Feminism in China
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Feminism in China began in the 20th century in tandem with the Chinese Revolution. Feminism in China is closely linked with socialism and class issues. Some commentators[who?] believe that this close association is damaging to Chinese feminism and argue that the interests of the party are placed before those of women.
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, and normally not allowed to participate in government, military or community institutions. While there were lauded exceptions in Chinese history and literature, such as the Song dynasty general Liang Hongyu and legendary woman warrior Hua Mulan, these were considered to be signs of the dire situation of China at the time. Before the 20th century, such exceptional women were believed to have fought to defend China's traditional patriarchal order and society, not to change it.
A number of women, and some men, started speak out against these conditions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but to little avail. The situation only began to change as result of the Xinhai Revolution in 1911. In course of this widespread uprising against the ruling Qing dynasty, several women rebel units were raised such as Wu Shuqing's Women's Revolutionary Army, Yin Weijun and Lin Zongxue's Zhejiang Women's Army, Tang Qunying's Women's Northern Expedition Brigade, and many others. All these units are disbanded by the Provisional Government of the Republic of China on 26 February 1912, mostly for chauvinistic reasons. Nevertheless, the fact that they had fought alongside men encouraged many of the women who had taken part in the women militias to become politically active, striving for change.
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 following the Communist Revolution, 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 2001, China amended its marriage law, so that abuse was considered grounds for divorce.
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 went by the pseudonym of Cao Ju, won a small settlement of 30,000 yuan and an official apology from the Juren Academy.
In 2015, China enacted its first nationwide law prohibiting domestic violence, although it excluded same-sex couples and did not address sexual violence. The law also defined domestic violence for the first time. Domestic violence had become a subject of much public debate in China in 2011, when Kim Lee posted pictures of her bruised face on Chinese social media and accused her husband Li Yang of domestic violence. She later stated in the New York Times that police had told her no crime had happened; Li admitted beating her but criticized her for discussing private things in public.
In 2017, the Weibo account of Feminist Voices (Nuquan Zhisheng, 女权之声), an important feminist organization in China, was suspended for thirty days after they posted an article about the planned women's strike in the United States on March 8 (International Women's Day). In 2018 March it was crashed down.
Differences from Western feminism
Chinese feminism differs from Western feminism in that Chinese feminism has no history of assuming that "man" and "woman" are natural categories. Rather, Chinese culture has always assumed that "man" and "woman" are socially constructed categories. What's more, most of the leaders in Chinese feminism movements are men not women, while in western countries, women are the main sponsors of movements for Woman's Rights.
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 funü jiefang) was the first women's studies publication in China; the Association of Women's Studies was founded two years later.
Contemporary Chinese feminist thinkers, activists, writers and lawyers include: Ai Xiongming, Wang Zheng, Lü Pin, and Zhao Sile.
Arrest of Chinese Feminists in 2015
On the eve of International Women's Day, March, 2015, five young Chinese feminists were arrested for “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” (寻衅滋事罪): Li Tingting (李婷婷), Wei Tingting (韦婷婷), Zheng Churan (郑楚然), Wu Rongrong (武嵘嵘), and Wang Man (王曼).
Known collectively as the "Feminist Five," the five feminists have been long-time advocates for legislation against domestic violence in China. They have engaged in protests against gender inequality in China and performance art actions for LGBT rights in China. Performance art forms an important part of their activism because public demonstrations are banned in China.
The Feminist Five were arrested for planning a demonstration against sexual harassment on public transportation. In April 2015, they were released on bail after both domestic outcry and international attention, including calls from Hillary Clinton and Samantha Power.
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