China in Ten Words

March 31st, 2016

In “China in Ten Words” Yu Hua is presenting a critique in the distinct and significant ideological shift that can be seen around the 1990s in China. This can be seen in his chapter on “People” in which he analyzes the changed meaning of the word and even discusses the dramatic shift from the democracy movements of 1989 and Tienanmen Square protests to the focus of economic success and the acquisition of wealth. Furthermore, you can see it in the chapter “Leader” that the Chinese people have moved away from the idolized leader that Mao Zedong represented. Yu Hua pulls on his own memories to show the ways in which China has changed so dramatically over the course of his life.

Research Paper Progress

March 25th, 2016

At this point in my research, I am still sorting through my secondary sources. It is that time in the semester when it gets really busy, so my time management skills will definitely be coming into use. What is fortunate, however, is that I am writing a paper in my Philosophy class about the theory of Chinese Feminism, so I’ve been able to build off many of the sources that I am using for this paper (however, I am writing two very distinct papers). I’ve come to find that some of my secondary sources include works written by Chinese feminists throughout the last few decades that focus mostly on theory – this is great for my philosophy paper, but not for this paper. I am still trying to find more articles to fill in gaps in my research and pulling specific stories from the news about the detainment of the “Feminist Five” which will serve as a case study on how the government has reacted to feminist activism in modern China.

Challenges of Research

March 17th, 2016

When it comes to research projects, I always find myself with three main problems:

The first challenge is the obvious: time management. Research is ultimately a very time consuming task and required a great deal of planning. It is important to spend equal amounts of time going through both primary and secondary sources and taking detailed notes so that it isn’t necessary to go back through each source to find a piece of information. Actually writing a paper, in my opinion, doesn’t take nearly as long as the preparation for writing a research paper, which is why writing out a detailed outline is important. It is also important to stay on top of all your sources, going through them all a little at a time. It is almost impossible to do research the night before, which is why time management is so essential.

The second challenge I usually face is remaining unbiased. Sometimes I choose topics out of interest, and have to be aware of my own bias going into it. Sometime if one thinks they already know the answer to their research question, they will omit sources and scholarship that disproves that hypothesis. This ultimately leads to a biased paper. Sometime I find myself steering myself towards the sources that agree with my initial thoughts, and I have to actively go through and make sure I am pulling from a wide range of sources to stop myself from picking a choosing information that works best for my idea.

Finally, I usually find myself choosing topics too broad for the paper length. Sometimes I get passionate about a project and I want to write too much. This is why I have to focus my topic on a specific time frame or case so that I can do the topic justice in the amount of space I am given.

Research Paper – Primary Source

March 10th, 2016

Honig, Email and Gail Hershatter. Personal Voices Chinese Women in the 1980’s. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1988.

This book titled Personal Voices: Chinese Women in the 1980’s is actually a collection of written accounts by women about life in China in the 1980’s. It includes translations of accounts that cover topics such as family and marriage to violence against women and feminist voices. I chose this source as it gives a uniquely female perspective on the issues that faced women in China during the 1980’s. It really wasn’t until the 1980’s did feminist as we understand it today become a real movement within China which is why this source should provide insight into the issues that women were concerned about at the beginning of this movement.

One weakness that I foresee with using this source is the way in which there is very little information given about each of the authors – I have to research each author individually in order to understand the context in which they are writing. It is my goal for this paper to choose just a few of the most thoughtful pieces from this collection instead of bits and pieces of many – that way, I can be sure to understand the circumstances from which each other comes from.

One piece that I have chosen from the chapter “Feminist Voices” is titled “Nuren bushi yueliang” (Woman is not the moon) written by Ting Lan in 1985. In this powerful piece, Lan makes the statement: “There are things that many of us women understand. The problem is that many people are oppressed by old ideas and the old consciousness. They believe that as women, we don’t have to be strong.” She later goes on to say that “History and present circumstances make many of us women comrades oppressed and constrained. This makes it impossible for us to display our talents, intelligence, and creativity. We just become men’s servants or their burden.” And finally she ends the piece with “Woman is not the moon. She must rely on herself to shine. These are words that many pioneers of the women’s liberation movement, valiant women, and heroines have inscribed with their own actions, tears, and blood.” This source within Personal Voices speaks to the long for independence that women in China feel and the way they view traditional Chinese culture as oppressive.

