. Parents are responsible for children’s well-being and conduct in their present lives and also into adulthood. This is evident in Mimi’s legitimation of beating her daughter as teaching her ‘what she can do and what she cannot do’ and Jane’s interpretation of her mother’s perspective on beatings: as why she has ‘a good daughter’. Parents, and especially mothers, are often held responsible—and see themselves as responsible—for their children’s success or failure as adults. In both Hong Kong and the UK, if children do not turn out as hoped, mothers will ask, ‘where did I go wrong’, or ‘what have I done to deserve this’? An important aspect of the child-shaping process is ensuring that children receive the ‘right’ kind of formal and informal education. In this respect, the practices of the Hong Kong mothers also confound western assumptions on classbased parenting.

Educating Daughters: Project or Investment? Since the daughters in both our Hong Kong and British samples are university educated, they are among those who have benefitted from recent social changes affecting the position of women and from educational expansion—which has been particularly rapid in Hong Kong. Hong Kong did not have free and compulsory education until the 1971, when six years of education became compulsory, increased to nine years in 1978. Recently this has been extended to 12 years. Prior to the introduction of compulsory education in Hong Kong, girls were underrepresented in schools at every level and the more so at higher levels. This gender gap has now been all but eradicated (see Mak 2009). As in the

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UK, there has also been a great deal of expansion in university education. Demographic change is also a factor: the steep decline in birth rates in Hong Kong, evident in our sample (see Chapter 4), has made it possible for parents to support the education of all their children. It can therefore be argued that the ‘Confucian norm of daughters’ low value is increasingly diluted by the scarcity of children in the family and increased opportunity in education’ (Mak 2009: 33). Beck and Beck-Gernsheim suggest that parental orientations to children have changed dramatically in late modernity (Beck and BeckGernsheim 1995; Beck-Gernsheim 1996). As children became a financial liability rather than an asset and birth rates fell throughout the wealthy nations of the world, it is argued, children came to be self-consciously reared as vehicles for parental aspirations. The modern child has become a project: A child can no longer be accepted as it is, with physical idiosyncrasies, perhaps even flaws. Rather it becomes the target of a diversity of efforts. All possible flaws must be corrected … all possible talents must be stimulated … Countless guides to education and upbringing appear on the book and magazine market. As different as each one is, at bottom they all have a similar message: the success of the child is defined as the private duty of the parents/the mother. And the duty reads the same everywhere: the parents must do everything to give the child ‘the best start in life’. (Beck-Gernsheim 1996: 143)

It may be the case that childrearing has become much more of a managed project in many parts of the world. Certainly expert advice abounds and both the British and Hong Kong mothers we interviewed gave reflexive accounts of their childrearing practices and wanted to give their children a good start in life. The picture Beck-Gernsheim paints, however, is class and culturally specific. It captures what has been called ‘intensive motherhood’ or ‘concerted cultivation’ (Perrier 2012), which is generally seen as characterising middle-class motherhood (Gillies 2008; Chan and Koo 2011). Yet even if taken as class specific there is an element of hyperbole, even caricature here: ‘all possible flaws must be corrected’ and ‘all possible talents must be stimulated’. Not all middle-class western

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mothers are likely to endorse such an extreme form of intensive mothering, or what Maude Perrier, following Lareau (2003), calls ‘concerted cultivation’. Perrier (2012) found some ambivalence among middle-class mothers about pushing children too hard to succeed. What struck us about the exaggerated version of intensive cultivation depicted by Beck-Gernsheim was that it seemed to resonate more, in some respects, with the data from our Hong Kong sample than the British one. While Hong Kong mothers may not have followed western middle-class liberal styles of parenting, usually seen as intrinsic to intensive mothering, they did practice intensive cultivation in putting a great deal of effort and resources into their daughters’ education—far more so than the British mothers. We would argue that this complicating of ideas on class and parenting raises further questions about the supposed consequences of modernity for family life. Patterns of parenting cannot simply be an effect of modern conditions or merely a response to ‘emotional needs’ created by an ‘individualized’ world (Beck and Beck-Gernsheim 1995: 106). In the Hong Kong case, the concerted cultivation of children’s ‘talents’ went hand in hand with an authoritarian approach to correcting their ‘flaws’ and is a result of a re-shaping of tradition under conditions of modernity. We suggest that Hong Kong parents make an investment in their children as much as seeing them as a project and that this is a product of Chinese familial solidarity under modern conditions. It is, as Grace Mak (2009) notes, a departure from tradition to invest in daughters, but a modification of tradition in that it is, as we will go on to argue, part of family strategy. In mainland China, too, educational investment in daughters is now widespread. As a result of the one-child policy, many parents have only a daughter who has become their ‘only hope’ (Fong 2006), producing a cohort of privileged young women, now in early adulthood, who have benefitted from having all their parents’ attention and resources devoted to their upbringing (Xie 2019). While mothers in both our samples hoped that their daughters would succeed in a career and were concerned that current economic uncertainties might limit their daughters’ opportunities, the Hong Kong mothers pushed their daughters much harder than their British counterparts did. They were

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not entirely strategic or instrumental in their devotion to their daughters’ success in life: they gained self-esteem, status and face from giving their children a good education. Many also wanted their daughters to have opportunities they themselves lacked. As Maria said, ‘It was fulfilling enough just to see my children getting what I couldn’t have’. Ms. Lui reflected on her own childhood, on having to leave school for the factory at an early age, and was pleased her daughters had both done well academically. She encouraged them to study so that they could ‘fulfil their dreams’. In seeing childrearing as a vehicle for parental aspirations, the reflexivity involved is not simply one in which the child becomes a project as an affirmation of good parenting. Mothers’ reflections back on their own childhoods and forward to their children’s futures include an emotional reflexivity (Holmes 2010), founded on their feelings about their past childhoods and their care and concern for their daughters’ future. Local specificities help explain why educational success was so central to Hong Kong mothers, prompting their concerted cultivation practices. Pressures to succeed in a highly competitive environment resulted in mothers investing a great deal in daughters financially, both in formal education and in extra-curricular activities.2 The importance of the latter is that it helps them to gain entrance to elite schools and universities. Maria’s daughter, Anna, remembers her childhood as revolving around extra-curricular activities, including musical instruments, dancing and ice skating. One mother, Mei-li, told us: ‘I once planned seven activities for my children when they were small. I wanted them to try as many things as they could, and develop towards something they are good at’. She sent her daughter, Donna, to the UK for most of her secondary education. A number of the other daughters in our sample were partially educated abroad, either at school or university level, including Anna, Helen, Sasha, Nina and Jacqueline. Overseas education has considerable symbolic value, potentially giving young people an edge in a competitive job market (Waters 2015). It also brings practical skills such as greater

2This is common throughout East Asia, where there are numerous cram schools and organisations offering extra-curricular and educational enhancement activities for children from babies to teenagers.

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fluency in standard English and can be seen as enhancing a cosmopolitan sensibility. Parents in Hong Kong are aware that in an increasingly globalised world ‘it is important for children to explore a foreign culture’ (Rosemary). As Waters (2015) points out, however, it is not only striving for success that motivates overseas education, but also fear of failure since entry into Hong Kong’s elite universities requires very high grades. This was the case for Anna, who had a year’s secondary schooling in the UK and returned there for undergraduate and postgraduate study. She sees going to university abroad as a major turning point in her life: ‘If I’d stayed in Hong Kong my path would have been very different. I didn’t do well in my A levels and wouldn’t have got into university here’. These considerations explain why Hong Kong parents are willing to spend considerable sums of money to send their children overseas for education. Those who benefitted included young women such as Celia, whose wealthy parents enabled her to spend many years in the USA, but also those whose parents, like Rosemary and Ellen, have more modest incomes. Rosemary sent her daughter to the UK to complete her last two years of schooling and her undergraduate degree. She said of her children: ‘We have the obligation to give them the best education we could afford’. Ellen sent her daughter to a private Christian secondary school in the USA and then to university there: ‘We spend every cent we have for Sasha and her sister’s education, we have no money left. My husband said he does not regret this decision as he wants a bright future for them. We even suggest to her that she should pursue a PhD!’3 In both Hong Kong and the UK, of course, parents’ ability to assist with children’s education depended on the economic, social and cultural capital available to them. In the colonial era, some Hong Kong students whose families had not the means to support study overseas could be funded through government or quasi-governmental sources. The Commonwealth Scholarship Scheme enabled some to do higher degrees in the UK, Canada or Australia. This, for example, was how Sik Ying was able to complete a PhD in the UK; her family could not possibly have afforded it. Children of civil servants, even fairly junior ones, could be funded for a year 3 Fathers

clearly played a very active role in decisions on children’s education, and in the financing of them.

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or two of schooling in the UK. Now, in postcolonial times, these forms of finance for overseas study no longer exist, restricting the opportunities of those from poorer backgrounds. The changes can be illustrated by Jacqueline’s educational experience. As the daughter of a civil servant she was awarded a year of school study in the UK. When it came to higher education, overseas education was out of the question and way beyond the family’s financial capacity. By the time Jacqueline embarked on higher education, her mother, Mimi, was divorced. Her reduced circumstances meant she could not contemplate overseas education for her daughters. She nonetheless encouraged Jacqueline to continue her education. Her undergraduate degree was funded through the grants and loans available to students from low-income families to study at Hong Kong Universities and she subsequently gained a scholarship for postgraduate study in Hong Kong. The British families did not make the same financial investment in their daughters’ education with the vast majority relying on the state sector. Of course British parents care about the quality of the schools their children attend; generally middle-class parents seek homes in the catchment areas of schools with a good reputation, subsidise university education and often pass on academic knowledge and more general cultural capital in the course of everyday conversation with their children (Devine 2004). This transmission of educationally relevant cultural capital from mother to daughter is much more likely to have occurred in the British families, where most of the mothers were university educated, than in the Hong Kong sample, where few mothers had a university education and some had very little education at all. Moreover, given that good preuniversity education is obtainable free of charge more readily than in Hong Kong, and that elite public (private) schools are too costly for all but the very wealthy, most parents do not consider fee-paying schools. Only two of the young British women in our sample had received a private education, and in both cases this was because of particular problems rather than to give them a competitive edge. In Andrea’s case, sending her to boarding school was, by her own account, due to her being ‘out of control’—she had been expelled from a number of state schools. Lucy and her sister went to boarding school because their father was in the

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armed forces and, as their mother said, ‘their education was being so disrupted from moving around every two years or less’. This was likely to have been part-funded, or possibly fully funded, by the military. No other British parents paid for their children’s education, but many did help their children out financially in a variety of ways—from partially subsidising their living costs while at university or rescuing them when they found themselves in financial difficulties to, in Barbara’s case, establishing a second family home near their sixth form college (see Chapter 4). The British mothers in our sample encouraged their daughters and advised them on educational choices, but they did not exercise the strict discipline favoured by the Hong Kong mothers and did not push their daughters so hard. They were more likely to describe their childrearing practices as ‘relaxed’. Extra-curricular activities were encouraged, and provided if children wanted them, but were not made compulsory. These differences may result from the more competitive educational system in Hong Kong, but also reflect varying aspirations for daughters. Material success and social status figured far more in the Hong Kong mothers’ accounts, not surprisingly given the nature of Hong Kong society, whereas the British mothers placed more emphasis on personal fulfilment—summed up by a frequently uttered phrase ‘as long as she’s happy’. Frances is typical in this respect. Talking of her daughter, currently at university doing a law degree, she commented: I would really like to see her do something that she really enjoys at university and I’m not sure she enjoys law and it’s hard isn’t it. I just want to see her be happy really, that’s why the involvement that she has with the Students’ Union, you know, is making her happy because she’s meeting people that she feels she can talk to and she’s engaged in the politics and it’s meaningful to her.

Differences in attitudes to childrearing and education between the Hong Kong and British mothers were also reflected in mothers’ monitoring and regulation of their daughters’ sexual and romantic relationships. Partly because of the emphasis on educational and career success, maternal efforts to control daughters’ sexuality and restrict their sexual practices

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were far more evident in our Hong Kong sample—too early involvement in romantic or sexual relationships might divert young women from studying.

Managing Daughters’ Sexuality When considering intergenerational negotiation of boundaries of sexual conduct it is necessary to consider not only how this fits with other aspects of mother–daughter relationships, but also the sexual mores in the two locations. Although there is little difference between them in the availability of erotic content in the media, sexual morality in Hong Kong is generally much more restrictive in Hong Kong, influenced by a mix of Confucian and Christian values. This is not a matter of differential constraints on ‘natural’ impulses (though in common sense terms it is often thought of this way in both cultural contexts), but of the social scripting of sexuality in relation to other, non-sexual aspects of life (Gagnon 2004; Gagnon and Simon 2005; Jackson and Scott 2010; Simon 1996). As we noted in the previous chapter, such scripting occurs at a number of levels. Cultural scenarios, the understandings of sexuality that circulate within any given society, provide resources drawn on in making sense of the sexual. Interpersonal scripting occurs through sexual interaction and also, we would argue, through everyday conversation or gossip about sex, whereby cultural scenarios are shaped into scripts relevant for the specific context. Finally, intrapsychic scripting occurs at the level of individual thoughts, desires and fantasies through the reflexive processes of the self, by which individuals make sense of culturally available knowledge and personal experience. Reflexive sense-making then informs individuals’ engagement with interpersonal scripting and their interpretation of cultural scenarios. This approach recognises that sexual scripts may differ from one cultural setting to another and even within a given setting may be diverse or vary from one context to another. It should also alert us to the ways in which such scripting affects the research context; how individuals talk about sex and represent their sexual lives to researchers involves drawing on and (re)constructing sexual scripts. As will become

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evident in this chapter and the next, talk about sex—as well as the content of what was talked about—differed in our two research locations. One aspect of scripting held in common by most participants in both locations was a taken-for-granted view of sexuality as ‘natural’ and an assumption that everyone knows what ‘sex’ is—i.e. heterosexual coitus. This understanding of sex can, however, then be mobilised in quite different directions, especially in mothers’ attitudes to their daughters’ sexual lives; it can take a liberal approach of allowing a supposed ‘natural’ proclivity to take its course—though usually hedged with ideas of what might be appropriate at certain ages—or it can motivate attempts to control it. The British mothers tended towards the former approach, the Hong Kong mothers to the latter. These differences should not simply be seen in terms of ‘western’ as opposed to Asian values. In the first place, Hong Kong values have been influenced by western imports, including Christianity, and secondly, not all western societies share the same attitudes to sexuality in general and teenage sexual activity in particular. Amy Schalet’s insightful comparison of Dutch and American parents’ views and practices reveals some marked divergences in the ways they manage young people’s sexual lives. Teenage sexual activity was normalised among the Dutch: among the middle-class parents Schalet interviewed most (24 of the 26) found it acceptable for their children to sleep with their sexual partners in the parental home from the age of 16 or 17. Almost all American parents found this unthinkable, even ludicrous, and most forbade sexual activity at this age and certainly found it unacceptable in the family home (Schalet 2011). British attitudes probably fall somewhere between the Americans and the Dutch and possibly the British mothers we interviewed were more liberal than most of their contemporaries. The majority took it for granted that their daughters would be (hetero)sexually active from their mid to late teens—and most had been (see Chapter 6). Six of the twelve British mothers had allowed their daughters to sleep with their boyfriends in the parental home at some time and others were willing to let them to go away with boyfriends for weekends or holidays—and this usually began when the daughters were in their late teens and often before they left home to go to university. The British mothers were concerned that their daughters did not become sexually active ‘too young’,

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though what this meant varied; before the ages of 17–18 were commonly mentioned. They also wanted their daughters to avoid early pregnancy and might therefore offer advice on and help with contraception, with some providing them with condoms. In many respects, they were facilitating their daughters’ safe engagement in heterosex. Beyond this they did not try to restrict their daughters’ sex lives (though they might complain that they did not like one or another boyfriend) and certainly did not expect them to remain virginal until marriage. The only exception was Patricia, who held very conservative views on sex, as did her daughter, Julie, who said: I think it’s the feelings of guilt, I don’t know what that’s about whether it’s being religious or whether it’s other things I don’t know, feeling incredibly guilty that if we did anything that was you know, considered remotely sexual and therefore better not to do it. … but my mum told me once that … she had these two nightmares and one was that my um, either my father or grandfather had been really badly hurt in an accident and was really ill and the other nightmare was that I had had sex with a boy, and so they, these things were equated, like how bad it would be…

Parental attitudes to daughters’ sexuality were among the issues on which we discussed British data with the Hong Kong focus group (Jackson et al. 2017; see also Chapter 2). We shared with them both Julie’s account of guilt (which resonated with their own experience) and data on boyfriends sleeping over in the parental home—in the latter case a passage from an interview with Zoe in which she complained that her mother would not let her boyfriend sleep with her at home until she was eighteen, although her mother had gone with her to be ‘put on the pill’ a year earlier. The following interchange ensued among the young Hong Kong women: Jacqueline: My mum would allow um, my boyfriend to sleep over, but not together, he would be sleeping on the sofa and I’ll be in my room. Sik Ying: what about other people? Lola: no, not for me. Sik Ying: no?

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Lola: I’m still living with my family … my mother don’t, she express actually that she can’t take them stay overnight and it didn’t happen, yep. Sik Ying (to the group as a whole): do you think your mother would accept this? Carrie: no, no way. Vicky: no sleeping over. Donna: anywhere! Celia: now my boyfriend is currently staying at my house, he’s living there because we’re saving up money to get our own apartment so my parents allow him to stay in our house. Jane: so if you have a marriage plan that’s different.

In this exchange, the young women engage in constructing a consensus about the impossibility of the British situation being replicated in their own homes. Jacqueline and Lola set the scene and, once others in the group to were invited to contribute, Carrie, Vicky and Donna provide reinforcing comments in quick succession each confirming the previous speaker’s experience ending with Donna’s emphatic ‘anywhere!’ At this point, a dissident opinion is voiced when Celia announces that her boyfriend does stay over. Jane then intervenes to explain that imminent marriage makes a difference—effectively that the exception proves the rule (though Celia does not make it clear whether she and her boyfriend sleep together). Not only does this tell us something about local family practices, but it also reveals young women’s active interpretation of those practices in explaining them to the researchers. Just as mothers’ childrearing is a reflexive practice, daughters reflexively interpret those practices. Earlier in the Hong Kong focus group discussion there had been a lively conversation among the young women about the value placed on virginity by their mothers—and our interviews with their mothers did reveal a widespread concern with preserving their daughters’ virginity and some were assiduous in policing it. The young women themselves expressed a range of views on the issue, some determined to remain chaste until marriage and others not, with some indicating that they were no longer virgins. It was clear, however, that even if they shared their mothers’ views, they had not unreflexively ‘internalised’ them. They had

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been exposed to competing cultural scenarios, to traditional Chinese cultural mores as well as a range of alternative perspectives from the media, from interpersonal interaction with peers and, in some cases, from experiences abroad. They had actively, reflexively negotiated their own positions and were keen to represent themselves to us as possessing agency and arriving at their own opinions. They did talk about the guilt potentially associated with losing their virginity and the hurt it might cause to their mothers, but they were also critical of their mothers, even when they intended to remain virgins before marriage. This was the case with Angela, who complained that her mother had told her boyfriend ‘don’t have sex with Angela before you marry her’ and who also drew attention to double standards in that her brother’s sexual activity was accepted within the household (Angela was expected to pick up used condoms after him). Carrie said that her mother mentioned the importance of virginity ‘every time she’s got a chance, whenever you see a love scene in any movie’. These complaints were delivered in a humorous tone. Thus, while they did not directly challenge their mothers, they used humour to put some distance between their mothers’ vigilance and themselves. Donna, whose mother had said in her interview that ‘virginity is a gift to your life-long partner’, offered her own version of her mother’s preoccupation with virginity, telling the following story with considerable dramatic verve and to laughter from the group: … my mum …keeps checking and she scares me, like erm, she does still say it’s very important to be a virgin until you get married and she says, oh you still look young because you’re still a virgin. [She says] ‘If you have sex with first come you’ll look older than I am and get all wrinkles’ and you know she keeps checking … and you know before … er, the HPV protection injection, our doctor says it’s better to get the injection when you’re still a virgin because it works better and my mum say, ‘oh do you want to do that?’ ‘No’, because I don’t like injections, I don’t want like pain and she says ‘woow, why don’t you want the injection? Is it because you’re not a virgin anymore?’ ‘Okay I’ll do it’ ‘Don’t waste money if you’re not a virgin anymore, don’t do it.’ I say, ‘I’ll take the injection’ ‘Are you wasting money?’ and then she will also ask me, ‘oh ask your friends, do any of your friends want to take the injection?’ She just wants gossip, you know, which friend is not a virgin anymore.

