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

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,” ┬ámost 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


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