Research Paper – Primary Source

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.

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One Response to “Research Paper – Primary Source”

  1. skeene Says:

    The weakness you mentioned is a very important one, so it’s good you have already identified it. Context is extremely important, and I think your solution to the weakness is a good one too. It allows you to really focus in on a few of the stories instead of just taking all of them at face value. I’m really intrigued by your topic and I can’t wait to see what else you use for primary sources!

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