Archive for February, 2016

Research Paper Update

Sunday, 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!”

Tuesday, 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

Thursday, 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