A second piece from the chapter “Divorce” is a letter written by Li Li in 1985 titled “The Worries of a Divorced Women.” A quote from the letter is as follows: “Getting Divorced was not my fault or desire, but happened mainly because I gave birth to a daughter. Bad luck trapped me and my newborn girl. Mother and daughter – it was suddenly as if we were criminals…Just because of this there were people who said behind my back that a person who gets a divorce is no good, and that a good person does not get divorced. How unfairly life treated me!” This letter shows not only the stigma of divorce, but the fact that a husband divorced his wife because she gave birth to a daughter and not a son. This was another issue that was of great concern to women in the 1980’s and would eventually become part of the feminist movement.

Research Paper Update

February 21st, 2016

At this point I am beginning to look for secondary sources to help me look at the formation of the feminist/women’s rights movement in China. I was surprised to see that there are several sources that look at gender and Chinese feminism in the Mao years as well as after it. Most of these sources address the issue of transnational and western ideas of feminism and how that interacts specifically with Chinese feminism. I am continuing to look at primary sources from party-controlled and less censored news networks but nothing especially new has come to my attention. I plan to dig through the online secondary sources as well as what the library has to offer about Chinese feminism as well as a general view of gender in China that may help me understand some of the major issues for women’s rights activists today when it comes to empowerment and equality.


Chinese Poster – “We have been pregnant with life, we want to safeguard life!”

February 9th, 2016

We have been pregnant with life, we want to safeguard life!, 1957

The reason I chose this poster was not only because of its depiction of women, but what struck me most as its depiction of women of what seems to be different races. It is clear that all of these women are participating in traditionally female duties of raising a child (figuratively and literally). This is important to note as Chinese Communism sought to mobilize and empower all workers, regardless of gender, and yet there was still a division of labor based on sex and gender. I think this shows that despite how progressive the party wished to represent themselves, there was still (and continues to be) gender roles in the Chinese patriarchal social structure.

On a different note, the inclusion of women of different races tells me that this poster was meant to address more than just Chinese women, but instead women from all over the world. We see a woman of African decent, a Chinese woman, and a Caucasian woman all working together in an attempt to raise and support the infant. This image depicts a sense of unity among all women that transcends nation and race. The slogan “We have been pregnant with life, we want to safeguard life!” speaks to the empowerment of women to take pride in care giving and that raising children is something that all women (to a certain degree) can share in as it is part of their condition as members of the female sex. This poster was made in 1957 and is extremely progressive, in my opinion, in its depiction of various kinds of women connected through the feat of motherhood and caregiving. It certainly has a feminist undertone in that it promotes women supporting other women, yet feminism that doesn’t try to break down gender roles which would make sense in the 1950s.

I am interested to know for what purpose this poster was used by the government. I can assume it may have something to do with promoting the role of women as care-givers which would uphold the traditional Chinese culture. It was also reaffirm that women can “do their part” in a communist society by means of raising their children well and that motherhood and care-giving is a noble and important responsibility that all women should strive for or be proud of.

Designer: Zhang Longji (张隆基)
1957, February
We have been pregnant with life, we want to safeguard life!
Women yunyule shengming, women yao baowei shengming! (我们孕育了生命,我们要保卫生命!)
Publisher: Shanghai renmin meishu chubanshe (上海人民美术出版社)
Size: 77×53 cm.
Call number: BG E15/353 (Landsberger collection)

Potential Paper Topic: Feminism and Women’s Rights in China

February 4th, 2016

The topic that has caught my interest in Chinese history since 1949 is that of the feminist movement in China. As we have seen from some of our readings, the communist party in China was fairly progressive in its view of women; the idea was to empower women to be just as productive as men. However, this communist ideal flies directly in the face of what one could consider tradition. Like most nations in the world, China has a long history of patriarchal structure within its society and culture; in addition to male power, Chinese culture also values “family harmony.” The question I am interesting in answering is how the feminist movement balances the empowerment of women with the traditional values of the subjugation of women. Also, just how much the party plays a part in women’s rights movements and how much they are censored by the state.

From the brief research I have conducted so far into news archives, I’ve found an interesting trend. All-China Women’s Federation is an online news source run by the state that focuses on women. Most of the stories highlight the achievements of women in China, but conveniently exclude the struggles of women (sexism, violence, equal pay, etc.). When I typed in the keyword “Feminism,”  most of the articles had to do with upcoming lectures regarding feminism and op-ed pieces. On the other hand, when I searched China Digital Times with the same keyword, I found dozens of articles that report on feminists being held in “detention” for their activism. When I searched the term “violence” or “violence against women” All China Women’s Federation showed results focusing on the new anti-domestic violence laws, whereas China Digital Times showed results of survivors of domestic abuse and how domestic abuse in China continues to be concern for women’s rights activists. And finally, when I searched the term “rape” China Digital Times had just a handful of articles about cases of sexual assault (clearly it is something not well reported) and the Women’s Federation showed articles about male rape laws and the Rape of Nanking.

