Title: The Exchange of Men in Mary Chin’s ‘The Woman in Kenzo’
Stream: Gender, Sexuality and Culture
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation
Chi Sum Garfield Lau, Hong Kong Metropolitan University, Hong Kong
The Woman in Kenzo is a Hong Kong popular fiction written by Mary Chin. It was first serialized in City Magazine in 1977. Its debut appearance in this forerunner of local lifestyle magazine and the inclusion of a luxury fashion brand in the title make apparent of the novel’s depiction of consumer culture and the way of life of young middle class elites in the 1970s. The protagonist Mary is presented as a charming working woman with a lucrative career. She leads an unhappy life due to her incapability of finding an eligible bachelor to get married with her. As a contemporary woman who is financially independent, she faces the pressure of marriage as established social norms define successful women with their men. The year of 1977 also marked the publication of Luce Irigaray’s masterpiece The Sex Which Is Not One (Ce sexe qui n'en est pas un). The work is a milestone in comprehending some of the current feminist ideologies, including women in the marriage market and female sexuality. Being inspired by Irigaray’s interrogation “why are men not objects of exchange among women”, it is the purpose of my paper to examine such a possibility through the romantic relationships of the protagonist Mary Chin in The Woman in Kenzo. I argue initially that the desperation faced by Mary and her female friends as they reach the expected age of marriage, drives them to seek potential husbands within the sphere of acquaintance, thereby resulting in the phenomenon of exchanging men.
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