Women Situation in China
CCF 9659 (Wednesday, December 4, 1996)
The current China men and women debate was strayed off from the issue of women’s condition in China. Few articles give a comprehensive picture on the condition.
First, Chinese tradition, like others, believes that the right place for women is home. Contacts with the west at the turn of this century did bring changes to the treatment of women, e.g. feet bonding and education. But the destiny of women was still home.
The communist revolution brought Soviet ideas and practices to China. The idea is that men and women are equal. (Most communist ideas are good). Everything men can do, women can too. But there is another idea from the Soviet guiding the practice — men and women are good at different things. Women are caring and detail oriented as they show at home.
The practice is that housewives were encouraged to join the work force in late 50’s and have stayed there. Girls are encouraged to be doctors, nurses, biologists, textile workers and are discouraged to take up physics and engineering by their parents. The shirts, shoes and toys you buy in discount stores are more likely to be made by China women rather by men. You will not be surprised to see women doctors everywhere in China or see women biologists saturating American graduate schools, but you don’t see a male nurse or secretary.
The result has been a mixed jar for women. Women can get career satisfaction in some professions but are not expected to do well in others. Women brings home part, usually less than half, of the family income and make more family decisions. However, having all housewives in the work force drove down everyone’s salary, and every family relies on the second income from the wife. On the other hand, the wife is still expected to cook, to clean and to take care of the child, the elderly and husband. Wives end up having two jobs, one inside and the other outside of home. Further, they are denied the choice to stay home to take care children.
Comparing to the west, more Chinese women are in the work force. They contribute more to the society economically, but the status and appreciation they enjoy are far less than the proportion they contribute. China lacks the women’s revolution that swept the west — especially the radical idea that women can live without men. I do not mean that women should or could live without men. I mean Chinese women should get out of the shadow of men, rediscover themselves and reshape the society which has been shaped by men.
No surprise, many Chinese women have found that they can live without Chinese men and rediscovered themselves.
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