Social Issues

Overcorrection or not? Name discussion of Marie Curie in Taiwan

A pioneer in radioactivity, the first and also the only woman to win the Nobel prize twice, and the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two different sciences, Marie Skłodowska Curie, her name has instigated a discussion in the Taiwan society. The dispute focus on the name of this great woman—Should the textbook change her name from Madame Curie to Marie Skłodowska Curie?

It may surprise you that but in the textbook of both Taiwan and China, Madame Curie, written as 居禮夫人 in Taiwan, 居里夫人 in China, is the most common and well-known name of this great scientist, instead of her full name. Part of the students don’t even know her first name, Marie.

This September, during the discussion of curriculum reform by The National Academy for Educational Research (NAER, 國教院), Yiguang CHEN, with two other committee members, suggest to change the name from Madame Curie to her full name, which got approval from the NAER. Although it won’t be changed from the reform of this year, the NAER guarantee that they will work hard towards this goal on changing her name into her full name.

This change suddenly instigated a huge debate on the Internet, which the committee didn’t expect.

Taiwan LGBT Pride 2018, when the parade pass by Taipei Station Front Metro Mall. By Adsa562 (Tsuna Lu) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

Gender Equality in Taiwan

Actually, in the field of gender equality, Taiwan is always the first leading country in all of Asia. The world “gender equality” in Taiwan, not only between “male” or “female”, but also including sexual diversity, which includes LGBT rights. In May 24th, 2017, the Judicial Yuan announce that the current Civil Code is against the Constitution of the Republic of China, for it doesn’t guarantee the freedom of marriage and gender equality. Therefore, Taiwan will be the first country in Asia which recognizes same-sex marriage by 2019. From 2012, the Executive Yuan established Gender Equality Committee, which lend an impetus on The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women and promote sexual equality., and the change of this time Marie Curie’s name could be seen as the part of the movement of promoting Taiwanese gender equality, especially in the field of education. The Gender Equity Education Act, which was announced on June 2004, to promote substantive gender equality, eliminate gender discrimination, uphold human dignity, and improve and establish education resources and an environment of gender equality. Therefore, one of the aims of this time’s reform of curriculum is “In portrayals of major scientific discoveries, there should be provision of such information as gender, ethnicity or other background relevant to the scientists who have contributed to the findings.”, and NAER said it will follow the spirit of gender equality education and break gender stereotypes while observing international practice.

Overcorrection? Different views

The opposite voices are mainly on two questions. Firstly, should NAER change her name? Secondly, should they change her name to Marie Curie or Marie Skłodowska Curie?

On the first question, the opposites made an example on Margaret Thatcher. In Chinese, this iron lady is also called as Madame Thatcher, to use word “Madame” to show the respects. However, in Chinese, Madame is written as 夫人, which literally means “a person belongs to husband”, isn’t this name more impudent to women?

The second debate comes from the post of Polish Office of Taipei on Facebook, which indicates her name in the textbooks should be the full name, which written in Chinese as 瑪麗亞.斯克沃多夫斯卡-居禮, to recognize her Polish surname. This post got criticized from some opposers as  English her name is often written as Marie Curie, which without her maiden name.

Gender Equality in Taiwan—What is its future?

The debate makes us see what will happen when the movement of promoting gender equality touches history— as this time, the maiden name culture. Traditionally, in many countries, when girls get married, they have to change or add her husband’s surname, and this is still a big social issue in many countries. In Chinese culture, when it’s a circumstance of “入贅”, which means man “married to” woman, the man should change his surname to his wife’s surname. The representations of patriarchy, are they still useful or powerful in this modern era? If not, should the movement also change this kind of old culture? How should we deal with the reflection of society becoming more conservative?

A good example is the appearance of Family Guardian Coalition (台灣宗教團體愛護家庭大聯盟), which is a political association containing more than 10 different religions in Taiwan, containing Yiguandao, Unification movement, Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity and etc. In the movement of promoting same-sex marriage in Taiwan, they played a huge opposite role in anti-LGBT agendas and the protection of “the definition of home”. Moreover, the 2018 Referendum of Republic of China will take place in Nov.24th, in the total 10 questions, half are towards the gender equality issues. What will be the future path of gender quality in Taiwan? Only Taiwanese people can make their choices.

Read More »Overcorrection or not? Name discussion of Marie Curie in Taiwan

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