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In recounting this conversation with her mother Donna does not present herself as rebelling, but as ultimately agreeing to have the injection while side-stepping the question of her virginity status. Yet in constructing her mother’s surveillance as an amusing story, she maintains her selfpresentation as an autonomous subject who ‘knows’ her mother’s views and attitudes can be seen as absurd and excessive. This ‘knowingness’ itself derives from wider social and immediate interactional contexts. The way the story is told relies on a shared (interpersonally scripted) understanding of mothers’ concerns that had already been established within the interactional setting of the focus group. The section of the Hong Kong focus group interview in which virginity was discussed was shared with the British focus group in the expectation that their experience would be very different. It had become clear from the interviews we had so far conducted that being sexually active was simply taken for granted among the young British women (with the exception of Julie) and therefore not in need of explanation and we already had instances of mothers’ permissive attitudes. Giving a group of young British women access to the Hong Kong data encouraged them to make explicit assumptions that usually remained implicit: Carla: yeah I don’t think my mum would ever expect me to wait for marriage, I don’t think it was ever on the cards, so yeah, it’s never really been an issue. Emily: erh yeah, I never thought my mum was nosey as this but er no, I don’t really my mum really expected me to stay a virgin till I was married either, I don’t know if she would have preferred me to or not, but I don’t think she expected it. Bryony: oh there was never any assumption I’d stay a virgin till marriage, not least because they hoped I wouldn’t be getting married really young anyway so um, if I had they would have been a bit worried. Jin Nye: worried about? Bryony: worried about me being some kind of thirty-five year old virgin or something.

Superficially these responses attest to a greater freedom from maternal surveillance enjoyed by young British women than their Hong Kong

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counterparts, but there is more going on in this interchange. As in the Hong Kong group’s account of not being allowed to have boyfriends sleeping over, these women co-constructed a consensus, but one in which premarital heterosexual conduct appears to have been thoroughly normalised. This normalisation, however, cannot be read simply as ‘sexual freedom’ in an absolute sense. What is evident from Bryony’s response to being asked for clarification is the importance of being sexual, where becoming ‘a thirty-five year old virgin’ would be cause for concern. Sexuality is never outside the social and can never be ‘free’ from its social shaping (Gagnon and Simon 1974, 2005). Or, in Foucauldian terms, power is productive, working through incitement as much as prohibition (Foucault 1981). The expectation that one should be sexually active is as much a form of social control as injunctions against sexual activity. The sexual world inhabited by our British sample is not one in which mothers have no anxieties about their daughters sexual lives. There was not a total lack of surveillance when the women were younger—although now that most live apart from their parents, mothers no longer interfere in their lives. Not all the British mothers had provided explicit sexuality education, the lack of which was attested to by both mothers and daughters. Curiously, those with very liberal views on sexuality and a relaxed attitude to their daughters’ sexual relationships did not necessarily give them information about sex. Half of the daughters said their mothers had offered sex education, which included some with very liberal mothers, such as Sarah, Samantha and Olivia, but also Julie, daughter of the most illiberal mother. Some mothers were happy to leave their daughters to find out from elsewhere. Ann, for example, said ‘I think it came up at school and she was happy with that and I think she would have said…if she’d wanted to know anything she would have asked’. Cherry was less happy about her daughter’s access to sexual knowledge. She said she did not think she needed to tell Andrea anything about sex as ‘she quite clearly knew far more than she should have done, too early’. The daughters whose mothers had liberal attitudes but who said they did not receive information about sex from their mothers, tended to qualify this: ‘but she talks very freely about it’ (Rachel) or ‘but she’s very open about it’ (Kimberley). The mothers of these daughters said: ‘I didn’t actually sit her down and tell her the facts of life’ (Janet); ‘Kimberly would ask you

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questions when she was ready…so we just tried to be you know, straight forward and responsive’ (Diane). Thus lack of sex education simply meant that there was no formal sit-down talk rather than a lack of communication. Most of the British mothers did try to ensure, one way or another, that their daughters were well informed. Most provided some advice on contraception. At the time when the daughters became, or were expected to become, heterosexually active, their mothers were concerned to keep them safe from unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, hence their advice on contraception, which sometimes extended to safe sex. Some mothers also expressed anxieties about daughters avoiding abusive sexual relationships or being coerced into sexual activities against their will and had discussed these issues with them. Allowing them to sleep with their partners at home was a way of keeping an eye on them and ensuring their safety and could, therefore, be regarded as a benign form of protective surveillance. Amy Schalet (2011) argues that the differences she found between Dutch and American parents in their views on and management of teenage sexuality were attributable not only to sexual morality but also their differing orientations to the self and the outside world. She characterises these orientations as ‘adversarial individualism’ (American) and ‘interdependent individualism’ (Dutch). The former assumes ‘antimony between autonomy and social relations of dependency’ (2011: 82) and derives from a culture in which the social is conceived as a potential threat to the autonomy of the self, to individual freedoms, and in which dependence of any kind is stigmatised (hence the American opposition to social welfare and universal health care). For those still dependent— adolescent offspring—adult sexual relations are deemed inappropriate. Without a notion of sociality and interdependence, the only way of controlling potentially disruptive forces, such as adolescent sexuality conceived as hormonally driven, is through external coercion. Dutch interdependent individualism, on the other hand, ‘situates the self within the sociality of which he or she is a part’ (2011: 80); it ‘presumes mutual dependence of individual and relationships’ (2011: 82). This orientation derives from a more cooperative culture in which young people’s autonomy is fostered by ‘encouraging self-determination and self-regulation

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within ongoing but changing relationships of interdependence maintained through consultation’ (2011: 82). Our findings do not precisely parallel Schalet’s. The British mothers might be fairly close to the Dutch in many respects, though British sexual culture is generally seen as less liberal than the Dutch, with far more public anxiety about young people’s sexuality (see e.g. Eder et al. 1999a, b; Jackson and Scott 2010, 2015). The Hong Kong mothers’ attitudes to their daughters’ sexuality seem similar to those of Schalet’s American parents, but they have different consequences and are not framed within an individualistic ethos. Hong Kong mothers are far more successful in securing their daughters’ compliance with their wishes. As Schalet notes, American teenagers begin sexual exploration as early as the Dutch (less safely and in secrecy), whereas most of the Hong Kong daughters had avoided early sexual activity. This conformity to their mothers’ expectations is a part of a very different orientation to the self and sociality where the self is embedded in the family. Hong Kong mothers want their daughters to become independent, in the sense of being able to provide for and look after themselves, but not to become fully independent of their natal family—indeed continuing interdependence between generations is central to the meaning of family (see Chapter 4). The conception of self in Hong Kong is thus very different from the American ideal of a self that is autonomous in the sense of the ‘capacity to leave the collectively and establish full self-sufficiency’ (Schalet 2011: 82). Young Hong Kong women are not expected to leave behind the collectively of their natal family even when they found their own new family household, but rather to maintain strong bonds of reciprocal support with their parents into adulthood. At the same time, for the Hong Kong women, the world beyond the family is seen as presenting possible threats to their well-being in terms of succeeding in a competitive world where no-one outside the family can be counted on. They value marriage, not as depicted by Schalet among Americans, as a curb on individualism, but as a continuation of familial bonds that are both culturally valued and necessary for survival. Their orientation to the world might be seen as adversarial familialism rather than adversarial individualism but this would be an over-simplification. The opposition between family and society in Hong Kong, as in other Chinese majority societies,

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is tempered by a view of the family as central to social order. Yet at the same time, families are protective of their borders. Problems within a family are kept from public view, even from the knowledge of wider kin, since a scandal affecting one family member could cause a loss of face for the entire family. Conversely, problems affecting individuals when they are outside the family should not be brought into it, particularly if they could disrupt family harmony. This orientation to the social is best described as protectionist rather than adversarial and thus as protectionist familialism.

Practices of Intimacy in Mother–Daughter Relationships Differing orientations to the world beyond the family and the meaning of family life are important to understanding the ways in which intimacy is sustained within families; meanings and practices are always closely intertwined. The ways in which mothers reared their children should be understood in the context of the wider practices of intimacy within families. It is clear that while mothers differed in their approaches to education and surveillance of daughters’ sexuality, they were motivated by care for their children and their perceptions of their responsibility for their well-being. Even punishment can be seen in this light. Mothers and daughters in both places were able to articulate what they valued or resented in their relationships with each other and how close they felt to each other. In both samples mothers and daughters expressed love and care for each other and a ‘friendship’ ideal of mother–daughter relationships was espoused by many, but the relationships remained in certain respects asymmetrical. These relationships, moreover, were not always harmonious: tensions with families can also be played out through practices of intimacy. In both there were degrees of closeness and distance expressed—some relationships worked better than others, and this changed over time. There were sources of friction and resentment, especially when daughters were in their teens. Olivia and Sasha both reported periods when they had been troublesome teens, while Andrea’s and Jacqueline’s relationships with their mothers were often

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stormy. Most, however, reported close mother–daughter relationships at the time of interview, but what being ‘close’ meant differed in the two locations and the practices of intimacy that sustained this feeling of closeness were similarly variable. Practices of intimacy within mother–daughter relationships in adulthood are, like all aspects of family life we have discussed, embedded in and affected by the wider social context and hence the conditions of life in Hong Kong and Britain. A number of different forms of intimacy and associated intimate practices emerged from our data: emotional, disclosing or confiding, practical and companionate. None of these, on their own, necessarily indicates intimacy (cf. Jamieson 2011); it is their meaning in specific social contexts that matters. Interpersonal intimacy is often equated with disclosing and confiding—an intimate friend, for example, is one to whom secrets can be confided and from whom advice can be sought on personal dilemmas. The equation of intimacy with self-disclosure, what Jamieson (1999) calls ‘disclosing intimacy’ is also, of course, a significant feature of Giddens’ transformation of intimacy thesis, seen by him as the basis of trust in relationships (Giddens 1992). Jamieson, however, contests the primacy given to this mode of relating, pointing out that intimacy can be sustained through many other means (1999, 2011). In Hong Kong, disclosing and confiding was far less important than other aspects of mother–daughter relationships. Companionship was particularly important to Hong Kong mothers and daughters. They live together so inevitably spend time together, but it’s time set aside for mothers that counts, even if at home: ‘she [mother] relies on me and so we just hang together and watch movies at home and then have pizza’ (Susie). Shopping together is common and taken as a sign of closeness. Mimi and Ellen seek advice from their daughters in order to look stylish and modern—Ellen prides herself that she and her daughter ‘look more like sisters’; Mimi is upset if her daughter goes off with friends, leaving her to shop alone. Mimi and her daughters also regularly go to Karaoke together. Such enactments of togetherness are particularly valued—they are displays of filial propriety as well as closeness from which mothers gain face, and giving one’s mother face it itself a means of showing affection and care (see Zhang 2016). A daughter who takes her mother out to lunch, or

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even better on trips abroad, is particularly admired. Such practices are expected to continue after daughters marry. Spending time with parents and in-laws at weekends as well as major festivals is a widespread cultural practice in Hong Kong and other Chinese societies (see, e.g., Koo and Wong 2009). Any westerner who has ever spent time in a Chinese society will have noticed the lack of availability of their friends at weekends and will have heard from them ‘I have to accompany my mother/mother-inlaw’. Reciprocal practical support is also essential to Hong Kong family practices, as should be clear from the previous chapter. Of course, practical support was evident in the British families too: parents were often still helping daughters out financially or in kind (e.g. accommodation in a crisis) yet, unlike those in Hong Kong, the British daughters had given little thought to repaying this. A particularly crucial part of this indebtedness felt and repaid by Hong Kong daughters is the ‘monthly contribution’, as well as planning for their parents’ old age (see Chapter 4). While we have argued that is part of family survival strategies, it has a symbolic meaning beyond this. The monthly contribution is a declaration of care, a demonstration of the strength of family bonds. The relative contribution family members make can also affect their influence in the family. While individual circumstances are taken into account in expectations about what can be given, failure in this obligation can be seen as indicative of a lack of care. Sik Ying and her sister take this obligation to their widowed mother very seriously, along with providing numerous other forms of practical support; their brother, who lives in New York, does not. Their mother does not need the money, she is comfortably provided for, but she nonetheless loses sleep over her son’s failure to fulfil his filial duty. Occasional gifts of money, which he does provide, do not substitute for regular payments. Gift-giving is also a practice of intimacy and a means of displaying familial affiliations. In both Hong Kong and the UK, gifts are given to family members, including gifts to mothers on birthdays and mothers’ day. Gifts are also given at important festivals: Christmas in the UK and lunar New Year in Hong Kong (and other Chinese societies). The form of these gifts varies, in particular, the relative importance of goods and money, with money being far more important in Hong Kong. In the

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British context, a thoughtful daughter would buy her mother a personal or luxury item for her birthday—something her mother would not buy for herself. To give money would indicate a lack of thoughtfulness and care in choosing an appropriate gift. In Hong Kong, however, it is money in the form of li-shi, in a red envelope, that matters; this may be accompanied by a small gift of some kind, but this is secondary to the cash. In the UK, children and teenagers often welcome money, but to give money to one’s mother as a gift (as opposed to supporting her financially or to help her out) would be unacceptable and impersonal. Red envelopes containing cash play an important part in Chinese cultural life (see Siu 2001). They are known as hong bao, red packets, in Putonghua and li-shi, lucky money, in Cantonese. They are exchanged on birthdays, at weddings, and particularly at New Year. At New Year they are mostly given to children and subordinates (door attendants, secretaries, maids), but also by younger adults to family seniors. The contents must be cash, bank notes as opposed to cheques or vouchers. The colour red denotes good luck, and the money is taken as a form of well wishing. Thus when a Hong Kong daughter gives her mother li-shi it is different in kind from the monthly contribution; it is wishing her luck and showing care. Of course the money also has material value too, but as in the well-chosen (or less well-chosen) gift in the UK ‘it is the thought that counts’; in Hong Kong, the money itself has symbolic value. While giving money, practical support and companionship are the central practices of intimacy we recorded in Hong Kong, what mattered most to the British daughters—and to their mothers—was the quality of communication between them. When asked about their relationships with each other almost all focused on one thing: talk. Some Hong Kong daughters, such as Lily, also mentioned communication as important, but disclosing and confiding figured much less among our Hong Kong women’s accounts than in the British data where it was absolutely central to mothers’ and daughters’ evaluation of their relationships. Among the British women, talking freely about personal issues signified a ‘good’, ‘close’ relationship. Conversely, lack of communication signified a degree of distance between mother and daughter, as in Zoe’s case—a rare British daughter who admitted having found it hard to confide in her mother earlier in her life. Nonetheless, she was keen to emphasise the

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importance of her parents, despite their ‘ups and downs’. She told us she ‘had to learn to get along with them’ and ‘in the past I have thought about having to create some distance from my parents because they were upsetting me, but I don’t now, then we’ve grown closer’. Zoe was not the only daughter to mention changes over time in the quality of her relationship with her mother. Andrea’s relationship with her mother had been difficult throughout her teens ‘we didn’t really share any good times after the age of about eleven, we had so many arguments … she couldn’t accept me at all’. Although they still had their differences, Andrea was making an effort to improve their relationship, which seems to be reciprocated: ‘I’m going through a period at the moment of learning to have…. compassion for my mum and understanding that she had a difficult task…and she’s learnt to respect me much more now and to see me a valuable [person] and to listen to me’. There were changes and variations, too, in the kinds of relationships and forms of communication daughters valued and wanted from their mothers. Pamela, in contrast to Andrea, had no conflict with her parents during her teens. For her ‘there was nothing to rebel against’. She describes a close family that always ate together and shared leisure activities and said she still valued time spent with them. Yet she rejected the friendship ideal of mother–child relationships and this limited, to some extent, the scope of communication between them: She always like acted like our mum, she didn’t try to be our friend and like when we were going through our teenage years and, you know, even to an extent now, when it came to boyfriends, she didn’t want to chat about it, she was happy to sort of be my mum, not try and be my friend… perhaps we now sort of chat as friends.

Others, however, much preferred open communication with their mothers and did represent closeness to their mothers as friendship: ‘we have always been very close and I felt that she’s my friend’ (Sarah). Rachel was typical of those who reported a ‘good’ relationship with her mother. In emphasising how close they were she said, ‘we talk about like, literally like everything, there’s like nothing I wouldn’t feel comfortable bringing up with my mum, we talk about everything’. ‘Everything’—for Rachel and

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others—included being able to talk openly about sex and relationships. Samantha, having recounted how she told her mother about losing her virginity, went on to say: ‘my mum was always really open … my mum’s very, very good about that sort of stuff ’. There were, however, limits to daughters’ feeling comfortable with sexual disclosure. Emily’s mother left condoms for her use but, ‘we never used the condoms that were in the bathroom cupboard because it would have been too embarrassing like, oh there’s one missing…’. For this reason she was not sure whether her mother was aware when she first started ‘having sex’. Mothers can also feel discomfort at too much disclosure. Frances’s daughter, Olivia, talked very openly to her about sexuality, but Frances did not want to hear too many details of Olivia’s sexual activities, saying half-jokingly, ‘I don’t want to know anymore, I just don’t want to know, please, I just don’t want to know!’ She qualified this by displaying her liberal attitudes: ‘her boyfriend used to stay here [sharing Olivia’s bed] and I have offered her condoms in the past you know, so I’m not afraid of talking to her about that’. Thus embarrassment between mothers and daughters often persists—though in some of the British cases there was very open communication about sexual matters between mothers and daughters. Such openness about sex was rarely reciprocal and daughters did not expect their mothers to talk about their sex lives. This was the case not only about sex per se, but also about sexual/romantic relationships more generally—mothers knew far more about the trials and tribulations of their daughters’ relationships than the other way around. As Jamieson (2011) notes, expecting disclosure from offspring can be a form of control and surveillance. Zoe bears this out in taking about her need to escape from the over-protectiveness of her mother. Disclosing and confiding, then, took variable forms among the British women, but in general it was far more central than among the Hong Kong women. Of course, the latter talked, but only rarely about personal things such as strong feelings, personal relationships outside the family or anything likely to cause discord within the family. Despite, or maybe because of, the emphasis on family solidarity its members are expected to solve their own extra-familial problems, to demonstrate selfreliance rather than bringing problems home—an aspect of what we have

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identified as protectionist familialism. When exchanging views on personal relationships or moral and political issues they preferred gossiping about others, public figures and TV personalities rather than directly addressing anything that might prove contentious. Even when relationships are spoken of as ‘open’ and ‘close’, some areas were not talked about—particularly not sexuality. There was not total absence of talk on sexuality between Hong Kong mothers and daughters, mothers did issue warnings and injunctions against premarital sex, as in their concern with their daughters’ virginity. In general, however, the Hong Kong mothers we interviewed were much more reticent about discussing sexual matters with and imparting sexual knowledge to daughters than the British mothers were. We recorded an altercation between Gabby and her mother, Ms Au, about the reasons for the latter’s failure to offer her any information about sex or even discuss sexual issues with her. Ms Au said that she did not find it necessary to discuss sex and contraception with her daughters as she assumed that they would have learnt it at school or elsewhere. Gabby would have welcomed more open communication: Gabby: Schools would only teach you about menstruation but nothing deeper for example, premarital sex, I’d want to know more and ask you (mother) about that. Ms Au: You can always go look up the internet! Gabby: Going on the internet is not the same as hearing your thoughts and opinion! Ms Au: How come such a highly educated person like you would not even go look up these things on the internet? You should know better!

Asked about her daughters’ possibly having premarital sex, she said ‘I don’t want to know. These are the things you (daughter) don’t have to tell me’. She did not even want to know about boyfriends—that was her daughters’ business and she didn’t feel she should be burdened with the details of their private lives. It was something that took place outside the bounds of the family and should be kept there. While Ms Au’s views represent a rather extreme version of protectionist familialism, the lack of communication on daughters’ romantic and sexual lives was the norm

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among the Hong Kong sample. Jacqueline and her mother Mimi were a partial exception in that boyfriends were at least acknowledged and welcome in the family home, if not in Jacqueline’s bed. Of course, once marriage is on the horizon parents do become involved—at least in the public display of the wedding banquet. Talking and communicating within families is not always about disclosing personal feelings or details of relationships. Another form of intimacy that involves talk is intellectual intimacy, which can include discussing ideas or politics and sharing knowledge. This also seemed to be common in the British families. Olivia and Sarah, for example, both talked about discussing political issues such as racism and feminism with their mothers. Even Andrea and Cherry, who disagreed with each other radically on both politics and lifestyles, evinced such detailed knowledge of each other’s views that they must have had numerous discussions on these subjects—and presumably, given the spikiness of their relationship, numerous arguments. Political discussions did not feature in the Hong Kong data, though sharing knowledge did in the form of daughters educating their mothers in various aspects of modern life. Sometimes this was an effect of their daughters’ education. Many mothers acknowledged, for example, their daughters’ greater fluency in English and would seek their help in understanding English words and phrases. Daughters in both Hong Kong and the UK were generally much more comfortable with IT so daughters offered help with understanding functions on phones, tablets and computers. Another element of this daughterly teaching was the fashion advice Hong Kong daughters gave to mothers during their shopping expeditions together or at other times. Only rarely, however, did such communication touch on more sensitive and personal issues. One exception was Felicity, who was in the process of converting to Catholicism because her two daughters had already done so. She joined a bible class to find out more about the religion her daughters had adopted. This implies that they must, at some point, have discussed religious beliefs. Engaging in discussions about politics or current affairs, where family members might disagree, was fairly common among British mothers and daughters; issues they mentioned talking about included the current political climate, environmental issues and feminism. This was not the case in Hong Kong.

