Why Yang Yang as flag bearer is a huge deal
If you do a search on Google today, you'll find a hundred newspapers reprinting a blurb that says Yang Yang is the first female flag bearer in the Chinese Olympic history. All the news briefs say the same thing: that Yang Yang was the first Chinese Winter Olympics gold medal winner; that she's the winningest female short tracker in history; and that she'll mostly likely medal again.
As a casual reader, one would just gloss over the significance of the news because there's no context. If I didn't know anything about China, I would just nod my head and say good for her and go on to the next Olympic story.
I love China. Of all the Asian countries and cultures, I find the richness and depth of Chinese history and people the most interesting. China isn't one homogenous mass of Chinese people, but a diverse culture of different dialects, tastes and attitudes. Just like the US where we have California culture, The South, New Yorkers, etc., China's people are just as different from province to province.
Like anything you love, you have to take the good with the bad. It's not a matter of passing judgement about the culture. It's about accepting that this is the way they are for better or worse. Cultures like people can't be changed from the outside. You can't change people. They have to change on their own. So like the people in our lives with faults we wish we can change, China will have to effect those changes from the inside.
One of the things that I wish I could change about China is their attitudes toward women. Women are second class citizen and boys are more desirable than girls. It's the boys that carry on the family name and that is a significant part of Chinese culture.
Because of this prevalent attitude and China's one child policy, this means that of the 100,000 babies that get abandoned every year, most of them are girls. If you go to any Chinese school, you can see the disparity in gender balance as you see a few girls among the sea of boys.
This disparity is leading to a steady erosion in China's culture. Kidnapping of women continue to climb as the victims are being shipped to rural provinces to serve as wives for as little as $100 US dollars. University educated men are beginning to realize the lack of eligible mates. Duh. How educated can you be when you don't see any other women in at your university and it never crossed your mind that you might have problems finding a wife.
Girls do not have the opportunities that boys do. There's little money to go around and what money a family has will be spent on the son's education while the daughters are usually expected to labor at home and learn to be wife to someone's son with an education.
The fact that Yang Yang has not only grown up in this enviroment, but has found a way to excel in it is simply amazing. Unlike Western cultures, where the successful individual is praised, China regards teamwork and society above individual accomplishments. There's a Chinese proverb that sums this up: The nail that stands out most is the first to get hammered down.
In her amazing career, Yang Yang has become a role model for the girls in China. She's as close to a celebrity as China would allow though you would never know it meeting her. Even a celebrity only exists at the Chinese government's goodwill and forebearance. No one person is ever indispensible, especially a girl.
Yang Yang is flag bearer at the Olympics. She had to be the first to win Winter Olympic gold to be chosen. I think if any other male Chinese athlete had won gold at Salt Lake, Yang Yang would have been passed over. That's just the way China is. China isn't going to change over night, but Yang Yang has at least introduce the idea the girls can be important--important enough to make national history.
If you love something or someone enough, then you wait out the bad parts and hope that they'll change. In the meanwhile, you do the small things within your power to help.
I have a 3 year old daughter that my wife and I adopted from China in 2004. We are in the process of adopting a second from China.