Tricia Wang

Sociologist Tricia Wang is trying to blend in as a migrant working in Wuhan and reports on her weblog about her experiences. “Are we too dirty for your eyes?”

When we sat down on the empty seat, I accidentally lightly brushed my backpack against the man sitting to my left. I immediately apologized.  But he didn’t respond, he just looked alarmed that I had touched him and gave me a glaring look that told me immediately that I shouldn’t even be sitting near him. He wiped off the part of his arm that my bag had brushed as if I had dumped dirt on his suit.

His action alone made me super conscious of my physical condition –  the dirt on my toes, my oily face, and my blackened clothing from working with food vendors. I hadn’t showered in two days and that’s all I kept thinking after he looked at me.  I glanced around around and saw people staring at us. I immediately made a boundary in my head and called them “city people.” As Yang Jie kept talking, I kept noticing the “city people” in their daily showered bodies, freshly washed clothing, and dirt-free toes.

I then received a text message so I pulled my phone out. I immediately noticed the man next to me look at me curiously – he saw that I not only had a smartphone, but probably what looked like a real iphone (it is a real iphone). I texted back to my friend in English, and this is when he became super aware that something was off – it’s hard to explain the look on his face, but he just kept looking over my shoulder as if his eyeballs were going to pop out. He then looked at  Yang Jie up and down and then at me up and down.

The more he looked, the more I just glared at him and the more upset I became. I wanted to say out loud, “what are you looking at? Do you have a problem? Aren’t we too dirty for your eyes?”  But I was with Yang Jie and I didn’t want to make a scene. I’m sure she receives this kind of treatment every day and she has learned to ignore it. It angered me that I could feel his judgement seeping onto me, and I could feel that the minute he saw me texting in English his level of disdain at me decrease. Texting in English in combination with owning an iphone are signifiers of an education and he picked up on it immediately.

More, including a fast growing number of comments, at Tricia Wang’s weblog.

Tricia Wang is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. When you need her at your meeting or conference, do get in touch.

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