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Difficult Conversations Not all in our Hong Kong sample avoided controversy; Mimi and Jacqueline, for example, often had spectacular arguments, yet remained very close. In most Hong Kong Chinese families, however, talking about anything difficult or contentious is thought to disrupt family harmony and breaches the norms of protectionist familialism. This was brought into sharper focus by more recent research we have conducted, in the context of the struggle for democracy in Hong Kong during the Umbrella Movement and its aftermath (Ho et al. 2018a, b; see also introduction and Chapter 1). In a focus group conducted with movement participants and bystanders, one of the issues raised by participants was what we have called the ‘hierarchical harmony’ within Hong Kong families, which remain markedly patriarchal and stratified by age and generation. The Umbrella Movement often exposed underlying tensions in families. Young women activists, in particular, told of the ways in which potential disagreements within families had been masked by silence until the Umbrella Movement rendered silence untenable. Lydia, for example, recounted how her personal values were not important for her parents, ‘they do not want to accept the idea that society needs to respect diversity’. She explained: Our family is not good at handling differences in opinions. Our general pattern is that, someone says something, if you do not agree then you keep silent. This is our way of managing our family problems. Our silence is our solution… But in this event when you cannot be silent, this reveals the underlying problem. You have to solve the problem… Actually this is not limited to democracy. This is the change that is needed in the modes of human relationships. (Lydia, Umbrella Movement activist, our emphasis)

Maintaining harmony for the collective benefit of the family is important in Chinese culture. The practices of intimacy we have discussed, whereby children are responsible for the well-being of seniors in the family, should not bring shame to them and ensure that they maintain face (Zhang

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2016), were potentially disrupted by involvement in the Umbrella Movement. As Lydia indicates, ‘this event’ (the Umbrella Movement) could serve to bring into the open issues previously silenced within families. Wing also presented an account that turned on ‘the event’, leading her to question her family’s imposed, silencing consensus. Basically we do not quarrel at home. My father is like a boss. My mother just listens to my father. Then the whole family would be silent. Only since this event I have discovered my parents are not always right. (Wing, Umbrella Movement activist)

Interestingly, later in the discussion Wing also related family silences to the issue of her sexuality, discussing her past avoidance of coming out as a lesbian to her parents: ‘if we do not touch on this topic [sexuality] there would not be conflicts’. She suggested, in fact that coming out as a lesbian was easier than coming out as a ‘yellow ribbon’ (an Umbrella Movement supporter) in that sexual relationships were less public than political activism and, during the time of the Umbrella movement, politics dominated public debate and media coverage ‘you couldn’t get away from it’. Silence over such issues may not always be seen as oppressive. For Wing, as for the daughters in our original study, not talking about difficult issues can be a way of making space for themselves without damaging familial harmony. Harmony, however, can also be maintained at the cost of suppressing feelings; anger is often expressed through what is locally known as ‘black face’, a sullen, resentful look, and a form of sulking that displays displeasure while also avoiding open conflict. Another issue that emerged from the Umbrella Movement study was the effort that activists made to repair relationships with their families; both Lydia and Wing talked of love for their families and trying to overcome the breaches in harmony that speaking out entailed. Another activist, Gin, talked of the distress caused to her policeman brother by her involvement in the protests and how she tried to convey her own convictions to him and the rest of the family while simultaneously expressing care and support; ‘I told him he did not need to be afraid. His sister is not doing bad things; “I am just fighting for things for you and your children that you cannot fight for in your position”’. Afterwards, rather than

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directly confronting her family by expressing her political views, talking of her disagreement with her brother or directly saying how much it had upset her, she videoed herself playing ‘Let it be’ to her family on the guitar ‘because I was really helpless at that point. Therefore I used music to express my distress’. She hoped that this might help them understand and presented it as a means of promoting mutual respect and restoring harmony. In so doing she was engaging in display, not in Finch’s (2007) terms, saying ‘this is my family’—here membership of the family would never have been in doubt—but displaying her good intentions, her commitment to her family and her sense of responsibility to them. These accounts, deriving from a time of political turbulence when family routines and practices were disrupted, may help explain why confiding and disclosing were not central to the practices of intimacy found in our original study. Doing things together (companionship) and for one another (practical support) are far safer ways of maintaining closeness within Hong Kong families than being open about ones feelings and doings. It is possible that political issues maybe becoming less contentious in some families in the context of the 2019–2020 campaigns, when whole families have been on the streets demonstrating together, sinai and mothers’ organisations have held protests in support of young activists and community elders have offered practical support to young protestors and sometimes used themselves and human shields, placing themselves between riot police and demonstrators. But not all families are united in their political position; we know of cases where parents are more radical than their children as well as the other way round. In one tragic instance in July 2019, a young man was locked out of the family home after participating in the protest and then committed suicide by jumping from the roof of their apartment block.

Concluding Comments Relationships between mothers and daughters are part of the wider configuration of family life and its associated meanings and practices in particular contexts. In managing children most British mothers adopted

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liberal parenting styles, using reasoned negotiation with a dash of emotional manipulation (‘the disappointment thing’). These strategies did not always work, but they had managed to preserve a degree of middleclass privilege in ensuring their daughters made it through higher education without pushing them too hard through excessive concerted cultivation. The Hong Kong mothers combined concerted cultivation with setting clear boundaries reinforced with strict, sometimes brutal, discipline in their effort to ensure their daughters achieved or retained middleclass privileges. The modes of childrearing of both these sets of parents cut across what are usually seen as class-based mothering styles. In this chapter, we have shown how the patterns of interaction set up in childhood and modes of managing children’s lives and relationships carry through into adulthood, reflected in culturally specific practices of intimacy and differing orientations to family. It is clear that even when those practices are markedly divergent they are ways of showing care and concern for the other. They are also suggestive of the strength of relational practices for the self and the ways in which reflexivity is never only about the self, but always grounded in self-other relationships. The concept of practices of intimacy (Jamieson 2011) has been particular fruitful here, enabling us to see how differing modes of relating can contribute to a sense of belongingness and togetherness. Jamieson’s insight that practices of intimacy are not always egalitarian has also alerted us to the ways in which parental surveillance and discipline can be seen as practices of intimacy and how, even when they seem harsh or restrictive, they can be motivated by care and concern, albeit within a hierarchical relationship. This is particularly evident in the case of mother–daughter interaction on sexual issues, where governing the sexuality of young women mirrors the disciplinary practices adopted in childhood, resulting in an ostensibly more liberal, but still protective, form of regulation and monitoring among the British mothers. It is also clear, here and elsewhere, that the differing practices evident in our Hong Kong and British samples are related to the sociocultural, economic and political contexts of the two locations. Not only are there differences in local sexual cultures, but material conditions also have discernible consequences for both generations. The past histories

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of Hong Kong and Britain play a part, too, in shaping mothers’ experience and thus their orientations towards their daughters’ sexuality. Economic circumstances, living arrangements and housing continue to differentially enable and constrain young women’s sexual opportunities; for example, living with parents increases possible surveillance, but might also heighten parents’ sense of responsibility for their daughters’ conduct. Within these parameters, most of the mothers, in both Hong Kong and Britain, sought to guide their daughters’ sexual lives, whether through preserving their virginity or ensuring the safe practice of heterosex— though in the British case surveillance largely ceased when daughters left home. The differences we have observed between our two samples—the normalisation of late teenage sexual conduct among the British and the continued importance of premarital virginity in Hong Kong—are clearly mediated through mother–daughter relationships. The data we have presented, however, also evince young women’s active, reflexive interpretation of their mothers’ concerns. Young women’s interaction with their mothers on sexual issues can be seen as a form of ‘interpersonal scripting’ (Gagnon and Simon) that contributes to the ongoing negotiation of the meaning of sexuality. Advice and admonitions received from mothers are among the resources young women draw upon in making sense of sexuality and in conducting their sexual lives, and this advice reflects the mothers’ interpretations of their own experience. In part, then, sexual scripts are handed down from mother to daughter, but are renegotiated, modified and reinterpreted in the process. The mothers’ attitudes and practices are also related to their wider views on the relationship between themselves, their daughters and the outside world; hence their concerns about the potential risks to their daughters. In the next chapter, we go on to explore patterns of sexual relationships among both generations. Here, differences between the older women’s life trajectories in Hong Kong and Britain go some way towards explaining their attitudes to their daughters’ sexual lives.

6 Love and Sex in Marital and Non-marital Contexts

The configuration of family life is obviously related to patterns of marriage or partnership formation and childbearing. This has changed over time in both Hong Kong and the UK, which has affected the familial relationships of the mothers and daughters who participated in this study. In western sociology, the rapid social change in sexual attitudes and lifestyles over the last half century has often been seen as a story of progress, or, in the title of Jeffrey Weeks’ (2007) book, The World We have Won. The ‘world’, however, generally means the western world— and even here only some have been winners given unequal access to resources facilitating alternative lifestyles (McDermott 2011). This is an area of life where we found marked contrasts between the British and Hong Kong women, affecting both generations, but especially the mothers. The women of the mothers’ generation were born between the late 1940s and mid-1960s and, therefore, would have reached young adulthood from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s, but under very different conditions in the two locations, as should be clear from previous chapters. In Britain, as in many parts of the western world, the 1960s is seen as a time when sexual morality underwent a transformation, captured © The Author(s) 2020 S. Jackson and P. S. Y. Ho, Women Doing Intimacy, Palgrave Macmillan Studies in Family and Intimate Life, https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-28991-9_6

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in the idea of the ‘sexual revolution’, but to call it a revolution is to overstate both its origins and its immediate impact. Change was actually more gradual, part of what Cas Wouters (2007) has called an informalisation of manners in the sphere of courtship and sexual relations throughout the twentieth century. In Britain, there was a ‘permissive moment’ (Weeks 1981) in the late 1960s, with the liberalisation of abortion and divorce laws, the partial decriminalisation of (male) homosexuality and the relaxation of censorship. Yet the early 1970s was also the high point of marriage in the UK; in 1971, nearly 60% of women were married by the time they were 24 (UNDP 2017). A key factor in facilitating heterosexual sex outside wedlock was wider access to reliable contraception. Although birth control had been widely used by married women in the UK for several decades, oral contraception gave women greater control and security. The ‘the pill’ was introduced in the 1960s but only became widely available to unmarried women, on National Health prescription, in the 1970s. The separation of heterosexual sex from reproduction is often seen as crucial to changes in sexual attitudes and practices, making possible new sexual lifestyles (Giddens 1992; Seidman 1991). This did not, however, have the same consequences in Britain and Hong Kong. In the western world, the late 1960s and early 1970s witnessed a range of counter-cultural and new left movements, and particularly the emergence of women’s liberation and gay liberation. The challenges such movements posed to traditional sexual morality were embraced by only a small minority at the time, but did influence some of the mothers in our British sample. Although some of these progressive ideas may have spread to Hong Kong at the time through its relationship with the UK and other foreign influences, it is doubtful that they had much impact beyond the ex-pat community. Given that many of the mothers in our Hong Kong sample grew up in poverty and were expected to contribute to the family financially or practically from a young age, they had little opportunity for autonomy, sexual or otherwise. Family life, moreover, was still governed by very conservative and traditional Chinese values, which restricted women further. Their lives were, therefore, far more constrained than those of their British counterparts. Social change in both the UK and Hong Kong has also shaped the lives of younger generations. The particularly rapid social change in Hong

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Kong since the 1970s, which might be seen as compressed modernisation (see Chapter 2), has meant that by the time the daughters in our sample were the young adults we met, the contrast between their material conditions of life in Britain and Hong Kong was not as marked as it had been for their mothers. There were, however, still significant differences that had an impact on the conduct of their sexual lives. Cultural factors, which had affected the way that they had been reared by their mothers and the ways in which mothers continued to influence them, also contributed to shaping young women’s sexual experiences in the two locations. Sexual morality has become much more relaxed in the UK, as in most of Europe. Data from the British Social Attitudes surveys indicate that 42% of the population thought premarital sex was ‘not wrong at all’ in 1983, compared with over 70% in 2014 and around 74% in the years 2016–2018 (Curtice et al. 2019: 122). Views on same-sex relationships have also liberalised, with under 20% reporting that they considered sexual relations between two adults of the same sex as ‘not wrong at all’ 1983 and two thirds doing so in 2018 (ibid.: 129). There has been some shift in attitudes in Hong Kong too, at least among young people. In the most recent Youth Sexuality study, it was found that 63.8% of unmarried people between the ages of 18 and 27 thought that premarital sex—for other people—was acceptable (Yip et al. 2013). According to recent surveys, there has also been an increase in public support for anti-discrimination legislation to be extended to protect sexual minorities, with over two thirds now endorsing this, while just over half agree that lesbian and gay couples should be able to marry (Lau et al. 2018; Suen 2017). Nonetheless, Hong Kong remains generally less liberal on sexual matters than the UK, and there is still some vocal opposition to sexual minority rights, which had been attributed to the dual influence of the Confucian emphasis on continuing the family line and Christian ideas of sin (Kwok 2016). Cultural differences and material circumstances interact in shaping romantic, sexual and marital experiences among both generations of the women in our sample. In this chapter, we consider how these experiences, and how they recount them, are related not only to general conditions of global late modernity but to the material conditions of each

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locale and shifting, but culturally specific, understandings of female sexuality and appropriate adult relationships. We begin by discussing the older women’s experiences, the mothers’ generation, charting their relationship histories before moving on to the extent to which, and ways in which, this has impacted on their daughters and finishing with the daughters’ own experiences. In doing so we should note that we have less data on the sexual life of the Hong Kong women than the British women as the former were far more reticent about open discussion of personal sexual experience, though they talked quite freely about other aspects of their relationships.

Pathways into Relationships Among the Mothers’ Generation In the 1970s Hong Kong women as a whole tended to marry later than those in the UK, with only 32.4% married by the age of 24 in 1971 (UNDP 2012). The Hong Kong mothers we interviewed, however, had all married in their twenties. There was a strong expectation of marriage, which freed their parents of responsibility for them, making it a predictable life event. Often women of that generation in Hong Kong were not allowed to have boyfriends or indeed much freedom to do anything outside the family home and the older generation would be involved in matchmaking. Elsie for example told us: ‘When I was her age (her daughter’s) my parents would not allow me to see guys. My second sister deliberately asked for marriage when she was seventeen. She had to ask her boyfriend’s mother to arrange a marriage’. Marriage could also be prompted by practical concerns. For example, Ellen told us that her mother asked her to marry in order to be put on the waiting list for public housing. To facilitate this, she registered her marriage, becoming legally married, two years before the wedding ceremony. These were not arranged marriages. Although marriage in Chinese societies has traditionally been seen as forming a relationship between two families, not just the couple, the Hong Kong women did have relationships with their husbands well before marriage, often with a lengthy courtship. Most met them through their daily lives. This could be a result

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of kinship and communities ties, as in the case of Ms. Lui. She had grown up in the same New Territories village as her future husband; their families were close and offered mutual support to each other—her grandmother had looked after her husband when he was a small child so they had known each other all their lives. They dated for seven years before marrying. Ms. Lui described her marriage as ‘ordinary’ but values her compatibility with her husband and the close bonds between their natal families. For some, the choice of husband seemed pragmatic rather than romantic, as in Ms. Au’s and Felicity’s accounts. Ms. Au said of her girlhood in mainland China (a town in Guangdong) ‘in that era people all said that they wanted to marry’, but notes that among educated, career-minded women it was seen as less necessary—but they still tended to marry. She met her future husband when they both worked in the same factory and dated him for five or six years before marrying him. She was attracted to him because he went for the university entrance exam and studied in Beijing, while she decided to train in Chinese medicine—so together they aspired to adult education as a pathway out of factory work. Felicity, the most educated of the older women, married after her first degree and subsequently the couple went to Australia together to pursue postgraduate studies. She told us that what drew her to her husband was his drive and dedication to work, but as we shall see later, what was originally an attraction later led to problems in their relationship. In both of these accounts women’s admiration for men’s ambition, and the associated promise of future material success, was a key element in their choice of spouse. While this motivation indicates a degree of pragmatism, it was tempered by more affective concerns, a desire for companionship with a compatible partner. Felicity, for example, described her relationship with her husband in the early years of her marriage as very close. There is no pragmatism in Rosemary’s account of her choice of husband but she does present a realist rather than romantic appraisal of married life. She met her husband when she was studying for ‘A’ levels in the UK: I worked in a supermarket in London for the summer…a friend of mine introduced me to my husband one day when I was off work and we

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chatted for a while, as it is normal to talk to other Chinese people when you are abroad…When the summer ended, I needed to go back to my city and he offered his help to drive me back. That’s how we started.

Marriage, she told us, is based on compromise, on adapting to each others’ lives: ‘marriage is never as perfect as you see on TV!’ Nonetheless, she said that if she had her life again she would still choose to marry and have children; while appreciating the advantages of an independent single lifestyle, ‘having a family is a different kind of joy’. One of the few Hong Kong women to mention sex in the context of her marriage, she claimed it was important but not necessary to the relationship and added that ‘a good sex life brings a couple closer, on the other hand a bad one has a bad effect on the relationship’. None of this generation divulged any information about premarital sexual activity. Chastity prior to marriage was an accepted norm for this generation, but this did not mean that no premarital sex occurred. One of our focus group participants (Susie) told us that her mother had confessed to having had sex with her father before their marriage. None of the Hong Kong women mentioned any romantic attachments prior to that with their (first) husband, whereas the British women often had multiple early relationships. The older generation of British women had far more varied pathways into sexual partnerships and marriage. Sex outside marriage was already becoming fairly common by the late 1960s, though it was still not publicly accepted and single mothers were still stigmatised except in the more liberal sectors of society, and especially if they were poor (Phoenix 1990). Two of the British women, Barbara and Janet, never married, although Barbara had once contemplated it when she was at university and in love. At this time, too, she wanted to be part of a couple: In those days you did want to be a couple, you wanted to have a partner, you know and you wanted somebody compatible who would be around, having sex obviously, but also somebody you would go out with so you wouldn’t go out on your own and you’d have somebody to go to things with, you know just sharing, really.

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Barbara’s account illustrates how, among many who were students in the late 60s, sex was taken for granted as ‘obviously’ part of a couple relationship, whether marital or not. This paved the way for her later view of the irrelevance of marriage. She continued to want love and a ‘permanent relationship’ but ‘marriage didn’t come into it, it just seemed irrelevant somehow’. Prior to her relationship with her long-term partner of over 30 years, Barbara had other relationships and some one-night stands. When the relationship with her partner began, Barbara was pregnant by another man and her partner took parental responsibility for that child as well as his own daughter, Laura, born a few years later. Janet, like Barbara, did not consider marriage personally meaningful; she ‘couldn’t see the point of it’. Janet had cohabited briefly with her daughter’s father, but the relationship soon broke down. While the other ten British women had at some point been married, only two, Patricia and Michelle, had never had a sexual relationship with anyone other than their one husband. Both had strong religious convictions and reported having been brought up by very strict parents. Patricia remained a virgin until she married at the age of 34. Michelle’s parents prevented her from dating in her teens and her first serious boyfriend became her husband. They met when she was 21 and married four years later. Unlike, Patricia, she did have sex with her husband before marriage. The remainder of the British women all had premarital (hetero)sexual experience, often with a series of partners, and reported first sex between the ages of 14 and their early twenties (most between 16 and 20). Karen had her daughter two years before marrying. She was happy cohabiting and had not wanted to marry but did so in order to try to save the relationship, which lasted only another two years. All ten had cohabited with their future husbands prior to marriage. For some, marriage had been to please others—in Karen’s case, her partner, in Diane’s her mother and in Cherry’s her father. The overall pattern of these British women’s early adult relationships, then, diverges markedly from that among their Hong Kong contemporaries. When it comes to the quality of long-term relationships, however, there is less of a contrast. Instead, we have a picture of varied relationships depending more on individual circumstances.

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Changes in Relationships over Time Not all relationships last and those that do change over time. The majority of the older generation were in stable long-term marriages or cohabiting relationships—though not always their first. Eight of the Hong Kong women had remained married to their original husbands, two were divorced (one twice) and two were widowed. In addition to the six British women still with their original husbands, two who had divorced were now in stable relationships, one remarried and one cohabiting. All but two of the British women were in relationships of varying lengths. Thus, as with their entry into relationships, the British women’s circumstances were more varied than those in Hong Kong. Some of these longterm relationships, in both Britain and Hong Kong, seem very stable. Examples from Hong Kong include Ellen and Maria. Ellen, who was married at the age of 22 and had her two daughters by the time she was 25, declared herself very happy with her husband and said she had grown to love him more, although she wished he could be ‘more romantic’. Maria sometimes worries that her husband, who is away on business much of the time, might be unfaithful, but seems happy with him. Anna, her daughter, paints a very positive view of her parents’ relationship: I think the two of them are getting on very well. There was a year when me and my sister were both studying in England and they would come over to see us and they were holding hands when they were on the streets. I feel that is so sweet. Who at that age would still be holding hands when they walk on the streets?

Anna was not the only daughter to present a positive image of the parental relationship. Among the British daughters, Pamela said of her parents’ lifelong marriage that she grew up ‘knowing they loved each other and loved me’. Emily sees her parents as a model of a good relationship, which she contrasts with those of friends’ parents who remain together but are distant from each other. Emily’s mother, Susan, had been married for nearly 30 years and Emily characterises the marriage as ‘still close’. She goes on to say:

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They still sort of chat to each other all the time and things you know, like they’ll come home and they’ll talk, and they bicker a lot, which kind of shows that they’re still you know, at least interested in each other’s stuff to bicker and you know, they go off on holidays together a lot and you know, try and spend a lot of time together really so, I assume they’re still close. I don’t know they still seem happy and in love.

