I was wowed over by Wen Fang and Ya Ching in “Wave Makers” in a way I haven’t been for a long time now. Two strong, imperfect women dealing with the adversities of life, one by giving up faith in the system and the other by trying to understand how it works. Let us take a closer look at them and try to understand how they learned to hold their own in a world working against them.
Why Did Weng Wen Fang Finally Apologize?
I understood Wen Fang’s indignant anger when she refused to apologize to the man for the sake of her election. She was the one who was wronged; it was her girlfriend who was attacked, and she had to hear drunken homophobic slurs thrown at them both. She had every right to be angry, but we did wonder why she was so indignant in her righteousness. She was ready to let go of the election just to avoid the apology. It seemed like too high a price to pay. But it then dawned on us that it wasn’t just that man that Wen Fang was standing against; it was everyone else. It is a sad truth in Asian families that daughters are treated differently from their sons. I am not claiming a lack of love, but maybe love is not equal, or there is a different expression of it, one that is reflective of the secondary status of women in society. This is also the reason the eldest daughters are often in conflict with their parents, mostly their fathers. They refuse to be treated the way their mother was, and in a changing world, the patriarchs find themselves unable to change, and the newer generation does not have the patience for it, and rightfully so.
Wen Fang, in “Wave Makers,” was used to being misunderstood by her father in her home and patronized by other men outside of it, as women are often subjected to. This develops a very sensitive defense mechanism, one that is always on the brink of explosive anger. When the man in question was complaining to Wen Fang’s father, he did not take her side even once. Wen Fang was ready to apologize if the man did so in return. But he felt entitled to his behavior, and the entire basis for his belief that he could get her to say sorry to him was the assumption of the authority that Wen Fang’s father had over her. When that authority takes the place of love and understanding, there is bound to be rebellion.
If only Wen Fang’s father had spoken gently to her in private, telling her that he understood her point of view but that she needed to make a sacrifice for her own good, Wen Fang might have apologized. But instead of that, she was presented with a room full of men screaming at her, feeling entitled to her humility. Bowing down to them would mean letting go of her dignity, and that was too high a price to pay, which is why she never apologized. Note that when the apology did come from her, it was when she knew that her dad was on her side after all. She knew that he wouldn’t be indignant at her victory and would stand by her. This belief, in addition to the realization that she needed the power to be able to make a society where people like her could breathe freely, made her take the step. She was able to put herself ahead of others because she realized that she was not alone in her struggles after all. That’s all it took for the apology to come out of her—a gentle reminder that she was, indeed, loved.
Why Was Ya Ching Feeling Guilty About Chang Tse?
In Ya Ching’s own words, she fell in love with Chang Tse when she took confetti out of his hair. In a strange way, I understand it. Ya Ching idolized Chang Tse, and he challenged her mind like no one ever before. She was used to seeing him as this strong figure, and it also helped that he was easy on the eyes and knew when to say what, like a true politician. The confetti in his hair humanized him, turning him from the unachievable to someone who was right there in front of her, being cute and nice. Her attraction was validated, and soon enough, she started her affair with him. When she believed she was in love, it was natural that she felt insecure about his existing family. This particular factor muddled her judgment, and she allowed him to take photographs of her, though she was not initially willing.
However, it was only a matter of time before the complications of the attraction came to the surface. She could still deal with his family by adopting an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude, but she could not escape the rumors at work. Ya Ching loved her work, and she was tired of not getting the respect she deserved. It also did not escape her notice that she was the only one people were talking about, despite there being two people in the relationship. When she stated her concerns to Chang Tse, he offered to help her run for a councilor to propel her to a position of power. But she realized that it was an empty promise. In fact, it dawned on her that it was this precise imbalance of power between them that he enjoyed so much, which is why he sabotaged her chances of getting another job. That was the day Ya Ching decided that she would not stay with him, no matter what.
Years later, Ya Ching still grappled with the guilt of her affair. She knew she was wrong, but she couldn’t be sure whether she had invited it for herself. Our conditioning of what is right and wrong that we hold over women is deeply ingrained, and Ya Ching struggled with it throughout the duration of the series “Wave Makers.” It was only with Wen Fang’s help that she saw that her love and consent were manipulated to a good extent, which is when she gathered the courage to come out with the story in front of everyone.
Wen Fang and Ya Ching, in “Wave Makers,” were two women who had a lot of fight in them. But while Wen Fang had to deal with it all her life, Ya Ching’s sense of fighting her own battles was the result of what happened with Chang Tse. Two self-reliant women were trying to make the best of bad situations and, in the process, ended up changing the fate of an entire country. To think that Chang Tse could have just avoided it by deleting the photographs, and Wen Fang’s father could have saved himself some migraines by being more communicative.