Just the preliminary research I have done with these news sources is very telling about how the party presents women’s issues and how other (less censored) news sources focus on women’s issues. All together, neither source offered much insight into the feminist movement itself, which I hope to be able to discover through more research.

All China Women’s Federation:

Feminism is About Women’s Creation, Not Antagonism: Dai Jinhua

Joint Letter Calls for Male Rape Change to Law

China Digital Times

It’s Not Rape If You Wear a Condom

Will Detentions Spark a “Feminist Awakening”?

Cases Expose “Epidemic” of Domestic Violence

China Digital Times and Global Voices

January 26th, 2016

China Passes First Domestic Violence Law 

Airpocalypse Strikes Again in China’s Northeast

Young and Restless in China

January 18th, 2016

The first dynamic I noticed was the gendered differences in Chinese society. One of the first things I noticed was how most of the men the documentary followed aspired for greater economic success whereas the women featured were simply looking for fundamental rights. In the case of Zhanyan, she simply wanted to break tradition to marry someone she loved instead of being forced to marry someone by her family. Yang Haiyan  struggled to balance her family responsibilities as well as the hope to find her mother who was sold into human trafficking when Yang Haiyan was a child. In addition to her mother being sold, the people of her village saw her abduction as a disgrace. And even in the case of Miranda Hong who, despite being educated and successful, still battles the pressures of strict gender roles (questions about having children) and even moved to a city with less job opportunities due to family responsibility. I believe this portrays the strict gender roles in chinese society. These women aren’t too concerned with starting their own businesses or making enough money to move up within the class structure like many of the men featured do, but instead focused their efforts on basic things such as their family responsibilities and their individual freedom and happiness.

The second dynamic I found most interesting was how so many of the people featured in the documentary moved all over the country, from city to city, so frequently. This dynamic was more of a side note to the documentary but I never realized how much young people moved around in China. Some moved from Shanghai to Beijing, others from the countryside to the city, and others from abroad back to China.  Xu Weimin, for example, essentially lives between three cities between his work, his daughters, his parents, and his wife and son. The constant movement of young people speaks to the fast pace and frequent changes happening in modern day China. Young people are forced to chase opportunity – for some it was the promise of prosperity, for others migrant work was the only way to support themselves or their families. The problem with moving around chasing opportunities is that it put many of these young people at odds with their commitment to family responsibilities.


January 12th, 2016

My name is Megan Connor. I am a Junior History and Women and Gender Studies Major at the University of Mary Washington.

A few of my interests include:


This image is of the Glastonbury Tor in Somerset, England. It is about a forty minute drive from my grandparent’s house so when I would visit as a child we would drive out and climb up the Tor to take photos and enjoy the view. In addition to its proximity to my family, Glastonbury represents the beginning of my interest in history. Somerset as a whole is full of significant historical sites that I would often visit while staying with family. I loved looking at pictures and reading books about these site which grew into a greater curiosity about English and European history.  Glastonbury also represents my love to travel – almost every year my family and I have had the privilege of being travel to England to visit our extended family.


I am (and always will be) an animal lover. Pets have always been an important part of my family but none more so than our pugs. In total, my family has three dogs and five cats – our pugs are named Winston and Pippa and we have a golden retriever Ruby (who thinks that she is a pug).

463618851_e406ef4c34_z (1)

And finally, this photo represents my interest in women’s studies and feminism. I personally identify as a feminist and that personal philosophy influences my day to day experiences and my historical interests. In addition to being a History major, I am also a Women and Gender Studies major which allows me to  focus on women and the role of gender norms in history and engage in other disciplines that involve women and gender. The idea of gender equality is one that I am passionate about and I love to engage people in discussions as a means to raise awareness and redefine feminism as a positive and powerful movement and identity.


Richardon, Baz. Glastonbury Tor, Somerset. September 7, 2015. Flickr. (accessed January 12, 2016).

National Library of Ireland. Top Dog. 1900. Flickr. (accessed, January 12, 2016).

Kcochran06. Feminism. Posted April 15, 2007. Flickr. (accessed January 12, 2016).