These accounts contrast with that of Bobbie, who described her Hong Kong parents’ marriage as ‘functional’ and lacking in affection. Some of the Hong Kong relationships survived difficulties because of the willingness of partners to work through problems. Elsie, who is now widowed, experienced both troubles and contentment over time. Her husband had at one time had an affair, but she forgave him (she is a devout Christian). She told us that their marriage had not been very close as they were both busy working and had little time to spend together. They only became closer when he was diagnosed with cancer in 1997, when she left work to care for him. They also moved to another district to be nearer her wider family (she has 10 siblings). While initially he recovered, the cancer recurred and he died in 2001. May also stayed with her husband despite his affair and she too discussed her decision to stay with him in Christian terms. She took the drastic step of phoning her husband’s lover and challenging the latter’s right to him. She said of her rival: ‘She only had half of my husband since I forgave him and he was willing to come back to me… God expects me to learn and show not only endurance but mercy’. She said she has learnt and also, despite her commitment to her marriage, ‘I’m trying to put the focus back on myself ’. She has found satisfying work, supporting mothers of newborn children, and this has given her confidence and independence and a source of self-worth outside her marriage, which has enabled her to cope with what remains, for her, a difficult situation: ‘I have accumulated much experience during the last thirty years. I am therefore not a zero. I have found what I have lost and I am able to make my own money’. The stories told by the older generation of British women did not linger on extramarital affairs, which were as likely to be conducted by the women themselves as their husbands, and were widely seen as a symptom rather than a cause of relationship breakdown,

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something that happened because the relationship had ceased to work. The British women did, however, attest to the ways that lasting relationships change and are not without their problems. Barbara’s relationship lasted through both cohabiting and living apart together. She and her partner have had their ups and downs but she seems, from her narrative, to be contented. She also gave us a very full account of how love, for her, has changed over time: I think if you’ve been in a relationship for a matter of decades then you go through so much together that there’s almost, its effortless in a way, you are just so close to somebody, and you don’t really need to try anymore it’s like you’re reaping the rewards of all those fights and arguments that you had earlier and then you gradually weary of that and there’s all sorts of things that you go through, you know bereavements, problems and sort of upsets and things and you find that love is just being, it’s just there, you know, it’s just kind of taken for granted, and it’s much easier, coz you, but it’s not um, sort of thrilling anymore, I think that’s the thing about love when you’re young, it’s exciting isn’t it, so it’s not exciting like that, but it’s very nice and um, I just feel very lucky really, I’m pleased that I’m still with somebody even on a sort of interrupted basis, that I’ve shared my life with you know, that’s another thing, if you’ve had children and brought them up with that person …you’ve got all these memories together, you’ve got all the stuff about your children and all the things you’ve been through and things you’ve known and you can kind of talk about them, which is pleasant.

Among those who found the strains in their relationships too difficult to overcome and who ultimately divorced, there were differences in how amicable the separation was. Among the British women, Judith and Frances reported quite difficult divorces. Karen was at the other extreme. She had been a reluctant wife. She complied with her husbands’ desire to marry after the birth of her daughter in the hope of maintaining the relationship for the sake of the child, but it only lasted two years. Nonetheless, she remains friendly with her ex-husband and his new partner and considers them as part of her family. She is now happily cohabiting in a relationship that had lasted 17 years at the time of the interview. Cherry describes the split with her first husband as accomplished gradually to

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ease the transition for her children: ‘we were sort of living under the same roof, part-time, in some ways making it a gradual separation for the children…the marriage was effectively over, but the children didn’t really realise till quite a while later’. Hong Kong divorces also had different outcomes. Mimi, who been married and divorced twice gave contrasting accounts of her two divorces. She has one daughter from her first marriage, which broke down when the daughter was very young. She subsequently remarried and her second husband brought up the daughter as his. She then had two more daughters, Jacqueline and her younger sister. She managed, however, to remain on good terms with her first husband—and both ‘fathers’ attended the eldest daughter’s wedding. The breakdown of her second marriage was more dramatic and more acrimonious. She discovered her husband had a ‘second wife’ (ernai ) across the border. He was also occasionally violent when they argued, which came to a head after discovering his infidelity. She initiated divorce proceedings and sought legal aid to ensure that alimony was paid to her directly from her husband’s salary and then pension (which she was able to do because he was a civil servant). This led to further fierce arguments. At one point she became so angry that she chased him down the stairs of their apartment building with a cleaver. She also gained her revenge by discussing her experience with a journalist writing a feature about Hong Kong civil servants’ involvement in the practice of bao ernai , so that he featured in the newspaper article. He subsequently married his Chinese wife officially and had a son with her. Relationships between the two families remained strained—and Mimi’s ex-husband’s second marriage also failed. Felicity’s marriage broke down partly because her husband’s work took him away from home frequently. What was originally an attraction, her admiration for his work ethic later led to problems in their relationship; he became so successful in his career that she ‘found it hard to keep up with him’. More critically, he had a number of affairs, the first two years after the marriage. Eight years later she discovered he had another girlfriend. She fought hard to maintain the marriage and wrote him a ten-page letter begging him to stay with her and their two daughters, but he flew overseas on business even more frequently and ultimately he left her and remarried. In retrospect, she regrets the marriage. ‘I should

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have got to know his friends and family better in order to get a clearer picture of what my ex-husband was like’.

New Relationships The ending of relationships in later adulthood, of course, creates the potential for new ones. Three of the four Hong Kong women who were divorced or widowed had boyfriends at the time of interview, Mimi, Felicity and Ms. Tsang, though none cohabited with them. Although Felicity had tried hard to preserve her marriage, she seems to have had far more pleasure from relationships she has had since her divorce. One of her boyfriends was ten years younger than she was. She said ‘I used to reject men younger than me but now I have opened my heart’. She enjoyed the romantic relationship but knew it would not be long-term. She now has another boyfriend, a divorced man also a few years younger. She likes him very much, but he has younger children and she sees him as putting too much time and effort into them so that they do not see each other as often as she would like and he does not give her enough attention. Ms. Tsang’s boyfriend is known as ‘Uncle Jack’ to her children. He is a distant relative by marriage,1 and they have been together for 10 years. He visits every Friday and Saturday to cook for the family and is taking the family on a trip to Japan. Her children will pay for themselves but Uncle Jack will pay for her. Ms. Tsang considers that this is what a boyfriend should do, ‘he should support me and pay for going out and vacations’. Uncle Jack has a son from his own past marriage, who is also supportive, giving Ms. Tsang and her daughters red packets (li-shi) at Chinese New Year. Ms. Tsang told us that she had made a clear agreement with Uncle Jack at the beginning that she would not move in with him, whether living with his family or only living with him: ‘I did not want to leave my children and it would be hard for them to blend into

1 He

is her husband’s sister’s husband’s brother. Traditional marriages with affinal kin at this distance (and therefore outside the lineage) were favoured, but now Hong Kong people are less likely to be in touch with distant relatives and such marriages are much rarer.

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his family’. He had proposed to her a few times and while she would not have minded marrying him, she made it clear that even if they married she would not move in with him: ‘I want a relationship that is more like companionship than a marriage’. She told us that he respected her choice and that the relationship continued on her terms. Accommodating children in the process of divorce and forming new relationships could cause problems and this was raised by two of the British women, Cherry and Frances. Despite Cherry’s attempts to make her children gradually aware of their fathers’ departure it was still a shock to them. She had begun a relationship with the man who became her second husband while she was still in the ‘gradual’ process of splitting up from her first husband, but her children seemed unaware of what was happening. While they initially responded quite well to their new stepfather, Andrea subsequently turned against him, which also soured her relationship with her mother. Andrea remained close to her biological father and, in retrospect, sees him as having influenced, even manipulated, her feelings towards her mother and stepfather: ‘it’s sometimes hard for me to know what was happening and what he’s told me was happening’. She described his attitude as ‘very judgemental and harsh’. Frances had divorced while her daughter, an only child, was very young. She had a number of short-term relationships after her divorce, but these ‘just didn’t work out’. She had a very close bond with her daughter and this inhibited her from seeking a longer-term relationship as her daughter ‘didn’t like actually people in my life either, to be honest, because it was like somebody taking my attention away from her’. The difficulties this caused were exacerbated by her ex-husband: She wouldn’t go and stay with other people overnight. I could have a babysitter in but it was very difficult to get some time to develop a relationship… and [ex-husband] would have her sometimes over a weekend, but once he found out I was seeing somebody he wouldn’t have her on the Friday nights because he didn’t want me to have that relationship.

At the time of the interview, when her daughter had left home, Frances was in a relationship; her daughter, Olivia, was happy to see this and expressed regret for having restricted her mother’s relationships in the

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past. Other British women had cohabited either prior to or as an alternative to remarriage and this was generally regarded as acceptable. This was the major difference from the post-marital relationships of the Hong Kong women; the latter preferred visiting or dating relationships. It may have been more difficult for them to contemplate new domestic partnerships in later life, when children were adults or approaching adulthood, as it complicated the obligations associated with intergenerational support, which is deemed essential for survival.

From Mothers to Daughters The British mothers’ experience of living through the liberalisation of sexual mores and their varied personal relationship histories have left most of them with much more relaxed attitudes to their daughters’ sexual lives than is the case among the Hong Kong mothers. The association of sex with guilt, which historically featured strongly in the western Christian tradition, was not made any British participants other than Patricia and Julie (see Chapter 5). What was once a dominant element in western cultural scenarios has been thoroughly displaced by the dissociation of sex from marriage. Given their mothers’ attitudes and practices it is not surprising that most of the young British women were able to talk in a matter-of-fact way about their sexual histories. Most had begun having boyfriends in their early teens and had the first relationship they described as ‘serious’ in their mid to late teens and recalled their first ‘sex’ (i.e. heterosexual coitus) between the ages of 15 and early twenties, with a median age of 17. The language the young women used is indicative of the common sense framing of sex and relationship talk. When they spoke of ‘having sex’ they meant heterosexual intercourse, taking the conventional notion of penetrative sex as ‘the real thing’ for granted, thus accepting what has been called ‘the coital imperative’ (Potts 2000). Surprisingly even Lucy, who was bisexual, did this. They also commonly classified their relationships as ‘serious’ or not. The adjective ‘serious’ can mean many things, including a strong sense of emotional attachment or being ‘in love’ or a sense of commitment to a relatively long-term relationship,

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but in general differentiated a relationship from those that were casual or very short term or were considered, from the standpoint of their present lives, as immature. These are, of course, representations of past relationships, reconstructed from ‘the standpoint of the present’ (Mead 1964: 353) and involve some distancing from their present self. Their narratives also reflect current ideals of the ‘right time’ to embark on one’s sexual career. Thus bisexual Lucy who had no boyfriends until her late teens and had her first heterosex at seventeen said that she was ‘not into boys until late’, while Alexis, who lost the virginity at 19 described herself as a ‘late developer.’ The number of past and present partners they had varied, but most had experienced at least two or three sexual relationships apart from Julie (the virgin until married), Alexis and Sarah, who had only one sexual relationship, in Sarah’s case with the boyfriend she had been with since she was 17. All but two—Alexis and Emily—were currently sexually active. Most were in stable relationships with some, Kimberly, Samantha, Zoe and Andrea, cohabiting with their boyfriends. Others were less committed; Rachel was ‘seeing someone’ while Lucy described her sexuality as ‘fluid’, not only in the sense of attraction to both men and women, but also in not wanting to label her partners as boyfriends of girlfriends. She said she was ‘easily bored with people’ and therefore had not had any long-term relationships: Sex is just, it’s just fun…I don’t think you need to have this massive hang up about having to be in love with someone or saving yourself for that special person, I don’t really see that that makes sense, for me personally. I can see that some people will want to, will want to wait or will want to be in love, or be married or want to have children, but I have, I suppose a traditionally male attitude towards it, whereas it’s, it’s just sex, it’s not as important as people make out, doesn’t have to be a massive deal.

Lucy, however, was unusual. Most of the young women were in more committed relationships unless they had recently embarked on a new one, as was the case with Rachel. What was particularly striking was what Julia Carter (2013) has noted as a ‘curious absence of love’ in the way they talked about their current relationships. Only one, Kimberly

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used the word ‘love’ in relation to a current partner and that was in passing, referring to her boyfriend’s lack of communicativeness: ‘much as I love him, her doesn’t always want to talk about things as much as I do’. Even Zoë, who described her boyfriend as the most important person in her life, never told us that she loved him. Where they did talk of love and specifically being ‘in love’, was when discussing past relationships. In Laura’s case, it was part of her justification for marrying her ex-husband during the time they were both in the military: ‘we definitely were in love, but … it was purely we could have either have broken up or to stay together we had to get married so we could live together’. Here being ‘in love’ appears secondary to the institutional constraints imposed by their military careers in explaining the marriage. Samantha and Alexis both talked of past relationships they saw as destructive, and in Samantha’s case abusive, in terms of being deeply in love. For these two women the appeal to love was offered as a way of making these relationships ‘accountable’ (Scott and Lyman 1968) in the sense of explaining and justifying, to themselves and the researcher, why it had been difficult to extricate themselves from partners who had not been good to them or for them. Alexis, for example, talked at length about a relationship that had shifted between love and friendship throughout her later school years and through university, when they finally became a ‘proper’ couple. She said that then: Everything I did was centred around him, it was great and for the first six months it was amazing, it was like a fairy tale and everything was perfect and I was like, we’re going to get married and eventually I started to realise he’s not the person I had kind of put on this pedestal since I was seventeen and that he had his faults and we weren’t as compatible as I thought…. coz it came to the point where he asked me back and I had to say no, and it was not nice and I feel really sad and I think about him every day and I do miss him, but I kind of miss him in the way that I’m in love with the fairy tale, how it was at the beginning, not now, and if I put myself in the reality of how it was at the end, well it wasn’t healthy.

Although other young British women did not often mention love, they had plenty to say about the quality of current relationships and what they valued about their partner. For example, Sarah who had stayed with her

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first boyfriend since she was 17 said ‘he’s very kind of interesting, like he’s very similar to me as well I think, he’s not the kind of first boyfriend that your parents would dread you having, he’s very like, a sensible practical, intelligent person’. Most mentioned compatibility, things they had in common, whether in terms of their background or their interests. Some were clearly committed to long-term relationships; both Zoe and Kimberly planned to marry their current partners. Clearly affection or ‘love’ was not absent, only the language of love. If the lack of a language of love seems ‘curious’ in the British context given the long cultural history of romantic love, it is less surprising in the Hong Kong context in which it is a more recent import. Romantic love and conjugal intimacy had little place in Chinese societies before the twentieth century, with the emphasis more on inter-generational relations than marital ones (see Pan 2016; Liu et al. 2019). The idea of marriage based on love and conjugal love itself (lian’ai ) was taken up by urban elites in the republican era, but ‘its cultural roots in China were shallow’ (Liu et al. 2019: 285). Ideas of love have become more prevalent among young people in mainland China during the reform era, along with a liberalisation of sexual morality (Farrer 2002, 2014). Hong Kong has been exposed to western ideas of love more consistently and for longer than China, but love (ai, Cantonese oi) is not a word used lightly in Hong Kong, at least in the Cantonese language; it carries too much weight to be used in everyday conversation except when speaking in English when, as in the UK, it is often used to express positive evaluations of objects, places and pastimes. Nonetheless, the young Hong Kong women did discuss love, though more in terms of ideals than within ongoing relationships. Vicki’s opinion of love was that ‘what matters the most is honesty (as well as a devoted mind), if there isn’t any, nothing makes sense in the relationship’. Lovers, in her view, should share similar values. She asserted: ‘A handsome face and being rich are just bullshit! Love can’t be built on these things!’ One instance where love was mentioned in the context of a boyfriend was when Anna talked about ending a relationship that had lasted for six years: it ‘was no longer about love but more like a habit to stay together’. Anna’s relationship with her boyfriend had ended not only because of a lack of love but also because of a ‘third party’ (he had

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been seeing someone else). She told us, however, that the main problem was a lack of communication and that she ‘needs a partner who can talk deep down with her’ but unfortunately her ex-boyfriend ‘wasn’t that kind of a guy’. Donna expressed doubts about what love is for her generation ‘many boys only want an attractive girl to show off ’. Love, she maintains, ‘should be a two-way communication’. She had a boyfriend at secondary school in the UK, but has not had one since and preferred ‘hanging out with friends’, which she described as ‘more pleasant’ than dating. The young Hong Kong women, like their British contemporaries, had plenty to say about boyfriends and were keen to offer evaluations of past and present relationships and talk about their romantic ideals and aspirations. Jacqueline, Sasha, Bobbie, Sally and Angela had boyfriends at the time of interview, along with two focus group participants, Carrie and Celia, who was soon to marry. Helen had a long-term girlfriend and described their relationship as egalitarian, stable and monogamous although she did admit to a recent time when she had been ‘mentally unfaithful’. There was more discontent among the heterosexual majority. Bobbie was the ‘third party’ in a relationship, something she had never previously thought possible for her. The relationship had only recently begun and she had mixed feelings about it. She told us: ‘I never had a boyfriend who treated me so well’; for example, he texted her during a heavy rainfall to ask her to be careful.2 Nonetheless, she was aware that she would always come second to his other girlfriend, who he planned to marry. This had upset her but she thought she could handle the situation. Jacqueline complained that boyfriends never lived up to the ideal, that ‘fantasy is fantasy, reality is reality’ and went on to elaborate: well, the thing is of course, you want a mature guy, you want a, you know, better guy … recently I have been so fed up with my boyfriend and if I had a chance I want to change my boyfriend. I don’t want to 2To understand this, the concern for her safety in the rain has to be placed in the context of Hong Kong’s heavy rain storms. It probably refers to a red or black rain warning being in place. Red rain is 5 cm of rainfall per hour, black rain is 7 cm per hour—this is serious rainfall and is considered dangerous; in the event of a black rain warning, residents are told not to go outside and most public transport is halted.

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you know, take care of a little boy anymore… but then at the same time I flip the coin and I say this guy is quite good, it is because he is quite immature and I can you know, have power over him so… so I feel this is the reality I am enjoying.

Comments about the immaturity of young men were frequent in the Hong Kong focus group discussion. Vicki gave this as a reason for ending her most recent relationship, while Carrie said her relationship was like ‘having a little kid you know, around you’. Angela also describes her boyfriend as ‘like a little boy’, while Sally was more accepting; her boyfriend is ‘not very mature but it’s okay, acceptable’. The other side of this, as hinted in Jacqueline’s account, is that men can also be too domineering, or expect women to be subservient, which was equally resented. Vicki said ‘the boys I meet like, um, they usually think that girls are weaker… I won’t choose a boyfriend who is so like saying that you are really weak and wants to control you’. Compared to the British young women, those in Hong Kong were generally far less forthcoming about the explicitly sexual aspects of relationships, so we have little detailed data on their sexual histories. They appeared to have less sexual experience than their British counterparts. Indeed Donna made this comparison in her interview, saying that ‘British women are more sexually active and open’ and told us that some of her sixth form classmates in the UK had become pregnant. Some expressed outright disapproval of premarital sex or said they would not contemplate it, such as Lily and Angela. Linda thought sex ‘unnecessary’ at this stage of her life, as she was still young. Others indicated that it was a possibility. Sally and Nina said they would have sex with within a steady relationship, but not casual sex. Sasha described her sexual practices with her current boyfriend is rather ‘conservative’, but believes that sex is important in marriage, and that she should have a ‘test drive’ with a future husband before marrying. A few, however, definitely did have a degree of sexual experience, including Helen with her girlfriend. In discussing the unplanned pregnancy vignette, Nina commented that this would not happen to her because she ‘has safe sex’. Lola ‘outed’ herself as a non-virgin during the focus group discussion about inoculation against the HPV virus, which followed from Donna’s account of her mother

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quizzing her about her virginity status (see Chapter 5). In the ensuing discussion in which the prevailing view was that the injection was only effective before losing one’s virginity,3 and therefore a waste of money if one was not a virgin, Lola said: Yesterday my mother just asked me to do that and if this is true then I just waste two thousand dollars because I’m arranging my injection like maybe in a month then why I should do this if I’m not a virgin… I’m just kind of wasting my money now! When I was a virgin then there was no such thing as HPV injection actually in Hong Kong I don’t think it was very popular like two years ago and yeah now, it’s useless

The most explicit account of sexual feelings and conduct we have is from Bobbie. She said she used to pursue ‘a spiritual relationship’ where no sex was involved that she ‘never understood why people have or even need sex’ and thought it was disgusting; only spiritual intimacy mattered. She told us that her views began to change when she read a book by Ngai Hong in which he wrote that ‘a relationship without sex is only a friendship’. That puzzled her and began to prompt her to think about sexual attraction. Bobbie has since has a one-night stand, something which she never would have imagined herself doing, as she used to think that it was immoral. She was motivated by curiosity: ‘I wanted to know how I would react to having sex with someone I had no feelings for’. Despite this experimentation, she had retained an aversion to public displays of affection; when she is with her boyfriend, she does not want to demonstrate any intimacy in front of others, even holding hands, as she finds it embarrassing. It was clear that young Hong Kong women’s sexual conduct was constrained by cultural and material factors. Sex was associated with internalised guilt, both in response to their mothers’ admonitions and to the wider context of Hong Kong society, its double standards and Christian morality. Some explicitly cite Christian beliefs; Lily and Angela were both 3The medical rationale for this is that it ensures protection before possible infection, which is why the inoculation is routinely given to girls in the UK when they are in their early teens. It is not necessary ‘useless’ once women have experienced vaginal intercourse unless they have already been infected. We tried to explain this in the course of a rather raucous interchange but the idea that it was useless unless one was a virgin proved hard to shift.

