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Chinese Women In The 21st Century

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Feminism is understood broadly as a movement that strives for sex equality between men and women. The history of feminism within the Chinese context dates back 1898 when there was a reform movement until the revolution of 1911. Since its existence, Chinese feminism has emerged onto stage, it has been intimately bound to larger social trends of people which often hide and distort female subjectivity. Literary novels and other forms of art are found at different particular eras throughout China's modern history which reflect upon the change in feminism and their connection to social and ideological trends. Some wonder if women partake in positions of power. The answer to this is simply yes. Although some have made it the top, they are often stereotyped, and in some ways defaced. "It is not surprising, then, that women who "get there on their own" are often identified as especially masculine" (Peterson/Runyan, 96) Despite this fact, Chinese women today have equal political status as well as equal rights to participate in state , which have been clearly stipulated in the Constitution and related laws and regulations. In 1992, the Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of Women was established and enacted. However as we take a deep look into China's rich history, we find that this wasn't always the case and that Chinese women weren't always fortunate as they are today.

According to the section "Historical Interpretations" in the book Chinese Women Through Chinese Eyes the status of Chinese women in pre-modern China was that they "always occupied a very low place in Chinese History"(Shih, 3), however they also played important roles within the political system. "Confucius told us that, of the ten builders of the Chou empire, one was a woman"(Shih, 4) Although her name was not ever documented she still was known to be there and has obviously made a significant impact on Chinese women during this time, and in addition gave hope to those who were oppressed and struggling to get by. "Throughout Chinese history, there were many great women whose political achievement was not merely due to their status as empresses or empress dowagers. An ordinary person with no marked talents can achieve nothing even though she is placed in the most exalted positions of the empire."(Shih, 6)

Outside of the political world, Chinese women still were successful. They were particularly strong in the areas of literature, and scholarship. It was in this case that the family that was known to have a strong literary tradition gave the women in the family somewhat of an educational background, and it was only the knowledgeable and genius ones that would pick that education up and run with it to places unknown. In looking at the different arguments by scholars, we see that some have thought to see Chinese women being successful, and some have seen them to live oppressed lives, in misery. I tend to lean towards the oppression side mainly because all the things you really ever hear about the women during pre- modern china are basically all the horrible things that they were forced into.

The basic characteristic of Chinese women in pre-modern china was a search for identity. Although this characteristic, isn't documented anywhere, it is important to notice this. The search for identity in Chinese women during this time, was important because once they found themselves, then they could move on and set an example for other women, and whether it was a good example or not, something was learned from it later in Chinese history. We see this through analysis of the Revolution of 1911, and the May Fourth Movement. It was these important events in Chinese History that in fact brought feminism back into Communist China.

The Revolution of 1911 and the May Fourth Movement were both movements that could both be described as times when women were helped. The Revolution of 1911 theoretically ended the feudal society and paved the way to women's freedom. The May Fourth Movement in fact backed the revolution up, as it defended the achievements that the Revolution accomplished by advocating democracy and science. There was also an introduction of western cultures. Western attitudes and ideas that developed ranged from propaganda literature, to the freedom to love. The Revolution's goals were completed as there was an eventual modern nation-state. During the women's movement there very few women's activists, but they existed in a small circle. The two groups in the circle were the revolutionary group whom were open minded, and the intellectuals whom were spiritually open. In the post Mao era, Chinese feminists have turned to the west for intellectual weapons.

After 1949 the China was transformed into a "New China". As a result of improvement in women's education level and their newly acquired interest in politics, participation in political and state affairs has been in high demand. However the government has secured efforts to train women and encourage women leaders. In addition to this, women's involvements in political affairs most definitely play a definitive role in China's Republic. The Chinese government today is currently working on a Program for the Development of Chinese Women whose goals are to ultimately promote women's participation in government and political/state affairs. Since then, Chinese women have acquired valuable experiences in their participation in governmental affairs.

In an article written in Peoples' Daily on August 28, 2002, Chinese women are described as being a common figure in the political world. "The presence of Chinese women in the political arena had become more common, and their personal rights and those of their employment, education and medical welfare were all well ensuredÐ'... The Chinese government had taken various measures to encourage women to take part in the political and social affairs." Statistics from the same article exemplify Chinese Women's increasing presence in the political world. "Local governments had also tried various ways to broaden employment channels for women, including encouraging the development of tertiary industry, promoting community household services, giving favorable policies to women in poverty-reduction projects and encouraging women to open their own businesses. Following these measures, the number of employed Chinese women had risen from 280 million in 1990 to 330 million in 2000, accounting for 46 percent



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