Take Home Essay
The three books, Goldman’s Women, the State and revolution, and the Chang’s Wilds Swans explores the conceptualization of the roles of women in China during the 1920s, which represents the critical period of reform for China. During the period 19th and 20th centuries, China went through a period of internal rebellions at the hands of Japan and other western powers, which called for various reform efforts as well as political revolution. Having the nation mired in traditions, many hoped for a new start for China. The outbreak of the revolution in China helped to end the dynastic system that had proved unable to initiate change and transformation beyond the political arena. Without the break of traditions in terms of Cultural Revolution, China could not encounter modernity. One of the key elements for achieving modernity in China was to form a national citizenry. This meant that the Chinese people needed to be politicized and rallied in order to champion the wave of modernity.
All the energies that were required needed to be harnessed for the sake of the country. Chinese women were extremely important in this process, for they were perceived as the custodians of tradition, keepers of homes, as well as the source of the nation’s future generations. However, those women who were called upon for the nation were caught between the expectations of the society as well as their own desire for a more autonomous and modern society. Therefore, this paper explores how the communist defined womanhood as well as family.
The term womanhood is a set of roles, characteristics, attributes or behaviors that are usually associated with women or girls in a particular society or community. Women’s place in the nation as well as society is often considered as a gauge between modernity and traditions. This was the case during the early twentieth century China. As the nation of China strived to attain a national unity as well as fight against western influence, the issue of women became highly politicized because women were regarded as the glue of the traditional Chinese society. Much attention was thus, paid to the problems that faced women in China. However, the traditional China, and especially the Japanese authorities viewed the Chinese women with low regard. As outlined in Jung Chang’s book “Wild Swans,” women were only supposed to submit to their husbands without any form of argument or complain. The traditional Chinese society placed women at the lowest and their roles included looking after their families, attending to their husbands and children, and undertaking other household chores. Women were not supposed to be educated and those who got educated were only trained on how to handle their husbands (Chang and Cooper, p. 20-187).
If a woman failed to bear children, for instance, a man was allowed to bring another woman or a concubine into the home. The concubine’s duty apart from siring the man children was to serve the first wife. Therefore, whether taking the concubine for pleasure or reproduction, the culture or practice was highly degrading as well as humiliating to women. Moreover, in the Chinese traditional society, a man could divorce his wife for whatever reason, but the same wife had not rights whatsoever to do the same (Chang and Cooper, p. 20-187).
Moreover, a woman was obligated to continue serving her dead husband’s people. The norms and traditions of the society confined her to remain the widow, and she could be sold by the family of the husband if they chose to do so. Any children she bore for the husband remained or belonged legally to the family of her husband.
Several other restrictions also existed, which prohibited women from other things such as rearing long hair. The Chinese women had to bear on foot binding restrictions. However, later in the end of 19th century, the need for women’s issues took a different dimension and many women started raising their issues, especially issues pertaining education of girls and women. The growing sentiments such as this made the Chinese to undertake measures in order to establish schools for girls as well as women. Through this, opportunities for women were available, which enabled many women to gain knowledge and exposure to a variety of issues affecting Chinese society (Goldman, p.120).
The Chinese communist not only prohibited foot binding, but also presented many doors and opportunities for emancipation for women in several areas. Many of the Chinese leaders who were exposed to the western education began to raise their views and speaking against practices that discriminated against the girl child (Goldman, p.129).
For the first time in the history of the Chinese society, women were regarded in the same level with men, and given same opportunities to excel. This can be evidenced in the book “Goldman’s Women” where women are given various opportunities to engage in different aspects of life such as in education, training, and even employment. The book “State and revolution” addresses a moment after revolution. It marks period of progressive development, in which the author calls upon the government to take measures in order to influence equal opportunities among men and women (Goldman, p.134).
Chang, Jung, and Rowena Cooper. Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China. Bath, England: Chivers Audio Books, 1991. Sound recording.
Goldman, Wendy Z. Women, the State, and Revolution: Soviet Family Policy and Social Life, 1917-1936. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993. Print.