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Catholics and have this as a reason for disapproving of premarital sex. Only a minority of Hong Kong citizens (11%) claim to be Christians, but Christianity retains a hold over Hong Kong morality. Most of Hong Kong’s education is provided by Christian denominations and teachers impress ideas of sin and guilt on children from an early age (Kwok 2016). Thus negative attitudes to sex are not ‘traditionally Chinese’; while there is a moral code prescribing chastity for women in Confucian tradition, this has more to do with preserving filial obligations within families than any idea of sin. Sin and guilt might be foreign imports but these concepts are now tightly woven into Hong Kong culture, particularly in relation to sex, have become fused with Confucian notions of chastity and are inculcated through school sexuality education that promotes ‘family values’ as central to social stability and Chinese identity (Kam 2012; Kwok 2016). There was a great deal of discussion of guilt in the focus group. Susie lays much of the blame on sex education, which makes women, particularly, the bearers of guilt and shame: I think Hong Kong sex education is twisted because it puts the guilt on us that if we want to know more about sex, or we want to know the, maybe we just don’t want to know the consequences, but we want to know more about the details, the progress, the bit of fun, we want to talk about it openly, but for women, not boys. Boys have this like wow, we have beer and wow, talking about women it’s so natural, we feel so cool, for boys, but for women, for a girl if she suddenly talks about this in class or anything, even if they knew, even if it is not in secondary school, even if it is at university the boys would be: wow, what kind of a woman are you?… the sense of guilt doesn’t come only from knowing [about] sex, but the guilt of losing my virginity because I think it’s only in Hong Kong, I don’t know other places, in Hong Kong most of the women think they should … remain a virgin before marriage.

The young Hong Kong women also related this to their mothers’ expectations. Thus Angela talked of obeying her mother and said: ‘I should control myself even if I want to [have sex]’. Jane said this worked even in the absence of direct instruction from her mother: ‘you know the traditional framework, what you should do and you know it, that’s why I

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don’t think my mum would tell me anything but I have the responsibility to just imagine what she would like and do it. Just do it. She doesn’t even have to say it’. This may also involve more than an abstract sense of guilt or disobedience to a mother’s wishes or expectations, but also a fear of hurting their mothers. As Carrie commented: But I think it’s not only guilt that she’s put on us but also some kind of disappointment because for me and my sisters, we know exactly that if we did have sex before marriage and we let my mum know about that she would feel very upset and disappointed and just like, you have hurt her immensely so…it’s a sense of guilt, but it’s also that you know she really gets hurt, she really gets hurt.

In addition to the guilt deriving from mothers’ expectation and the wider culture there are material constraints on young women’s sexual explorations, the most obvious of which is the housing situation. The high property prices and rents in Hong Kong, along with cultural expectations in part explain why all the young women lived at home, which made them more susceptible to maternal surveillance. Not only is it more common for young British women to live independently or with boyfriends, but the changes in sexual mores in British society make living with parents a more comfortable arrangement for young women than it might have been for their parents’ generation. This was alluded to by one of the British mothers, Barbara, whose daughter, Laura, was living at home after her divorce. She said that it would have been impossible for her to live with her parents as an adult because they would have disapproved of her lifestyle, whereas she does not disapprove of the children’s lifestyles. When living at home, young people (unless from very poor families) usually have their own bedrooms and a degree of privacy from the rest of the household—something that facilitates parents’ acceptance of partners sleeping over (see Chapter 5). In Hong Kong, on the other hand, apartments are generally very small (except among the wealthy), affording little privacy. During the discussion in the Hong Kong focus group about boyfriends staying the night, one of the participants, Jacqueline, questioned the British researchers on Zoe’s family background, assuming that she must have very wealthy parents for them to own a home large

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enough to enable her to sleep with her boyfriend in privacy. The revelation that Zoe’s parents were quite ‘ordinary’—both were teachers— served to underline the contrast between the living conditions of the British and Hong Kong participants. The solution to the lack of domestic privacy in other East Asian countries, love hotels (known as motels in South Korea and Taiwan), had less appeal in Hong Kong. Whereas such establishments in Japan and elsewhere are often quite smart and not seen as ‘sleazy’ (Ho 2008; Chaplin 2010), in Hong Kong they are still associated with prostitution. They are also used by those involved in ‘compensated dating’—an activity that borders on sex-work, but within a logic of gift exchange rather than payment (Chu 2019). When we asked about them in the focus group, the response was uniformly negative—in Hong Kong these are not places that ‘respectable’ young people would frequent. In the private context of the interview, however, Lola said she thought they were a good idea. Participants did, however, suggest a possible solution to this problem: an overnight trip to one of the outlying islands, where rooms can be rented relatively cheaply. In her interview, Lola told us about such a trip: ‘One time we went to Lamma Island and stayed there for a night. That was really new and exciting experience for me: a nice adventure’. City centre hotels are likely to be beyond the means of most young people and do not cater for their needs—they afford neither the anonymity of love hotels nor the possibility of renting a room for just a few hours. Although Angela told us that her brother had sex with his girlfriend in the parental home, none of the young women mentioned their boyfriends’ homes as a venue for sexual activity.4

4 Anecdotally

we know that young people sometimes make use open spaces for sexual activities— though in a place as crowded as Hong Kong these are not always very secluded. They may also use the parental home when other family members are out. Denise Tang (2011) reports lesbians smuggling their partners into their bedrooms overnight, though none of our participants told of such escapades. Young women who study abroad or who have the money and freedom to travel without their parents can escape surveillance—and we can surmise that this is how some of our participants gained sexual experience.

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Pragmatism and Morality We suggest, then, that cultural attitudes and material factors are both in play in young women’s sexual lives. This interplay is also evident in other aspects of sexual morality, which we explored through two short vignettes, one on unplanned pregnancy and the other on lesbianism. We thought that these topics might be difficult to broach with Hong Kong women, especially the older generation. On the other hand, we were aware that posing direct questions on these issues to British women might yield glib liberal responses. The use of vignettes was a means of avoiding both possibilities. We had anticipated that Hong Kong and British women would have different opinions on these issues, which was the case. What we did not foresee was a marked difference in how each group of women responded. We hoped, and expected, that the open-ended framing of the questions accompanying our vignettes would prompt considerable discussion of the issues they raised. The Hong Kong women, however, gave very brief, cut and dried responses. The first vignette ran as follows: Kate is a single woman in her early 20s. She has a boyfriend and is embarking on a promising career. Kate finds that she is pregnant.

We then asked, ‘what are her options and what would you advise her to do?’ The British women of both generations commonly framed their responses in terms of ‘choice’—usually between abortion and motherhood. They typically engaged in a complex weighing up of options, sometimes mentioning the boyfriend’s involvement in decision-making, but rarely marriage. Here, for example, are extracts from Susan’s very lengthy and considered reflections: Well, her options are to have the baby, to have an abortion, um, to um, if you’re having the baby you’d have to consider what childcare arrangements you were going to be making, is the partner committed to a long term relationship with Kate and the baby, those are all factors that have to be taken into account. What sort of rights she has within her career if any, if she’s already got maternity rights […] she’d have to talk with

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her partner and try and establish what his commitment to the baby was, then think about what she really wanted herself because it’s a decision that will affect the rest of her life no matter which way she takes it. […] I think you just have to say well, other people that love you will support you whatever decision you make, but only you can make that decision. (Susan, British mother)

Even those with religious or moral objections to abortion, such as Julie, Patricia and Michelle, did not rule it out for other women. Michele, one of the British mothers, who was a devout and practicing Christian, discussed her own negative attitude to abortion but then said ‘I understand that for some people that it’s the best choice and that’s only a decision the individual can make’. Single motherhood was considered an option by many. For the British women this was a known and realistic possibility given that two of the mothers had never married and many of the young women cited friends and relatives who were unwed mothers—and one, Andrea, was pregnant at the time of interview. The Hong Kong women deliberated far less. For them it was primarily a straightforward pragmatic choice, but sometimes with moral overtones. Some did consider lone parenthood but envisaged financial obstacles to supporting an illegitimate child as well as social stigma, including one of the younger women, Lola, who had thought about having a child without being married. The older generation often used directive language and most advised marriage if possible and abortion if not. Mei-Li said ‘she had better make a marriage plan’ while Ms. Lee said ‘if she loves the baby’s father there’s no point in getting an abortion’. Felicity and Ellen both advised abortion, mentioning the economic cost of bringing up a child alone. Others were opposed to this solution, either on religious or health grounds. For Ms. Au this meant that there was no choice at all: If they are pregnant they have to take up the responsibility and might as well get married…they must get married because abortion is not good especially with the first pregnancy because you will damage the womb which will make it more difficult for you to conceive… if you are pregnant you must stay with that guy. There is no other option.

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For the Hong Kong women, the issue was cut and dried because their options are limited and these limitations are related to the wider social context. The British women, however, were able to engage in lengthy considered weighing up of possibilities because there are more choices realistically open to young women in Britain than in Hong Kong. British women have better employment rights, there is a greater acceptance of single motherhood and cohabitation as well as more social support for single mothers. In Hong Kong, the only realistic choices are to marry or have an abortion. For the Hong Kong women we interviewed there was simply nothing else to be said. Here material constraints as well as cultural mores are clearly evident. Poor welfare provision, as well as social attitudes, makes it far more difficult for Hong Kong women to contemplate lone parenthood than their British counterparts and they did not have the same direct experience of this possibility; birth outside marriage remains extremely rare in Hong Kong (Gietel-Baten and Verropoulou 2018). We received similarly polarised responses to our second vignette about a young lesbian’s decision to come out to her mother, which ran as follows: Claire is a 22 year old lesbian who has never come out to her mother. She decides the time is right to do so because she has fallen in love and wants to introduce her girlfriend to her mother.

We asked: ‘how do you think her mother would feel about this?’ As we anticipated, the British responses were almost unanimously liberal. A typical response from a British mother came from Susan, who said that a mother ‘should just be pleased that they’ve found a loving relationship…the gender of the person that loves your child is less important than the quality of the love’. Such responses were unsurprising given that the British women inhabited a social milieu where sexual diversity had become, in recent decades, much more widely accepted—a trend that some of the British women mentioned in their responses. Almost everyone referred to known lesbian, gay or bisexual people among their social and family circles and took for granted the acceptability of diverse

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sexualities; one, Barbara, even said she would have liked to have a lesbian daughter, as it would have made life more interesting. Even the one British mother with very negative attitudes to lesbianism and homosexuality, Patricia, was able to draw on personal experiences of a gay cousin and a friend with a lesbian daughter to modify her initial response. Whereas she began by saying that the mother would be ‘utterly devastated’ by finding that her daughter was a lesbian, she moved on, thoughtfully and reflexively, to imagining her coming to terms with it. If it was me and I’ve only got one child I would be utterly devastated um, but I would never abandon her because she’s my child, but I would far rather that it wasn’t the case. I know somebody who had two children, a boy and a girl …[passage about the boy dying]…it turned out that the daughter was a lesbian and of course she was devastated but it was her child you know and she still loved her and she sort of supported her …[passage about gay male cousin]…if you love somebody and you’re that way inclined it must be really awful if you’ve got people telling you what you’re doing is wrong and yet you see the church’s teaching that I’ve been brought up with says it is wrong, but I feel very puzzled about this one, because I think well you know, if God is all loving and understanding I’m only a human being, I can understand how they must feel and want to be with someone so why doesn’t God understand it?

Whereas Patricia could refer to knowledge of her own social circle in making sense of the vignette, despite her conservative attitudes, most of the Hong Kong mothers had no such knowledge or experience. This is not unusual in Hong Kong. A recent report reveals that few Hong Kong citizens personally know lesbian or gay people (Suen 2017). The situation in Hong Kong is very different; life for lesbians and gay men is much tougher (Kong 2011; Tang 2013)5 and those lives remain largely hidden from the majority of the population. Thus, not only would Hong Kong women, particularly the mothers, see departure

5There was a recent, much publicised, case in Hong Kong where the wealthy father of a lesbian celebrity offered a reward for any man willing to marry and thus ‘cure’ his daughter.

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from the heterosexual norm as extremely difficult to deal with and threatening to the material well-being of families, but they had little experience of known LGBT people to draw on in responding to the scenario with which they were presented. Negative attitudes to lesbianism were expressed by almost all the Hong Kong mothers, with a small minority indicating a degree of tolerance. Daughters were more liberal; Sasha said that a mother ‘should accept children as they are’, while Vicki wavered somewhat in imagining if her own children were gay: I would not mind if my children are gay or lesbian, as long as they are happy. I don’t not mind they are homosexual at some point of their lives …I would like them to be with an opposite sex partner in the end, but I wouldn’t mind if they were really homosexual

In the mothers’ responses, there were frequent references to ‘normality’. Elsie, for example, said, ‘I would want her to have a normal married life rather than an abnormal relationship’. While most of the mothers gave brief and rather judgemental responses, the exception was Ms. Lui, who found herself in a similar situation to the mother in the vignette. She had worried about her daughter since childhood because Helen had never been a ‘girly’ girl, would not wear skirts and liked boys’ toys. When she found out Helen was a lesbian she said she was miserable, and: ‘It took me two years to get over such suffering. It really took me two entire years’. She had, though, become more accepting. After all I didn’t want to lose my daughter. The only thing left for me to do is to accept. And it’s a different era now. There are some things in life that you can’t change, you can’t make someone be something that they don’t want to be… I was worried about Helen. But now that she is a grown up, I should respect her and the kind of life she lives. If I don’t adjust myself to embrace and accept certain things, I would be the one who suffers.

Significantly many British women in both generations commented on a particular (and deliberate) feature of the vignette—the relatively late age of coming out—and tended to see this as problematic, as indicating a distant relationship or a prejudiced mother. Janet, a British mother,

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mused on possible responses of a mother in this situation depending on her sexual attitudes, and concluded that ‘you’d like to hope she’d be fine about it and be happy that her daughter is happy’. She then added ‘I suppose she [mother] can’t have a particularly close relationship with her beforehand otherwise she’d have known’. Some also suggested that the mother would be hurt by the daughter’s past failure to confide in her. For example, Lucy, one of the young British women, opened her response to the vignette by saying ‘If I was her mother, I’d be really upset that my daughter hadn’t felt she could come to me with something that affects her life so much’. This aspect of the vignette passed unnoticed by the Hong Kong participants. Both lesbianism and unwed motherhood are less visible in Hong Kong than in Britain and hence less imaginable. The responses of the women we interviewed therefore reflect their experience and the wider social and cultural conditions that shape their perspectives on sexual life, including what we have elsewhere identified as the pragmatism of Hong Kong women (Jackson et al. 2013). The contrast between the British women’s lengthy and considered discussions of unplanned pregnancy and lesbian relationships and the brief and opinionated responses of the Hong Kong mothers also reveal the degree to which they were willing to talk about these issues and thus the greater openness about sexual matters in Britain. Even Patricia, whose views were so conservative, engaged in a lengthy deliberation of the issues including her struggles with her faith. Although her views were, among the British women, atypical, her way of talking about the personal was very typical in its reflexive sense-making, the interplay between self and others and her weighing up of the issues as she saw them. The older generation Hong Kong women, however, were not willing to reflect on their opinions in this way or even elaborate them further. The way they responded to the vignettes worked to close off further discussion of the issues, making it impossible to probe further: they had said what they thought and that was that. This shutting down of the topic may reflect the concern about ‘face’ (mianzi) and family reputation, which are still of paramount importance in Hong Kong. Closing off options could thus have been a way of showing disapproval, or possibly fear of confronting the possibility of ever having to deal with such a situation, and is congruent with the protectionist familialism that

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maintains the boundaries between family life and the outside world (see Chapter 5).

Conclusion Although there are some sharp contrasts between the Hong Kong and British women, it should be noted that there are differences within as well as between the two samples. It would be erroneous to interpret the data as indicating that young British women enjoy total sexual freedom. Aside from the pressures to be sexual that we have noted (see Chapter 5), double standards persist in the UK and instances of coercive sex and sexual violence were reported by some British women in both generations. While sexual attitudes are clearly more liberal in our British sample, Hong Kong women’s views should not be seen as indicative of a ‘cultural lag’; it cannot be assumed that the conditions of late modernity will result in them ‘catching up’ with their British counterparts. Cultural differences persist and may not be easily eroded. Asian familialism, with its emphasis on family cohesion and lineage continuity (Yan 2009; Chang and Song 2010; Sechiyama 2013), does make it difficult to accommodate lesbian and gay lifestyles (it also represents a different form of negativity from that founded on western, Christian ideas of sin). Cultural differences also intersect with economic and political realities, which may account for Hong Kong women’s pragmatic approach to abortion and reluctance to entertain sexual lifestyles that depart from the norm in a society with little by way of a welfare safety net and no legal protections against discrimination on grounds of sexuality. It cannot, then, be assumed that modernity has the same consequences for intimate life everywhere, that breaking the link between sex and reproduction inevitably puts modern societies on the road to greater sexual freedom. We need, too, to retain a critical stance on what counts as freedom and be aware that sexual lives, wherever they are lived, are always negotiated within social, cultural and political constraints and remain profoundly gendered.

7 Imagined Futures in Uncertain Times

The young women we interviewed in Britain and Hong Kong were embarking on their adult lives in a time of uncertainty. They had benefitted from higher education but were facing new challenges in planning for future careers and considering whether and how marriage and motherhood figured in their life plans. This generation cannot expect to be better off than their mothers. In Britain, the welfare state that gave their mothers opportunities and security is being eroded, while in Hong Kong, where there has never been adequate public welfare, past opportunities for upward mobility have also declined. In both places having a degree no longer guarantees a fulfilling or high-paid job and certainly no longer guarantees security of employment. In addition, affordable housing has become increasingly inaccessible, making it more difficult to establish full economic independence. Even for these relatively privileged young women, the future can look somewhat precarious, particularly given current political uncertainties, especially in Hong Kong. Even though we conducted our interviews before the Hong situation became so critical, it was clear that the return to China would mean complete absorption into the PRC, with all the restrictions on freedoms that this would entail, during these young women’s adult lives. © The Author(s) 2020 S. Jackson and P. S. Y. Ho, Women Doing Intimacy, Palgrave Macmillan Studies in Family and Intimate Life, https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-28991-9_7

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Despite these conditions, the young women still had hopes and aspirations for the future in terms of their working and personal lives. Planning for and speculating about the future necessarily require a high degree of reflexivity in projecting a vision of the self moving through time. Reflexive selfhood is necessarily a temporal phenomenon, involving reference back to ‘the self of the second, the minute or the day ago’ (Mead 1934: 174) and it is through reflexivity that we construct our memories into narratives of self and project the self into an imagined future. Thinking about the future involves locating ourselves in time, often with reference to the past, in terms of where we are in the present. This requires a degree of self-consciousness, which we elicited when asking women about their vision of the future; ‘it is self-conscious thought that links memory, perception, and anticipation into a coherent sense of duration’ (Flaherty and Fine 2001: 151). This self-consciously reflexive, temporally aware selfhood is also relational, enabling individuals to make plans for the future in relation to others. These others may already be significant parts of individuals’ lives or they may be imagined others. The young women we interviewed envisaged a future in relation to their mothers, other family members and current boyfriends, and also in relation to possible others they had yet to meet or had yet to be: future husbands or partners and children. These young women had grown up not only in times of wider socioeconomic change, but also cultural change, global flows of knowledge and information and, importantly, changes in attitudes to gender relations. They were aware of this and referred to the historical past and their mothers’ pasts in discussing their present and future lives. In particular, they often saw themselves as having more choices available to them than had their mothers, especially in their personal lives. For the majority who were heterosexual they wanted, and expected, more egalitarian relationships with romantic/sexual partners and/or future husbands. In this chapter, we will consider how the young women presented their imagined futures to us and how they envisaged the relationship between their careers, motherhood and wider family responsibilities. In discussing these issues, we also consider the ways in which ideas of tradition and modernity featured in the accounts of both mothers and daughters, what being

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a modern woman meant to them and the extent to which they identified differences between the generations, as well as their wider visions of the future in a changing world. We will begin by discussing the younger generations’ views on and expectations of marriage.

