Feminism in China
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Feminism in China began in the 20th century in tandem with the Chinese Revolution.[clarification needed] Feminism in China is closely linked with socialism and class issues. Some commentators believe that this close association is damaging to Chinese feminism and argue that the interests of party are placed before those of women; others disagree.
Prior to the 20th century, women in China were considered essentially different from men. Despite the association of women with yin and men with yang, two qualities considered equally important by Daoism, women were believed to occupy a lower position than men in the hierarchical order of the universe. The I Ching stated that "'Great Righteousness is shown in that man and woman occupy their correct places; the relative positions of Heaven and Earth.'" Women were to be submissive and obedient to men. Women were not allowed to participate in government or community institutions. A number of women, and some men, spoke out against these conditions in the early 20th century, but to little avail.
The revolt of women has shaken China to its very depths.... In the women of China, the Communists possessed, almost ready-made, one of the greatest masses of disinherited human beings the world has ever seen. And because they found the keys to the heart of these women, they also found one of the keys to victory...
|J. Belden, 1946|
As a result of government approval, women's rights groups became increasingly active in China: "One of the most striking manifestations of social change and awakening which has accompanied the Revolution in China has been the emergence of a vigorous and active Woman's Movement."
Beginning in the 70s and continuing in the 80s, however, many Chinese feminists began arguing that the Communist government had been "consistently willing to treat women's liberation as something to be achieved later, after class inequalities had been taken care of." Some feminists claim that part of the problem is a tendency on the government's part to interpret "equality" as sameness, and then to treat women according to an unexamined standard of male normalcy.
In 2005, China added new provisions to the Law on Women's Right Protection to include sexual harassment. In 2006 "The Shanghai Supplement" was drafted to help further define sexual harassment in China.
In 2013, the first woman to bring a gender discrimination lawsuit in China, a 23 year old who goes by the pseudonym of Cao Ju, won a small settlement of 30,000 yuan and an official apology from the Juren Academy.
Differences from Western feminism
Chinese feminism differs from Western feminism in that Chinese feminism has no history of assuming that "man" and "woman" are real categories. Rather, Chinese culture has always assumed that "man" and "woman" are socially constructed categories.
Prominent Chinese feminists
Li Xiaojiang is often credited as the founder of women's studies in China. Her 1983 essay "Progress of Mankind and Women's Liberation" (Renlei jinbu yu funu jiefang) was the first women's studies publication in China; the Association of Women's Studies was founded two years later.
Sexuality and reproductive rights
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