China: Response to “Women’s Rights at Risk” by Leta Hong Fincher

CCP Poster - Women

CCP Poster – Women

With response to the article “Women’s Rights at Risk” by Leta Hong Fincher:

What we can say about Mao’s policies during the Cultural Revolution and Great Leap Forward is that they were equally destructive to both men and women. In terms of the Great Famine, starvation certainly did not distinguish one gender from the other: it claimed the lives of both sexes. To paint Mao as a proponent of women’s rights, even slightly, is like painting Thatcher as the feminist of our time. Only worse, considering how far-reaching the impact of Mao’s destructive policies were in China.

Let’s consider for a moment why Mao would consider “overcoming traditional forms of male-female inequality” to be a “revolutionary goal:” Communism. Mao was spreading Communism and making the people believe that it was best for the country. In order for Communism to work, barriers must be broken down so that everyone can contribute to the effort equally. Mao didn’t need “men” and “women;” he needed “people,” “laborers,” “workers,” “cadres.” He needed people to operate as a unit. The Marriage Law of 1950 established the concept of “common marital property,” which further strengthened the idea that husband and wife formed a unit. A nice idea, and a true one by Western standards, but, again, this is in relation to Communism. I don’t think Mao was specifically pioneering legislation for women’s rights. Gender equality was simply a byproduct of Chairman Mao’s Communist regime. This isn’t to say that good things cannot be set in place for ulterior motives, but the Marriage Act was set in place without changing the nation’s conception of gender, so progress was only really made in appearances.

Now China is ardently transforming into a free market society, or trying to: the government still tries to maintain control over whatever it can. The reversal in property rights may have to do with this transformation. Men and women no longer need to be equal. If there’s anything to be said about Capitalism, it’s that it thrives on inequality. China is entering late in the game. When it first started to open up it was wiped clean, a country that needed to learn to walk and talk again, so this may just be a stage in its development. However, as history shows in the Western world, nothing will be overcome unless women in China begin to fight for their rights.

Of course, China is still Communist in the sense that there isn’t any space for people to develop their own thoughts. Instead, a hierarchical structure is in place where someone is always in control of someone else just below them. This is why there are organizations like the Women’s Federation and Labor Federation that “control” more than they “empower” the people they’re meant to serve. China is very much a country that cares about appearances: it can set up these federations as a progressive mask, but beneath it is a dark, seedy reality.

I do get the sense that something is brewing in China; whether it’s revolution I can’t be sure. In my own research about online dating in China, I have come across evidence of young university women who are independent, self-aware, and do not want to be defined by a man. Yet the vast majority, while still self-aware and independent, is not so bold in the language they use. They speak about what they want with the heavy feeling of shame the Women’s Federation wants them to have. When asked how they would describe themselves in an online dating profile, they were all pretty self-effacing. But then again, so were the university men I surveyed. Both also seem to just be looking for their equal when it comes to selecting a partner, so perhaps gender equality and rights for women are beginning to move in the right direction.

Categories: Human Rights & Social Issues

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2 replies

  1. Reblogged this on middlekingdom1of10boyz and commented:
    There is something happening in China, I totally agree. What it is I cannot tell, but I can sense it, I can feel it. There is change coming and the real challenge for Chinese leadership is how do they control it. It is like watching water as it comes to a full rolling boil, right now we are at the point where it is just a few bubbles in most of the pot. There are some places where it is a little more vigorous. The problem for the Chinese government is that the full rolling boil is coming and there is nothing that can be done about it. If you stop the movement towards capitalism the pot will boil over but it you keep going the pot will also boil over. The fact that the pot is going to boil is irrefutable, what you do to manage it and put it to good use is debatable; we know that we don’t want it to just boil all over make a mess of everything else it touches.


  2. The government wants to move toward capitalism but still maintain absolute control. It can’t happen. You’re right; it will be really interesting to see what moves the government makes.


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