To Marry or not? One of the characteristics of the late modern era has been a retreat from marriage with a global rise in the age at first marriage, though this is uneven and not universal (Chang 2014, 2019; Ochiai 2014; Therborn 2004). In many western societies, alternatives to conventional heterosexual marriage have become more prevalent. These trends have been associated with the second demographic transition, which results in birth rates falling below population replacement levels, but which is manifested differently in East Asian and western contexts. In addition to the exceptionally low birth rate in East Asia, alternatives to marriage are not widely socially acceptable here, although cohabitation prior to marriage has become somewhat more common (Ochiai 2014). Despite the greater acceptability of cohabitation in the UK, the figures in Table 7.1 indicate that Hong Kong women and men embark on marriage somewhat later than their British counterparts, though the gap narrows by the time they are in their late 30s. What is particularly striking, however, is the difference between Hong Kong and mainland China, the PRC, where Table 7.1 Marriage patterns in China, Hong Kong and the UK Percentage of the population ever married, by age PRC men 2010 PRC women 2010 HK men 2011 HK women 2011 UK men 2011 UK women 2011

Aged 25–29

Aged 30–34

Aged 35–39

63.7 78.4 17.4 32.3 44.1 57.5

87.4 94.6 50 65.0 65.7 73.7

93.6 98.2 71.2 77.4 76.0 80.9

Source United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2017). World Marriage Data 2017. All the above figures derive from census data

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marriage is near universal. It is the PRC that is the outlier here, since marriage patterns in other East Asian societies—Japan, South Korea and Taiwan—are similar to those in Hong Kong. While marriage has been seen as vitally important in continuing the family line in Chinese societies, the differences between Hong Kong and the mainland cannot be seen simply as a result of the decline of tradition in the former; there are aspects of traditional practices that have survived longer in Hong Kong than the PRC, for example in norms of filial piety. It is likely that late marriage in Hong Kong is a result of the material social factors we have identified: economic insecurity and the acute housing problems. It has also been suggested that in capitalist East Asia women resist early marriage because they are expected to bear an unequal share of family responsibilities in highly competitive low-welfare societies (Chang and Song 2010; Chang 2014). Possibly, too, remaining single is becoming more imaginable in Hong Kong (Nakano 2015). Our data suggest that marriage is still seen as a normal and normative part of life among the Hong Kong women we interviewed, and was generally more taken for granted as such than among the British women. Nonetheless, some were beginning to contemplate the possibility of alternative life paths. Among the British women marriage remained popular, but was discussed as a choice and contemplated with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Young women’s deliberations on marriage evinced a high degree of relational reflexivity, articulated with reference to their mothers’ experience and sometimes encompassing those of colleagues, friends or siblings. This was particularly so among the British women for whom marriage was seen as only one form of possible future relationship. Of the two British young women who had already married, Julie had made a positive choice to marry, explained in terms of her strict upbringing and the morality she had inherited from her mother. Laura, who had subsequently divorced, had ‘never really wanted to get married’, but had done so because of the constraints of being in the military (see Chapter 6). She saw marriage as having ‘no real meaning’ because ‘my parents aren’t married, they’ve been together for 30 years or whatever and they’ve never been married to each other so I’ve just never seen the point’. Two other British women, Zoe and Kimberly, were planning to

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marry their current boyfriends, while Pamela was ‘half seriously’ considering the prospect and Andrea and her boyfriend, by whom she was pregnant at the time of interview, ‘were looking into’ marriage, though in an unorthodox form. Kimberly described her parents as liberal and ‘not traditional’ and decided she wanted to ‘do the opposite’ and be more ‘normal’ and ‘traditional’ than her mother. She also gave a number of pragmatic reasons for wanting to marry: Rightly or wrongly the society does still favour the idea of the traditional family, um, there can be kind of financial benefits although that’s changing now, but there are still those benefits for married couples as opposed to cohabitees or just partners, so I think there are those reasons as well which would factor into it but I think yeah, I don’t think that’s the only reason… I do look forward to the wedding itself, just kind of being able share with everyone. I’ve always quite like having big family get-togethers…

Unlike Kimberly, who stressed the difference between herself and her mother, Pamela discussed her ‘traditional’ attitudes to marriage in terms of emulating her mother: I’m quite traditional about it, I think I’d quite like to get married you know, in a sort of conventional way and again that’s something I’ve always felt quite strongly about, possibly because my parents are married and I’ve always thought the idea of living together for an extended period of time, but not being married, you may as well get married. I suppose I feel traditional about that. …I don’t think it would be a disaster if I had children before marriage, it doesn’t break any moral issues that I have or anything, I just have in my head that would be the right order to do it in – traditional marriage and then children.

Alexis, who had recently extricated herself from a difficult relationship, was not contemplating marriage in the near future, but said she would want to be married if she had children. She saw marriage as essential for childrearing because it ‘shows that you are stable and that you’re committed to your partner’. Marriage, she went on ‘makes people fix

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things’, ensuring they ‘can’t just walk away’. She expressed rather conventional views on her own possible marriage: ‘I would take their name and I’d want to show that I’m committed to them and… probably an old-fashioned view, but probably I just see the man as the head of the household’. Andrea, though considering marriage of sorts, had decidedly less conventional ideas. She considered marriage a ‘soiled concept’; it was bad for the relationship, bad for one’s sex life and undermined mutual respect. She was considering a pagan wedding, which allowed for a celebration and a degree of commitment but was not as binding as formal marriage. This was a more contingent form of commitment. In marriage she said, ‘you feel obliged to do things and if we feel obliged to do things, we’re less likely to continue to want to do them’, whereas with the pagan wedding, ‘you renew it once a year and I like that’. She would not consider changing her name, said her boyfriend would take her name and that her baby would also have her name. Olivia also expressed dislike of what she saw as the enforced commitment of marriage, framing it in terms of its lack of ‘fit’ with her feminist perspective and making explicit what was implicit in Andrea’s account: the idea of marriage as a trap. I’m not sure if I agree with it [marriage] politically as a feminist … I believe in monogamous relationships, um, for me anyway, but I like the idea of kind of not binding it, but you know declaring it, um, probably not through the form of marriage…I don’t necessarily need that legal thing… I don’t like the idea of being trapped into a relationship like that … I just can’t put my finger on quite what it is that I don’t feel comfortable with.

Ambivalence about marriage was evident in some other cases. Lucy, who easily becomes bored in relationships and tends to flit from one to another (see Chapter 6), had an interesting take on marriage: ‘I’d love to have a wedding, that would be fantastic, but I feel like I’d enjoy the wedding much more than I’d enjoy being married’. She raised doubts about whether she could find someone she would not become ‘fed up with’ and, while she talked of fantasies of finding a rich partner and filling a large house with children and pets, she admitted that this was an unlikely

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prospect. Emily also expressed some uncertainty, though she expected to marry eventually: I like the idea of having a lifetime commitment with someone, but I’m quite fussy, so it would depend on finding someone that I thought I could spend that amount of time with, I’m quite independent as well, I like my own space to some extent, it would have to be someone quite special … I’d probably want to live with them before I got married, um, because I think I’d need to know, it’s a lot easier to be friends with someone but not live with them or whatever, as soon as you live with someone, you get those little bits that annoy… I don’t know if it’s a traditional thing, just because everyone around me in my upbringing always have, but I probably would want to get married eventually

Others were unenthusiastic about marriage and had a ‘take it or leave it’ approach. Samantha did not want to marry and saw no reason to marry, but would do so if her partner really wanted it: ‘it would just be something that he’d want, I’d go, “okay we’ll get married then, if it will shut you up” but it’s not something that I want, it’s not something that I need out of a relationship’. Sarah and Rachel expressed similar views. Rachel echoed her mother in ‘not seeing the point’ of marriage while also entertaining the possibility ‘if I was with someone and they wanted to get married’. She did want a stable relationship, a family ‘with a father figure in it’ if she had children, which she reflected upon in contrast to her own upbringing with a single-parent mother and her experience of moving back and forth between two families (see Chapter 4). To achieve this, in her view, ‘you don’t need a party and a bit of paper and a dress’. These three women, along with Andrea and Olivia, had egalitarian views about marriage and relationships—despite the willingness of some to defer to a partner’s wishes if he wanted to marry. They said they would keep their own surnames and expected to have an equal distribution of domestic responsibilities with their partners. Irrespective of their perspectives on marriage—and whether they represented them as conventional or unconventional, traditional of feminist—the young British women shared a common desire to find a life partner, to be part of a couple. Lucy was the only possible exception and even she did not rule it out. In this respect, they could be seen as

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very typical, ‘normal’ and normative. According to the UK’s Office for National Statistics ‘living in a couple continues to be the most popular living arrangement in England and Wales’ (ONS 2018: 5); of those individuals over the age of 16, 61.4% were living in couples in 2017, while a further 14.2% had previously been married or civil partnered. Given that these figures include everyone over the age of 16 and that most of those under 18 can be expected to live with their parents, being part of a couple seems even more ‘popular’. The couples counted in these official statistics included cohabitants and those in civil partnerships as well as those married and both same-sex and heterosexual couples. In Britain, being part of a couple is now more normative than being heterosexually married and the British young women we interviewed were very much in step with this ‘new normal’. Most of the young Hong Kong women did not consider being part of a couple except through marriage, which they spoke of as a more or less inevitable part of life. They tended to talk about future marriage more in terms of ‘when’ rather than ‘whether’ they would marry and have children. With the exception of Lola (see Chapter 6), they did not contemplate bearing children outside marriage. For example, Linda said, ‘I would like to be married at the age of 28 or 29, before 30’; she hoped to have her children before 30 for health reasons. Sally, too, wanted to marry before she was 30, and have baby few years later, while Vicki discussed the relationship between entering the job market, having time just with her husband and planning entry into motherhood: ‘I think it (marriage) would be around 26-28 years old, but it really depends on what I am doing before I get married. I always want to get married after my postgraduate study; I will be 29 years old after I enter the job market. What concerns me is that…I need some private time for me and my husband, and then we will have our children. I don’t want to bear a child when I am 40, nor having generation gap with them.

A few were contemplating remaining single, at least for a time. Anna said she wanted to marry but ‘was beginning to feel it was not necessary’ and that is she could not find anyone suitable for her she would live with her sister. Sasha said she could not imagine marrying as young as

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her mother had done and was in no rush to marry. She experienced no pressure from her parents to find a husband and saw marriage as necessary only if she wanted a child. For most of the Hong Kong women, the alternative to marriage was simply remaining single, either temporarily or long-term, rather than another form of relationship. There were two exceptions. Bobbie was sceptical about marriage, having been critical of her parents’ loveless and ‘functional’ marriage (see Chapter 6). While she wanted an emotionally close and lasting relationship, marriage was not her ideal relationship: ‘people who marry end up sad’. Helen, the lesbian in the Hong Kong sample, did not have the option of marriage to her partner as long as she remained in Hong Kong. Since she was planning to continue her studies in the UK, where her girlfriend had a work visa, civil partnership was a possibility,1 though she did not see this as essential to their relationship. There was, however, the added barrier of her parents’ views. Her mother might just have managed to accept her lesbianism, but a formal partnership, possibly involving children, was a step too far for her and for others in the family. This, as Helen told us, created a dilemma for her in terms of what she could or should tell her parents if she were to formalise her relationship with her girlfriend: I have discussed with my mom about whether or not I should have kids. I talked to her about the concepts of unmarried couples and civil partnership. My mom for sure could not cope with this. Of course I was prepared and I told her that I wouldn’t let her know about it if I ever do it. My mom’s reaction to unmarried couples and civil partnership is not at all surprising. She finds both disgusting. I already told her that I am not talking about lesbian marriage but she just doesn’t care. Even my sister couldn’t handle any of those concepts. There is no need to talk about my father’s perception … his take on this is the worst. My girlfriend says that it’s unreasonable to not let family members know if we got married one day. But how I could I just notify my mom suddenly about my marriage if it happened?

1The

interview was conducted before same-sex marriage was legalised in the UK.

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Marriage, for most Hong Kong people, is by definition heterosexual. Helen’s mother could accept her remaining single, but not a formal lesbian union. Delaying marriage or remaining single appear to be accepted among some of the women we interviewed, both mothers and daughters, suggesting that there may be less emphasis on marriage in Hong Kong than there is in mainland China. In the PRC women unmarried after the age of 27, and especially after they are 30, are stigmatised as sheng nü (leftover women) and experience considerable pressure from their families to find a partner (To 2015; Ji 2015b; Xie 2019). Whereas marriage is near compulsory in China and is bolstered by state propaganda, there is far more latitude for Hong Kong women. Despite the emphasis in Chinese culture on lineage continuity, and the desire to see their daughters settled, Hong Kong mothers do not push them into marriage and emphasise the importance of their establishing their careers and maintaining economic independence if or when they marry. Ms. Lui, perhaps because she has accepted that Helen will not marry a man, expressed the most liberal views on marriage, but was similar to her contemporaries in emphasising independence and that her daughters should ‘stand on their own feet’: I always tell my daughters that getting married might not be a good thing while being single might not be a bad thing. The most important thing is that you can stand on your own feet. If you married someone and you don’t enjoy his company, and kept complaining to me about your suffering in your relationship, that’s the worst.

As Nakano (2015) points out, what makes remaining single possible for women is earning a high enough salary to be self-sufficient. In her comparative study of single women in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo, most of those she interviewed were well educated and in well-paid jobs and thus able to enjoy the freedom of being single and spending money on themselves. Nonetheless, most still felt a pressure to marry, especially in Shanghai. Nakano argues that Hong Kong women experience less compulsion to marry than their counterparts in Shanghai or Tokyo because single women could be considered a success if they were able to contribute to their wider family and thus continued to have a recognised

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place and duties within family life. This explanation accords with our findings on the importance of intergenerational family support in Hong Kong, where the lack of state social support fosters reliance on families (see Chapters 3 and 5; see also Jackson et al. 2013). Thus single women may still be located within heterosexual families and involved in sustaining them through filial practices. Sik Ying is herself an example of this as a woman who has remained single into late adulthood but whose life nonetheless revolves around her wider family of mother, siblings, nieces and nephews and she contributes materially and emotionally to the support of her elderly mother. Wider filial obligations also featured when young Hong Kong women talked of their expectations of their future husbands, as when Linda said that a future husband would have to accept living with her mother so that she could care for her. Sally had decided to marry her future husband because she found him ‘a serious and family oriented person who is very traditional and always thinks about his family and saves up his money for his mother’. Like their British contemporaries the Hong Kong daughters also wanted commitment, compatibility and mutual respect from their life partners. They also placed a great deal of emphasis on the trustworthiness of their future husbands. In the Hong Kong context, this has a very specific meaning. It includes financial reliability but also, and very importantly, sexual fidelity. None of the young British women mentioned infidelity in relation to future husbands or partners, whereas many of the young HK women did so in the interviews and this was a major talking point in the focus group. It is not that British culture is tolerant of infidelity; although British sexual mores have become very liberal in many respects over the last few decades, monogamy is still highly valued. While a small minority may pursue open or polyamorous relationships, most British people would be likely to regard sexual infidelity as a major breach of trust and a threat to the relationship. We would expect both groups of young women to be equally intolerant of a partner having a sexual liaison with someone else, and some British women had past experience of it, yet it does not figure in the imagined futures of the British young women in the way it does for their HK contemporaries. This may be because the British young

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women had more sexual and relationship experience, and thus experience of relationships ending, and were less often invested in marriage as an institution, or it may reflect the much greater prevalence of strong Christian faith among those in our Hong Kong sample. An important factor is the way that extra-marital affairs, specifically those of men, figure in the public imagination in Hong Kong, where there has been much discussion of men keeping ‘second wives’ in mainland China and where men seem to regard this as a minor marital misdemeanour (Ho 2014; Ho et al. 2018b; Shen 2014; Zhang 2011; Xiao 2011). This may help explain why this situation featured in young women’s representations of their possible futures and why it might inspire fear and anxiety, made most explicit by Angela: ‘I’m afraid to get married, yeah – how can I deal with that fear of an affair’? Some of the young Hong Kong women drew on their experience of their fathers having affairs and the consequences for their mothers. Jacqueline, Angela and Suzie all mentioned this in the focus group discussion. Jacqueline’s mother divorced, but the other two mothers had stuck with their husbands (See Chapter 6). Angela described her mother as ‘tough’ in hanging on to her marriage until eventually the other woman ‘went away’ and how this had made an impact on her. In talking of her fear of an imagined future affair she said ‘I can’t be as tough as my mother, I’d rather go away, divorce’. Asked by us whether she would contemplate having an affair herself, she was taken aback—as were the rest of the group. The suggestion was greeted first with stunned silence and then laughter—the idea of women being unfaithful appeared not to have occurred to these young women. Sexual misconduct seemed to be considered an exclusively male vice and most found it unforgivable. For example, Sasha said ‘a love relationship should be exclusive, multiple relationships are not acceptable. I would divorce if I found that my husband had an affair’. Linda expressed a slightly more tolerant view: I could only forgive my husband once if he had an affair. Although my Christian background tells me I should forgive the other for as many as seven times, I can only forgive him once in the name of love, I can’t accept it if he keeps making the same mistake. Marriage is a commitment.

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Possibly as a result of the fear of male infidelity and possible divorce, there was a great deal of emphasis on financial independence among the Hong Kong women. This was also encouraged by their mothers. Not only is a dual income essential to sustain a decent lifestyle in Hong Kong, but also it was an insurance policy against being left for another woman. In Hong Kong there is still the view that ‘for men, as the pillar of the family, work is essential’ (Venter 2002: 209) and men see economic support as their main marital responsibility (Ho et al. 2018b). Despite this persistent emphasis on men as the family breadwinner, it is still important for women to have their own income and ability to sustain themselves. In Ellen’s view her daughters ‘should be financially independent’ and ‘not controlled by a man’. Ellen was the only Hong Kong mother to express open support for feminism, but even those who espoused more conventional views on gender still advocated a degree of financial selfsufficiency for women. Ms. Au, talking of her hopes for her daughter’s future, emphasised a man’s ability to provide but also the importance of her daughter having her own savings and independent income as a safety net. Her daughter’s view of an ideal husband also included these requirements: I would look for a partner who is understanding and can accommodate me. Mutual respect is important but the most important thing is whether he can provide financial security, so that I can save up for myself. Being able to have my own savings is important to make sure I can be independent in the future, particularly if the marriage doesn’t not work out, then at least I can take care of myself. (Gabby)

Career Versus Motherhood? Most of the young women in both locations embraced the idea of ‘having it all’—a reliable compatible life partner, a career and children although they varied in how they envisaged managing career and motherhood and some foresaw obstacles to their hopes. The most immediate obstacle was to establish themselves in a career. Both the British and Hong Kong mothers were concerned that increased competition for jobs would create

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obstacles for their daughters: ‘at the moment with you’re just constantly hearing it on the news, no jobs, no jobs, even for graduates, so yes, I can’t help but be a little bit anxious’ (Ann, British mother); ‘in our generation you could climb the social ladder with secondary education… now my daughter’s generation don’t have many opportunities even if they have a distinctive degree and more’ (Mei-Li, Hong Kong mother). Others made similar points. At the time of interview the majority of the young women, in both places, were still in education, though some had embarked on careers. Most had made educational choices that did not guarantee them lucrative employment, having pursued university degrees in the arts, humanities and social sciences—choices that are unremarkable given the gender balance in such subjects. The young women had followed their own educational paths, based more on their interests than vocational relevance, and those courses that were vocational—for example in design, film production, teaching, journalism or social work were either not likely to result in highly paid jobs unless they reached the top of their profession and/or were insecure. It is not surprising that this was the case for the British women, whose mothers had encouraged them to pursue their own interests. In the Hong Kong case, however, there was a tension between the mothers’ hopes that their daughters’ education would prepare them for successful, secure, high earning careers and some of the choices the daughters made. Ms. Au was rather scathing about her daughters’ generation: ‘The younger generation talk too much about their interests – they should think about financial security before talking about their interests’. Two of the young Hong Kong women, Nina and Lola, had made particularly unusual choices, which set them on career paths that could be rewarding in terms of personal satisfaction, but which were rather precarious in terms of a making a secure living. Nina was well aware of the challenging economic situation and that ‘the competition in the job market for my generation is greater compared to my mum’s generation’, yet had chosen to become a fashion designer because she looked for ‘fulfilment in work’. Lola, having undertaken an undergraduate degree in creative media, had been working as a research assistant for two years and making documentary films. ‘I am interesting in photography, video

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and new media as a way of creating my own platform for expression’. She hoped for a career in film-making was about to begin a master’s course in this field overseas in the hope of furthering her ambitions. Three others had begun work in somewhat more stable occupations. Donna was a children’s therapist. Anna worked in hospitality management and Gabby had just begun work as a journalist. Gabby was frustrated by being limited to covering stories that were of little interest to her, but still hoped to do well and make a success of her career: ‘The biggest obstacles are financial and my parents’ objections. I want to study another degree in the UK but my parents would see it as a waste of money’. Her mother supported her wish to pursue further study but suggested she should work to earn her own tuition fees. Anna was much more content with her lot. She had studied vocational subjects likely to make her employable in Hong Kong’ service economy: business and marketing at undergraduate level and subsequently, at master’s level, international tourism and marketing. This had enabled her to secure a post at one of Hong Kong’s top hotels in the events management department. She declared herself to be ‘very lucky’ to have found a job that she found interesting and was related to her academic qualifications. The rest of the young Hong Kong women were still undertaking undergraduate or postgraduate degrees in various disciplines, but these did include subjects which, they hoped, would open up career opportunities, for example in business or education. Sasha and Anna were undertaking postgraduate degrees in clinical psychology and tourism marketing respectively. Helen was about to begin a Ph.D. overseas, but was uncertain about her future career: ‘I don’t know what exactly I am going to do after my graduation. I don’t know if I am going to pursue academic jobs. It’s just hard to say now’. She did, however, have aspirations to stay in the UK with her girlfriend, not only because it would be easier to live there as a lesbian couple, but also because of other aspects of British life. In weighing up the costs and benefits of staying in the UK she said: Although the salary rate in UK would not be as good in comparison to Hong Kong and the tax rate there is way too high. But in terms of personal benefits like relationship growth, private space, the pace of life, it is way better.

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For most of the young Hong Kong women, financial security was of paramount importance. Lola was an exception. She did not want a stable job but hoped to travel and find freelance work where she could. Vicki who was an undergraduate student studying English for Professional Communication was far more typical in her desire for a lucrative career. She announced that her ambition was to ‘make money’ because. ‘You can only pursue a better life if you are provided with necessity. Money is not everything, nevertheless without it you cannot survive. With enough money, I can provide a better life for my family’. Money featured less in the British women’s hopes for the future. Of course they wanted enough to be secure but a number of them distanced themselves from mercenary ambitions. Rachel, who was hoping to go into teaching, said ‘I’m never going to have a job where I earn loads of money’ but wanted to have enough to provide for herself and any future children. Emily’s views were similar: I’m not ambitious in terms of money and position, I just want to be doing what I want to do, I’m ambitious in terms of doing work that I’m pleased with and in terms of doing something I’m happy with but I’m not, I just want to be comfortable. Obviously it would be nice to have loads of money but as long as I’ve got enough to live on, you know, then that’s all I really want.

Most envisaged careers that would not make them particularly high earners, with the exception of Kimberly, who was a trainee solicitor—and how much money she might earn would depend on the area of law in which she specialised. Two others who had already embarked on careers were Zoe, a librarian, and Julie who was employed on a fixed term academic research contract. Julie was well aware of the difficulties of finding secure academic employment, particularly as she would prefer a research job to a teaching post. Laura had given up a military career, was doing low-paid shop work while waiting to begin a master’s degree and wanted to work for a human rights NGO. Two others had the potential to enter jobs with good economic prospects but preferred less certain alternatives. Pamela enjoyed academic work, ‘would love to do a PhD’ after her current MA and go on to an academic career or perhaps work in the heritage

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industry, but was considering the civil service (a safer alternative) if she could not achieve her ambitions. Olivia wanted to qualify as a lawyer but not to go into the legal profession—she intended to use her legal skills in working for an NGO. Two others hoped to work for NGOs, Lucy and Andrea, while three planned to enter school teaching (Rachel, Samantha and Lucy). The most commonly cited reasons the British women gave for these career choices were following personal passions and doing work that helped others. The only one to mention a desire to earn money also had the most altruistic motives. Lucy, who was beginning a postgraduate certificate in education, planned to work for six months as a governess in Moscow or Dubai once she had qualified as a teacher because she could earn ‘extortionate amount of money’ during that time. This was her reason: Then I can save up enough money to be able to back to South Africa where I taught in a township primary school and they’re really struggling at the moment…they’re really vulnerable children and they need an education. It will genuinely make a massive difference in their lives if they get some sort of qualification or some sort of education and yes, so if I can governess for a while I can save up enough money … to be able to go out to South Africa and just volunteer for a year… and actually make a difference and school wouldn’t have to find some way to pay me because I’d have enough money saved

In both Britain and Hong Kong, young women face obstacles to achieving their career ambitions and secure lifetime employment may not be available to them. This generation has become known as the ‘slash generation’ in Hong Kong—those who may well be doing several jobs at once, especially if their chosen career is a precarious one—for example as a designer/part-time teacher/translator. In the western context, this pattern has been referred to as a ‘portfolio career’, on the one hand, where well-educated individuals craft creative and varied career solutions, but on the other hand simply as ‘precarity’ whereby several jobs and job changes are needed to keep body and soul together, more usually among the less well-educated (Morgan et al. 2013; Standing 2016). The willingness of British young women to opt for careers that will not earn them high incomes in a time of economic uncertainty may well be

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related to the greater degree of long-term security living in the UK still offers them but also, perhaps, paradoxically because those very economic conditions may have created some of those jobs. For example, with the decline of the welfare state, NGOs have taken on many of the functions once performed by local and national government. Other careers the British women aimed for, such as teaching, offered a degree of security and better benefits than many others. It was striking that many of the young British women, in stressing their lack of materialistic ambitions, wanted to undertake jobs that involved helping others. Only one young Hong Kong woman made such a claim, Sasha, who planned to qualify as a clinical psychologist in order to help those ‘without the resources for self-development’. Hong Kong women, perhaps, do not have the luxury of being altruistic; the problems of economic uncertainty, lack of welfare and lack of affordable housing are still much greater in Hong Kong—added to the costs of health care and inadequate pension provision even in relatively good jobs. This does not mean they were selfish, concerned only with themselves. Most stressed the importance of caring from their families as a reason to work hard and earn money. Nina wanted to be like her mother, described as her ‘role model’ and ‘work hard for the family’. In talking of their futures the young Hong Kong women envisaged having a career, marriage and motherhood. They did not contemplate taking time out of work, beyond immediate maternity leave, to rear children. Money and financial security were important to them, both for their own well-being and to help maintain their families. Career and childcare were not seen as being in conflict. Linda said, in a matter of fact way, ‘after I am married I just want an ordinary life. I should have a stable job, working in an office, and taking care of my children. A modern woman should have a career’. Women in professional and managerial roles in Hong Kong are far less likely to take a career break for childcare reasons than their British counterparts (Venter 2002). What enables such women to envisage a career and motherhood without seeing them as potentially incompatible is the ready availability of domestic help provided by migrant domestic workers from poorer countries (Asato 2014; Constable 2011). The current minimum wage for full-time domestic

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helpers is HK$4520 per month,2 about £450, easily affordable on professional salaries. Where career and children were talked about together, no mention was made of taking time out of work, beyond maternity leave,3 to take care of the children. While not one of the young Hong Kong women raised this possibility, some of the British young women did so. This was, in part, a result of their claimed lack of interest in making money, which made them willing to put their career on hold, or even sacrifice it, in order to devote themselves to their children. Emily, for example, explicitly linked her lack of financial ambition to her willingness to take a career break and damage her career prospects. Kimberly, Alexis and Pamela also said that they would give up their careers if and when they had children. While Alexis said at various times in the interview that she did not want children, she also said that, if she did become a mother, ‘I would definitely be a housewife, I would be at home until they were seven or eight. I would give up my career’. Pamela’s views on childcare were congruent with her stance on marriage, including her reference to her mother—in this case related to her experience of childhood: I think I would have a career and then perhaps take a new direction and perhaps do what my mum did, have a part-time job locally that fits in around school hours, that’s something I’ve considered … perhaps a parttime job would be enough for me with my children, perhaps it wouldn’t have to be a career necessarily, but a more local job… because I was really happy with having my mum at home and perhaps I would like to be like that with mine. (Pamela)

2 https://www.labour.gov.hk/eng/news/press20180928.htm,

accessed 6 July 2019. Hong Kong women are entitled to 14 weeks maternity leave on 80% of their pay leave compare. This has recently been raised from 10 weeks to meet ILO standards and the government took responsibility for paying for the extra 4 weeks up to HK$ 36,822 per employee. In the UK women can take up to a year’s maternity leave with their job guaranteed on their return. Not all of this is paid. Statutory maternity pay is 90% of average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first 6 weeks and £148.68 or 90% of average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks. In some occupations, however, employers offer greater financial benefits. See https://www.gov.uk/maternity-pay-leave/pay.

3 In

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The desire to spend time with children was often, as in Pamela’s case, justified in terms of ‘traditional’ ideas about family and their own experience of being mothered, but this was not always the case. Olivia, who was among those with the least conventional views of family, regarding friends as family and having an anti-marriage feminist stance, still expressed a desire to be at home with children: I feel like I want to do that I feel like I’d be really excited with my new baby. I’d want to be with them and because I’d want to like bond with the kid and also because I’d need to learn how to look after it … and the only way to do that is if you’re with them a lot.

Others, however, were more committed to careers. In addition to Samantha who was adamant that she did not want children, these included Rachel, Zoe and Laura and also Sarah, who only mentioned taking maternity leave. All expected their partners to take an equal role in childcare and domestic work. Julie, who in many ways could be described as ultra-conservative, having chosen to remain a virgin until she married, was very focused on her career: ‘I never had the assumption that I would ever just be a housewife and a mother, I always knew I would work and wanted to work’. She also expected her husband to take an equal role in housework and childcare responsibilities. In this respect, she distanced herself from her mother who, she said retained strong views on ‘what men and what women should do’ (which was borne out by our interview with her mother) and attributed this difference to her exposure to feminist ideas. Young women’s perspectives on marriage and motherhood, then, were not always consistently conventional or ‘traditional’ on the one hand or unconventional on the other. Just as Olivia’s pro-feminist and anti-marriage stance did not prevent her from wishing to stay at home with any future child so Julie’s highly conservative sexual attitudes went hand in hand with a strongly egalitarian and feminist-inspired perspective on domesticity and career.

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Tradition and Modernity What emerges from the accounts of both marriage and motherhood is the way young women position themselves in relation to their own mothers—whether seeking to emulate them or to be different. In some British cases, this led them to define themselves as more ‘traditional’. ‘Traditional’ was a term that was used spontaneously by these young women when they talked about marriage and motherhood. Among the young Hong Kong women, the term traditional was used more often to describe their mothers or their mothers’ generation, for example in saying ‘si-nai are all traditional’ (Vicki). Si-nai is usually translated as ‘housewife/housewives’; it refers to women, usually middle aged, who devote themselves to their families rather than women who are full-time housewives—few Hong Kong women are without waged work of some kind. They did not all necessarily see their own mothers in this way. Lily was proud of her mother being a ‘career woman’ rather than a si-nai, while Sally spoke approvingly of her mother becoming less traditional and more open-minded in certain respects while retaining some traditionally Chinese values: She has her own friends and social network now. Before she would only work and go home but now she would spend time with her friends. She would suddenly tell us that she is going to Macao with friends the next day. She’s become more outgoing. Most importantly, she can now turn around and tell you what the world is like today! But she is still very traditional regarding Chinese rules of etiquette and manners, especially towards my father’s side of the family

Sometimes, however, young Hong Kong women depicted their own life decisions as traditional as, for example, when Linda said ‘I will not live together with my boyfriend, I will follow that tradition that one should get married first’. Some also valued cultural traditions they had learnt from their mothers, Vicki said ‘I think I am a mixture of a traditional and modern woman…I learnt some of the traditional values from my family, for example how to be a good daughter’, but said she was less traditional when with her friends.

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Unlike the young Hong Kong women, most of their British counterparts did not present themselves as less traditional than their mothers—Julie, whose mother was exceptionally conservative, was the only one to do so explicitly, though Andrea did so implicitly in being critical of her mother’s conventional lifestyle and attitudes. Among the British women it was the older generation, the mothers in our sample, who depicted their own mothers as traditional and saw themselves as turning away from tradition. This is unsurprising considering the life experience of this generation, the ideas to which they had been exposed and the contrast between their lives and those of the Hong Kong mothers. Where young British women invoked tradition in distancing themselves from their mothers, it was to define themselves as more traditional. When they talked of tradition, it was often in relation to making conventionally gendered choices such as taking a husband’s name on marriage or giving up their careers to look after children. ‘Tradition’ was a term that appeared to be part of their sense-making, a way of positioning themselves in relation to gendered life paths and sometimes against their mothers’ lives and opinions. Some of those who intended or hoped to take life routes deemed traditional—those marked as conventionally feminine—expressed ambivalence about feminism. Pamela, for example, prefaced her account of wanting to give up her career to look after children by saying ‘I do think women should have access to the highest possible levels of jobs’. She then expressed contrary views in the next sentence, not only in relation to herself but regarding women in general: ‘I’m not sure that I would want that type of a high powered job and again, I don’t know if that’s more traditional, but I think women shouldn’t be these sort of leaders of whatever’. More commonly, opting for traditional roles or conduct was justified within a post-feminist vocabulary of ‘choice’ or what might be called ‘choice feminism’ (Thwaites 2017). This was made most explicit by Kimberly, who claimed it was now possible to be both traditional and modern: I sort of see in a way as being able to be both [traditional and modern], but that is kind of perhaps the new modern or perhaps the new feminism…I can fall back on maybe being a bit traditional or a bit girly or you know, make a guy open the door for me or something like that but at

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the same time I feel strong enough and empowered enough that I don’t rely on that. Obviously traditionally, going back, there’s a lot of issues, glass ceilings for women, but I don’t feel that anymore … I don’t feel I’ve got as much to prove. I don’t feel like I have to kind of not be feminine to prove myself. But at the time you know, I obviously want to be taken seriously especially in my professional career, yeah, it’s kind of almost as if it’s like it’s come full circle in that you can be equal to a man but not have to be like a man, that you can still retain femininity…Women don’t have to make that choice, whether being a traditional woman or being successful and taken seriously and equal to men in their career or what have you. I think, you know, you can achieve both now.

This is in many ways a classic post-feminist statement: gender equality has been achieved so women can now choose to be feminine without fearing discrimination. Not all the British women, of either generation, would agree with her. In both spontaneous mentions and in response to the questions we asked at the end of the interviews we found much in common in the way women defined tradition: being traditional meant adhering to conventional gendered roles—a traditional woman prioritises family over career. For many this was associated with subservience to men and conservative attitudes. There was less consensus about what it meant to be modern. It might be expected that being modern would be defined as the converse of the traditional, which was the case for many of the British women and some of the Hong Kong women, for example, ‘Modern women should be educated, independent, have her own career. A traditional woman is conservative and obedient to her husband’ (Sasha). Beyond this, however, there were some interesting differences. Many—perhaps most—of the Hong Kong women talked of being modern in terms of being fashionable, well dressed, knowledgeable about the world and familiar with the latest technology. Ms. Lui, for example, said, ‘I am not knowledgeable enough to be a modern woman. A contemporary woman is supposed to be fashionable and should know a lot about the latest trends’. Only one British woman, Janet, mentioned ‘being trendy’ as modern. The focus on fashion and technology was also associated with Hong Kong mothers trying to develop closer bonds with their daughters by seeking their fashion advice or their help in accessing technology (see Chapter 5). The

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appearance of modernity seemed to matter particularly to the mothers’ generation in Hong Kong and also gave their daughters occasion to make affectionate fun of them, as in Jacqueline’s account of her mother’s desire for an iPhone: Having an iPhone means [being] young and stylish. She said, “Oh iPhone is very beautiful.” That’s why she wants to buy it, she explicitly set it out, “I just want to put it out there and let people see it, I don’t know the functions, but I just want to put it out there.” She said this.

The British women, both mothers and daughters, talked of being modern in terms of attitudes rather than style. To be modern was ‘being open minded’ (Karen), ‘questioning established norms and morals’ (Nancy), ‘not have restricted views’ (Laura) ‘challenging conventional gender roles’ (Samantha). The absence of a questioning, challenging, open mind, therefore, was indicative of a failure to be modern as when Andrea said scathingly of her mother ‘the last time she did any serious thinking was when she was at university’. The British women, however, rarely talked about the idea of modernity or defined themselves as modern until asked what the term meant to them. They invoked the idea of tradition in explaining their lifestyle choices far more often than modernity. The Hong Kong women, especially the daughters, were far more likely to self-define as ‘modern women’. Where some young British young women differentiated themselves from their mothers in terms of being more traditional, those in Hong Kong did so by marking themselves as more modern than their ‘old-fashioned’ or ‘traditional’ mothers. How tradition and modernity figured in the women’s constructions, presentation and location of self thus differed in the Hong Kong and British samples. Ideas about being modern in general, and modern womanhood in particular, appear at particular historical junctures—usually in times of rapid social change, for example, during the nineteenth century Meiji modernisation in Japan or the ‘new woman’ of the late Victorian era in Britain. We suggest that being self-consciously modern is a product of Hong Kong’s compressed modernity or, as we would prefer, compressed modernisation. The rapidity of social change and economic development

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in Hong Kong has meant that the Hong Kong mothers’ early life experiences differed markedly from those of their daughters (as well as from the British mothers, see Chapter 3). There was thus far more of a gulf between the conditions under which mothers and daughters had grown up in Hong Kong than there was in Britain. Young British women grew up in an already modernised post-industrial society and are therefore less likely to have the same self-consciousness of being modern except in the sense of being more savvy about internet technology that their mothers, who grew up in a pre-digital age. Compressed modernity with its complex interplay between the ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ and between foreign/global and indigenous influences (Chang 2010a: 6–7), is differentially experienced, as Lan (2014) points out, by those within the affected society, not only in terms of class, on which Lan focuses, but also in terms of generation and cohort effects. The young Hong Kong women with their westernised higher education and exposure to global media thus had a view of themselves as more modern and cosmopolitan than their mothers, who they saw as having had far more restricted lives and limited choices and opportunities. The personal consequences of compressed modernity have been discussed in terms of marriage, family and childbearing (Chang 2010a, 2014; Ochiai 2014), and also in terms of childrearing ideologies and practices (Lan 2014). What we are suggesting here is that it also impacts upon reflexive selfhood and the presentation of self. Reflexive selfhood is both relational and temporal; it involves locating oneself in relation to others, but also in the stream of time (Mead 1964; Flaherty and Fine 2001). The self is constituted in relation to one’s perception of the past and one’s imagined future. The way young women made sense of their mothers’ past lives, itself dependent on their mothers’ reconstructions of that past, figure in their understanding of the present, the future and modernity itself. This helps account for the differing ways in which young women positioned themselves and Hong Kong women’s consciousness of being distinct from their mothers as more ‘modern’. Given the simultaneous circulation of globally modern, western and traditionally Chinese ideas, these young women could also fall back on traditional values if and when their visions of modern, cosmopolitan and independent lives failed them. The British young women, who have

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no need to self-define as modern to differentiate themselves from their mothers’ generation, can ‘choose’ to be traditional. Young Hong Kong women’s image of themselves as modern, as in their imagined future lives, is in some ways restricted. As Arjun Appadurai argues, imagination is ‘a form of negotiation between sites of agency (individuals) and globally defined fields of possibility’ and has become constitutive of modern subjectivity (1996: 31). Global flows of knowledge and information, to which these young women have had access through their education, provide them with material for a cosmopolitan imagination that their mothers, as young women, lacked. Yet at the same time their vision of what it means to be modern is limited by what seems possible or achievable for them. Their version of modernity and modern selfhood includes fashion sense, consumption, travel, financial independence and technological competence. They want to marry but to have a life outside marriage, to have more freedom than their mothers had, but this does not, on the whole, involve the questioning and challenging of conventional gender arrangements that feature in the accounts of many of the British women, both mothers and daughters. The only one who expressed views similar to those of the British women was Helen, who dismissed concerns about appearance and looking fashionable, seen as modern by other members of her family, and instead emphasised that modern women should ‘think for themselves’ and make choices about their desired lifestyle. Helen had, as a lesbian, already stepped outside the field of possibilities that delimited other women’s imaginations and experienced living an unconventional lifestyle. We wonder whether the political upheavals in Hong Kong will encourage more young women to think critically about their lives. There is certainly anecdotal evidence that some young women activists are thinking differently about their capabilities and priorities for the future.4 In considering the way tradition and modernity figure in women’s lives and imaginations we should remember that, contra Giddens and Beck,

4 #ProtestToo:

women on the front lines of Hong Kong demonstrations. https://www.scmp.com/ week-asia/politics/article/3025146/protesttoo-women-forefront-hong-kongs-anti-governmentmovement.

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modernity does not displace tradition. Rather, as we have argued elsewhere, tradition is reshaped and re-imagined under conditions of modernity and this is as true in Britain as it is in Hong Kong (Jackson et al. 2013). In both locations, women continue to be primarily responsible for childcare, whether or not they are in paid work, and continue to be affected by gender inequality in the labour market and elsewhere. Gender inequality itself might be considered traditional: it has been handed down from the past in both societies and, while ameliorated in recent years, especially for women more privileged in class and educational terms, is still with us; in this sense, as Walby points out, ‘no country is yet fully modern’ (2009: 28). Likewise, much that is traditional in terms of family life (whether of recent or long-standing origin) has not disappeared from the modern landscape of intimate relations. In the daily lives of the women we interviewed, modern and traditional ideas and practices co-exist: for example, among the British being sexually active was seen a normal part of young womanhood, yet some young women hope to become full-time mothers when they have small children; in Hong Kong dedication to education and career is accompanied by (and, indeed materially related to) strong familialism and filial piety. In both places there is a mixing of traditional and modern elements in women’s personal lives, what Carter and Duncan (2018) refer to as a bricolage in which individuals make use of what they have to hand (materially and culturally) in forging their relationships. Reshaped tradition, however, takes different forms in the lives of the young women we interviewed. Some of the British young women come close to what Ochiai (2014) calls ‘the retraditionalization of modernity’. Whereas in the Japanese context, as discussed by Ochiai, it is a product of social policies, among some young British women it involved a self-construction within a post-feminist valorisation of personal choice. Others were more overtly feminist, but being strongly feminist on some relationship issues could co-exist with being conventionally gendered on others. Among the Hong Kong women tradition served as a safety net, ideologically, in the idea that men should provide and, therefore, if their careers were not successful they could fall back on the si-nai role; in any case there was no expectation, unlike among the British young women, of men taking an equal role in childcare and housework. The safety net of

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tradition is supported by the familial based ethos of mutual help, which lent it a material actuality. Here rather than modernity being retraditionalised, modernity encompassed tradition so that women having an independent income and career did not disturb gendered and familial obligations. This encompassing of tradition within modernity is exemplified in the norms of filial piety, which retain a strong hold in Hong Kong, possibly stronger than elsewhere in East Asia, as a result of material conditions (see Chaps. 4 and 5). Filial piety is also central to the maintenance of a morally credible self, which paradoxically enables women who make the ‘modern’ choice of remaining single and childless to find an accepted place within the family. So modernity encompasses tradition while tradition also makes possible new—modern—ways of being and living.

Visions of the Future: The Bigger Picture In both Hong Kong and Britain women live their lives in the context of global economic and social changes that have given some of them more opportunities, but which continue to limit their options. Some of these limitations, such as an increasingly competitive job market and unaffordable housing, were of immediate concern to the women we interviewed. There are also, however, wider changes produced by neoliberal governance, local political conditions and global social and environmental problems. Some of the British women, especially the mothers, reflected on such issues when asked about the future. The British mothers often talked at length about their views of the modern world, partly in terms of what had changed since they were young, and also about their views of their daughters’ generation and their future: I mean, the way that we’re treating the earth and what’s going to happen, and what we are leaving for future generations in 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years, it you know, if you really think about it all the time you would go absolutely loopy, bonkers wouldn’t you. So you just try to keep thinking the, well you know, the good people, we’ve still got time before we get to midnight and we can maybe influence and let the world recover…I do

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worry about the future for my children and my children’s children and I think you know any person who’s got any idea of what’s happening in the world would be stupid if they didn’t worry because if you worry maybe you get around to doing something about it, making sure you get involved in ways of doing so and encourage your children too. (Nancy) I’m sort of generally concerned not just for my children, but for everybody’s children, people generally. I think things are going to get rather difficult to put it mildly for a lot of people and already have got difficult for a lot of people because um, just capitalism seems to sort of reached its frenzied death throes, it’s just um, it’s just hard to see how the world is going to kind of hold itself together without a great many people falling by the wayside, so yeah, it’s not a very good prospect. (Barbara)

These orientations towards the future reflect the mothers’ reconstructions of their past, the contrast between the security of most of their childhoods and their opportunities for upward mobility, in contrast with the lives of their own parents (see Chapter 3), and the increasing insecurity brought about by the decline of welfare state and wider socio-economic and environmental conditions. They also reflect the political awareness this generation of women had developed in their youth, which provided them with a discursive frame in which to make sense of both the past and the imagined—and feared—future. The Hong Kong women were as aware as the British women of the economic uncertainty facing their daughters, but did not link this explicitly with political issues and wider global challenges of late modernity. This apparent lack of political awareness, however, should be placed in the context of recent historical shifts. We were interviewing before the 2014 Umbrella Movement and the resurgence of the campaign for democracy in 2019. The latter brought over two million people (out of a population of 7.4 million) out on the streets and led to increasingly repressive measures against activists. It is also only since 2014 that the full extent of President Xi’s move to consolidate his power through increasing limitations on the population’s freedom has become evident. It is now unlikely that Hong Kong women would be so unconcerned about wider sociopolitical issues. Of course, they were aware that Hong Kong would eventually become part of China, but at that time, it did not seem so pressing and the Chinese regime was not as authoritarian as it has since

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become. In our final, short, concluding chapter, we will reflect on recent changes and events in both Britain and Hong Kong and what they might bode for the future.

8 Concluding Reflections

We began this book by reflecting on the theoretical hegemony of western scholarship, especially western social theory, and in the hope of making a small contribution to unsettling western knowledge claims and to internationalising feminist sociological scholarship. Our starting-point was a particular set of debates around the consequences of recent social change, of living in the era of late modernity, for personal life. We positioned ourselves among those, such as Lynn Jamieson (1999, 2011), Carol Smart (2007), and Brian Heaphy (2007), who have challenged aspects of the detraditionalization and individualisation theses and the alleged transformation of intimacy. Our intention was to broaden the critique by comparing family life and intimate relationships in two distinctly different and geographically distant social locations while taking account of their interconnections. We characterised this as an exercise in the deployment of a feminist sociological imagination whereby the biographies of individual Hong Kong and British women are linked to the interconnected histories of their respective societies. We may have only talked to a relatively small, and not particularly representative, sample of women, but by placing their narratives in their wider social and historical context, we © The Author(s) 2020 S. Jackson and P. S. Y. Ho, Women Doing Intimacy, Palgrave Macmillan Studies in Family and Intimate Life, https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-28991-9_8

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can learn something about how women in different societies negotiate changing patterns of personal life. Undertaking this work has prompted us to think about what modernity means and how it figures in daily life (see Chapters 2 and 6). Modernity has been conceptualised as both singular and multiple. Modernity as singular can be thought of as temporal (the world as of now or in recent times) but also as a condition of being modern. In the latter sense it is often associated with ‘developed’, ‘advanced’ world, in which case other parts of the world are excluded from the modern. If, however, we think of modernity as a global order, as global capitalism (Dirlik 2007) or as a product of interconnected histories (Bhambra 2007) it is absurd to place parts of the world as ‘outside’ modernity. Pluralising modernity, thinking in terms of ‘multiple modernities’ (Eistenstadt 2000) or ‘entangled modernities’ (Therborn 2003) or ‘vernacular modernities’ (Neyazi 2010) is a means of challenging ethnocentric and universalising models of modernity. Such endeavours, however, have been criticised for ‘leaving it to the realm of culture to bear the burden of difference’ and ‘reintroducing Eurocentrism by the back door’ (Dirlik 2007: 8, 14). It has also been seen as reinforcing the idea of an endogenous European modernity, adopted and adapted elsewhere, while ignoring the historical interconnections that made European dominance possible in the first place (Bhambra 2007). Seen from these perspectives, modernity is undoubtedly singular. We largely concur with a view of modernity as singular, the product of interconnected histories and as a global capitalist order. If modernity describes the state of the world, it also has to be recognised that regions, nations and territories—and individuals of varied ethnicities, genders, classes and nationalities—are differentially positioned within it. Modernity as lived and imagined does vary, is in this sense multiple. Global capitalism may have made nation states less autonomous, but nation states, or particular politico-legal jurisdictions, do continue to matter in terms of both individuals’ sense of belonging and in conditions of life (see Yuval-Davis 2011). This has been amply demonstrated by comparing two locations, both of which are part of the ‘developed’, post-industrial world and centres of transnational capital transactions, but where social conditions and political regimes differ even as women confront some

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similar problems of negotiating increasingly uncertain futures. We have also sought to demonstrate throughout that these differences are not merely the outcome of cultural traditions, that tradition itself is not static, that it can be both invented, reinvented, reshaped and renegotiated, and, importantly, put to political uses. In comparing Hong Kong and British women’s lives we have paid attention to cultural differences and how cultural traditions figure in the ways women make sense of their lives, but have consistently argued that differences between them cannot be explained only by reference to culture. We began by arguing for the importance of history. Inspired by Bhambra’s view of interconnected histories, we sketched out the ways in which Hong Kong’s past as a British colony was linked not only to Britain’s imperial and industrial fortunes but also to global networks of trade and capitalist development. This enabled us to explain the very different conditions under which our older participants’, the mothers’ generation had grown up. Their experiences of childhood and early adulthood, as should be clear from subsequent chapters, shaped their experience of and orientation to family life and their relationships with their daughters and, in turn, impacted on their daughters’ views of the world, their place in it and their aspirations. Both British and Hong Kong society can be said to be heteronormative but to different degrees and different ways. Heterosexuality is differentially institutionalised and practised in the two societies, in part because of the emphasis that the Hong Kong government places on conventional family life as the basis of society and an excuse for lack of welfare, whereas in recent decades ‘family values’ in British official language has become more inclusive of diversity in families, including those founded on same-sex couples. More liberal sexual mores in Britain also make it easier to live heterosexual lives differently without being seen as breaching the boundaries of the normative—for example, cohabitation and having children outside formal marriage have become unremarkable. These are still widely seen as ‘deviant’ practices in Hong Kong. In the absence of a welfare state Hong Kong people still rely heavily on their families for support and are constrained to do so, which encourages them to play safe in their family practices and avoid anything that might jeopardise their collective future.

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In Chapter 3, we explored the family circumstances and the meaning of family for our participants, drawing on the concepts of family practices, displaying families and practices of intimacy. The families in our British sample were more diverse in form and in who counted as ‘family’, with some including ex-partners and friends. There was, then, some evidence of families as ‘elective affinities’ in Beck and Beck Gernsheim’s (2002) terms, yet these same women also emphasised the support they gave and received, emotional closeness and unconditional love among family members. Hong Kong women included only blood and affinal kin in their families, with the emphasis on material support and mutual care, which, as we have repeatedly stressed, remains important for survival in Hong Kong. Nonetheless this material support carried with it symbolic significance and emotional resonance as a demonstration of care and affection. This was also evident in patterns of mother-daughter relationships, which we went on to discuss in the next chapter. In bringing up children, Hong Kong mothers had been much stricter disciplinarians than their British counterparts and pushed their children harder to succeed than the British mothers, most of whom had more relaxed approach to childrearing. In both cases, however, there was no lack of care, worry and affection along with concern for daughters’ future lives. There were also differences in relationships between mothers and children once the latter became adults. British daughters and mothers evaluated the closeness of their relationships in terms of the openness with which they communicated with each other, particularly daughters confiding in mothers. The Hong Kong women, however, expressed closeness through companionship and practical activities. Talking and communicating non-verbally were part of family practices in both location but how family members talked to each other, what was openly discussed and what was unmentionable differed. We related the difficulties of raising particular issues in Hong Kong families to the hierarchical harmony within families and an orientation to the outside world, which we characterised as protectionist familialism—a guarding against potential threats to the collective well-being and reputation of families. The issue of sexuality and mothers attitudes to daughters’ sexual and romantic lives was raised in this chapter and carried over into the next, where we considered the relationship trajectories of both generations and

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how mothers’ life experiences impacted on their daughters’ sexual and romantic. Here we found marked differences between Hong Kong and British women, with most of the British women, in both generations, having much more (hetero)sexual experience, being less likely to confine it to marriage and expressing more liberal attitudes to unconventional sexual practices. While there were some clear cultural differences in sexual morality in each location, there were also individual variations within them. Moreover, the contrasts between locations could not be attributed to culture alone, but also reflected material conditions of life, the greater degree of pragmatism among Hong Kong women and their concern for the future survival of their families. We finally bring the discussion back to where we started, to the issue of modernity. We explore what, for these women, being modern means, how they imagine modernity and how they position themselves within it. There were some similarities across generations and location, with many citing women becoming more independent and pursuing their own careers as emblematic of being modern. There were also differences, too, with the older Hong Kong women being keen to appear modern in terms of consumption practices and looking fashionable, which barely featured in British accounts. In this context, we also consider daughters’ aspirations for the future and the extent to which they were forging new paths for themselves that might indicate a break with the way their mothers had organised their lives. This did not really seem to be the case, except for a few individuals, and some British young women appeared to be considering more conservative life paths in terms of marriage and motherhood than their mothers had followed. There was, however, awareness among both the Hong Kong and British women of the uncertainties faced by today’s younger generation. Most of the mothers had experienced upward mobility in their lifetimes and had lived through times of optimism and progress, albeit of different kinds (see Chapter 3). In neither Hong Kong nor Britain can they be confident that fortunes will continue to improve; it can no longer be expected that daughters will achieve a higher standard of living than their mothers. In both societies women face challenges brought about by neoliberal governance and economic uncertainties, both are experiencing widening inequalities. In both places finding an affordable place to live is becoming

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more difficult as a result of what has been called the ‘financialization’ of the housing market (Madden and Marcuse 2016). Hong Kong remains marked by its lack of welfare provision and threats to what does exist, while the UK has witnessed cuts and changes to its welfare system in recent decades that have plunged sections of the population into a level of poverty and reliance on charity not seen since the inter-war years. In addition each society is facing specific political challenges. As we write Britain has just left the European Union. Brexit has divided society politically and will markedly change its future, though how is still uncertain. Hong Kong’s protest movement is still ongoing. It has seen escalating levels of state repression that has served only to enrage activists further and led them to engage in increasingly daring and risky tactics in confrontations with the police. Political divisions between pro-democracy activists and the pro-Beijing establishment came into sharp focus with the Umbrella Movement of 2014. The Beijing government has intervened more and more in Hong Kong’s internal governance, undermining the ‘one country, two systems’ accommodation supposedly guaranteed at its handover to China and also threatening the freedoms and rule of law that make Hong Kong distinct from the mainland. The 2019–2020 wave of protests began in June 2019, provoked by a bill that would enable extradition of alleged criminals from Hong Kong to mainland China and, even after the bill had been suspended and subsequently withdrawn, developed into a revived pro-democracy movement, bringing huge numbers to the streets representing all sectors of society. The protests escalated as police used violent methods in an attempt to quell the unrest, but only succeeded in provoking further protest. Support for the protests does not seem to have diminished; those unwilling to confront the police on the streets are finding ways of supporting those as those who are. The Beijing government appears either to fail to understand the depth of feeling in Hong Kong or chooses to ignore it, blaming foreign powers for the protests while whipping up nationalist fervour against the protest in the mainland media (Gan and Chow 2019). The coronavirus outbreak that began in China in December 2019 has, in a climate of a lack of trust in the Hong Kong government combined with suspicion of and hostility towards China, exacerbated the situation.

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In addition to resentment against the lack of the democracy promised to Hong Kong before the handover, there are also some concerns about the ways in which the city is becoming progressively more integrated into China. There are new infrastructure links such as high-speed rail connection with the mainland and the Hong Kong-Macao-Zhuhai Bridge. China has recently announced the Greater Bay Area initiative, which will link Hong Kong more closely to 10 mainland cities as part of a single huge megalopolis. All this is happening as China is becoming increasingly authoritarian under the Xi regime and also increasingly nationalistic and expansionist, with its ‘belt and road’ project, heralded as the new Silk Road, its claims over the South China Sea and the exercise of soft power and economic power throughout much of the world. When British authorities have expressed concern over the situation in Hong Kong in the past few months, Chinese officials have responded by saying ‘mind your own business’ and, tellingly, ‘know your place’. It is difficult to see what the future might bring—for Hong Kong, Britain and the wider world. In a darkly ironic fantasy we imagine a scenario in which a weakened post-Brexit Britain becomes a target of Chinese expansionist ambitions, finally avenging the ‘century of humiliation’ Britain unleashed on China.

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Index

A

C

Abortion 158, 180–182, 186 Adulthood 10, 29, 40, 47, 48, 59, 62, 74, 101, 119, 120, 128, 130, 143, 145, 155, 157, 168, 170, 197, 219 Agency 91, 94, 118, 139, 212 Astronaut families 34, 107, 108

Cantonese 9, 21, 40, 43–45, 147, 173 Century of humiliation 52, 79, 223 Childrearing 120–122, 124, 127, 131, 134, 138, 220 China (PRC) 3, 5, 9, 10, 15, 17, 21, 22, 24–26, 31–33, 35, 48, 49, 50–54, 57, 60–66, 74–82, 106, 107, 110, 115, 173, 187, 189, 196, 215, 222, 223. See also Mainland China, Mainlanders Chinese/Chinese culture/tradition 3, 4, 7, 9, 15–18, 20, 21, 25, 31, 33, 37, 38, 40, 44, 49–54, 57–62, 66, 71, 76, 77, 79–82, 88, 95–97, 99, 104, 110, 113, 116, 121, 125, 130, 139, 143, 146, 147, 152, 158, 160–162,

B

Bao Ernai (keeping a second wife) 78, 106, 167 Bisexuality 38, 170, 171, 182 British colonialism 2, 18, 49, 55–66, 71, 74, 75–76, 79

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2020 S. Jackson and P. S. Y. Ho, Women Doing Intimacy, Palgrave Macmillan Studies in Family and Intimate Life, https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-28991-9

247

248

Index

167, 168, 173, 177, 190, 196, 207, 211, 215, 223 Christianity 59, 136, 177 Citizenship 107, 108 Class 3, 18, 29, 35, 57–59, 66–73, 77, 91, 129, 130, 211, 213, 218 Cohabitation 33, 182, 189, 219 Colonialism 3, 18, 19, 23, 38, 81 Communist Party of China (CPC) 108 Compressed modernity 31–33, 96, 210–211 Confucianism 9, 27, 33, 99 Corporal punishment 121, 125, 127 Culture 6, 8, 15, 16, 18, 22, 31, 35, 36, 38, 45, 48, 79, 80, 88, 96, 110, 114, 119, 132, 142, 143, 152, 155, 177, 178, 196, 197, 218, 219, 221

D

Democracy, campaign for 80, 215 Discipline/disciplining children 44, 117, 120, 123, 127, 128, 134, 155 Display/displaying families 89–94, 104, 110, 114–116 Diversity 29, 88, 95, 115, 129, 152, 182, 219 Divorce 34, 75, 87, 96, 97, 100, 103, 104, 158, 167–169, 178, 198, 199

E

Education 4, 5, 9, 34, 36–39, 43, 52, 55–57, 59, 62, 64, 66–74,

76, 85, 108, 110, 117, 120, 121, 124, 128–134, 141, 144, 151, 155, 161, 177, 187, 200, 201, 203, 211–213 Equality/inequality 15, 19, 24, 29, 30, 33, 55, 82, 116, 209, 213

F

Face (mianzi) 115, 145, 185 Familialism 33, 108, 143, 144, 150, 152, 185, 186, 213, 220 Family practices 8, 10, 36, 89, 90, 92–94, 109–111, 114, 116–120, 138, 146, 219, 220 Feminism 17, 75, 151, 199, 208 Filial piety 95, 110, 111, 115, 119, 190, 213, 214 Focus groups 36, 43–45, 65, 123, 126, 137, 138, 140, 152, 162, 174, 175, 177–179, 197, 198 Friendship 21, 29, 144, 148, 172, 176

G

Gender equality 15, 24, 209 Guilt 126, 127, 137, 139, 170, 176–178

H

Handover (of Hong Kong to China) 5, 80, 85, 222 Hierarchical harmony 152, 220 History 2, 10, 11, 13, 15, 16, 22, 23, 30, 31, 33, 36, 45, 47–49, 60, 75, 79, 95, 110, 173, 219 Homosexuality 75, 158, 183

Index

Hongkonger identity 79, 80 Housing 3, 4, 40, 56, 62, 64–66, 76, 77, 79, 80, 82, 84, 85, 97, 102, 105, 106, 156, 160, 178, 187, 190, 204, 214, 222

I

Identity 38, 79, 80, 177 Individualism 142, 143 Individualization 24, 25, 28, 36, 96, 217 Infidelity, sexual 197 Institutionalism 26, 172 Instrumentalism 53, 108, 131 Intergenerational relationships 135

J

Japan 14, 15, 17, 22, 24, 26, 30–32, 54, 61, 168, 179, 190, 210

L

Language 9, 21, 42, 44, 88, 170, 173, 181, 219 Lesbianism 180, 183–185, 195 Love 21, 24, 27, 105, 108, 109, 117, 124, 125, 139, 144, 153, 162–166, 170–174, 179, 181–183, 192, 198, 202, 220

249

Marriage 27, 33, 34, 36, 40, 56, 69, 70, 76, 87, 95–97, 99, 104, 107, 112, 113, 123, 137–139, 143, 151, 157, 158, 160–165, 167, 168, 170, 172, 173, 175, 178, 180–182, 187, 189–196, 198, 199, 204–208, 211, 212, 219, 221 Materialism 8, 9, 16, 21, 45, 48, 62, 89, 91, 93, 94, 108, 110, 111, 118, 120, 127, 134, 147, 155, 159, 161, 176, 178, 180, 182, 184, 190, 197, 212, 214, 220, 221 Maternal surveillance 140, 178 Meaning-making 27, 93 Mianzi (face) 115, 145, 185 Modernity (concept) 15, 16, 20, 22–35, 207, 210, 218 Modern womanhood 210 Money 53, 71, 73, 82, 113, 117, 132, 138, 139, 146, 147, 176, 179, 196, 197, 201–205 Monthly contribution 112, 113, 116, 117, 146, 147 Motherhood 24, 122, 129, 180–182, 185, 187, 188, 194, 199, 204, 206, 207, 221

O

Opium Wars 49, 52 M

Mainland China 10, 18, 34, 48, 58, 60, 95, 106–108, 110, 112, 130, 161, 173, 189, 196, 198, 222 Mainlanders 80–82

P

Patriarchy 17 Poverty 18, 19, 53, 55, 56, 60, 66, 68, 71, 86, 158, 222

250

Index

Practices of intimacy 10, 21, 28, 89, 90, 93, 94, 114, 117–119, 144, 145, 147, 152, 154, 155, 220 Pregnancy, unplanned 175, 180 Protectionist familialism 144, 150, 152, 185, 220 Protest 3, 10, 22, 74, 80, 108, 153, 154, 222

T

Tradition 8, 11, 15–17, 23, 24, 26, 27, 29, 30, 33, 48, 59, 94, 96, 102, 110, 113, 114, 121, 130, 158, 170, 177, 188, 190, 191, 193, 197, 206–214, 219 Transformation of intimacy thesis 145

R

Reflexivity 15, 91, 93, 118, 131, 155, 188, 190 Regulation 44, 57, 60, 120, 134, 155 Relationality 29, 93, 118 Rights 9, 15, 44, 54, 56, 120, 122, 128, 159, 165, 180, 182, 202 Romance/romantic relationships 10, 20, 75, 86, 134, 135, 149, 159, 168

U

Umbrella Movement 9, 10, 152, 153, 215, 222

V

Vignettes 40, 180, 185 Virginity 138–140, 149, 150, 156, 171, 176, 177

S

Self/subjectivity 11, 212 Sex education 141, 142, 177 Sexuality 2, 43, 74, 91, 94, 134–137, 141–144, 149, 150, 153, 155, 156, 160, 171, 177, 186, 220 State 9, 31, 34, 61, 63, 66, 67, 77, 90, 120, 125, 133, 196, 197, 218, 222

W

Welfare 4, 19, 33, 34, 56, 57, 64, 66, 71, 77, 82, 83, 88, 91, 102, 107, 110, 111, 113, 182, 186, 187, 204, 219, 222 Welfare State 19, 56, 62, 63, 66, 68, 77, 83, 187, 204, 215, 219