Women’s liberation in China brought mixed reactions towards modernity, as each group opt to take socialism to different heights. According to Rofel, Chinese women’s liberation revolved centrally within western feminism, but they constructed their own forms of acquiring knowledge and engaging in politics (44). Rofel made an observation of women’s characters depending on the time they began working in the factory and divided them into distinct cohorts. Cohorts were not uniform, as each cohort portrayed particular behavior and time. This study will analyze how Cultural Revolution cohorts and liberation-era cohorts define themselves in terms of their relationship to family and labor, and their notions of gender identity. Women’s liberation in China offered the most critical background to modernity, as men continued to suppress women’s efforts to become free.
Liberation-era cohorts existed after women’s liberation, and perceived themselves as the forgotten heroes. This type of cohorts incorporated hard working people who had the mind to make life of the younger generation better. They took pride of working in the factory despite their complaint of male supremacy. Liberation cohorts were good in factories as they were good at home. They preferred working in factories to undertaking housework and rearing children.
In relation to families, liberation cohorts proved that women could work outside their homes. They did not prioritize family matters, as they endeavored to look for opportunities to change their lifestyles through factory work. Although they did not practice modern ideas, liberation-era cohorts developed an extreme shift in terms of gender identities. While other women preferred to undertake family roles, liberation cohorts went out to look for jobs to earn money like their male counterparts. They perceived gender identity as a conditional to practice, performance and context (Rofel 49).
On the other hand, Cultural Revolution cohorts presented themselves as a distinct group from the elderly group, which existed before the women’s liberation. The Cultural Revolution cohorts worked to earn their political authority, rather than employment opportunities. They did not exercise their feminism, as they were rude and loud when they expressed their frustrations to their supervisors. They did not recognize their own authority, and developed a pathetic relationship to labor. They developed an anti-authoritarian relationship to their workplaces. They had an aggressive outlook towards labor, as they did not want to work in factories.
In family, the cohorts were subordinate to revolution. To them, marriage was in inevitable. It was not a way to fulfill a woman’s desire, but it was quite necessary. Since men were still dominating in leadership and family, women remained inferior to men on matters of family. Thus, they still valued family above work and were rebellious on modernity, which could transform the family view. The gender identities of the Cultural Revolution cohorts did not attract much attention, as Cultural Revolution was more about class struggle than gender recognition (Brownell and Wasserstrom 269). The Cultural Revolution cohorts failed to define their gender identity because they did not take pleasure at work.
The story of cohorts has elicited the issue of woman subordination to traditional China, which was the result of socio-cultural construction of genders. Most of the socio-cultural components of gender were determined by traditional gender ideologies (Lee 28). Thus, during liberation, women could have chosen to accept, or ignore, the traditional ideologies in the socialization process. The concept of gender did not undergo full transformation, but was necessary in tearing apart the biological determinism that still entrapped women in China. Women challenged gender politics as they criticize capitalism (Rofel 90). Working in the factory enabled women to gain courage to confront men in several issues, including family and politics. Although men continued to dominate over women, women had the chance to enhance their political views, as they engaged in more responsibilities than before.
Most women in China managed to transform how gender roles had to be perceived. Working in the factory gave women autonomy to decide whether to take their roles in the family or to prioritize on employment. Cultural Revolution cohorts did not find it easy to transform their gender identities, as they still placed high values to family. This group came into existence to show the difference between the elderly women, and the current generation in terms of age and political views (Rofel 169). Women’s transformation during Cultural Revolution was suppressed by the state, as they began embracing dark colors that were normally worn by men.
Learning about women’s liberation in China has helped me to understand how tough the journey to modernity had been. Modernity was supposed to transform people from their traditional beliefs to a more desirable kind of belief. The Cultural Revolution in China occurred to eliminate old ideologies, culture, and habits that was common in traditional Chinese society. Liberation-era cohorts were viewed as agents of national modernity and factory labor was one way to attain modernity. Issues of family planning were associated with modernity, and involving women in such plans demonstrated women’s power over family issues. However, some women were reluctant to move to modernity, as they did not give up cultural values concerning families. Besides, they did not endeavor to push for more recognition at work. Before revolution, women were poorly treated due to their gender, but their transformation made them earn respect from men, both in politics and social circles.
In conclusion, women’s liberation in China presented the most fundamental background to modernity, despite men’s domination being a hindrance to women’s efforts to become liberated. The move to modernity was not a smooth one for Chinese women, who had to fight male domination. Official feminism and labor misdemeanor separated older cohorts from the younger cohorts, who had different view about femininity (Rofel 80). Cultural Revolution brought numerous changes to women, as they could perceive themselves equal to men. Cultural Revolution cohorts did not prefer working in the factory as they fellow liberation-era cohorts. Working in the factory gave women the power to express their misery, and perceived factory work as a platform to modernity.
Brownell, Susan, and Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom. Chinese Femininities, Chinese Masculinities: A Reader. Berkeley, Calif: University of California Press, 2002. Print.
Lee, Jeong-Dae. Socio-cultural Constructions of Traditional Masculinity and Relationships to Sport/physical Activity Values and Behaviors, 2008. Internet resource.
Rofel, Lisa. Other Modernities: Gendered Yearnings in China After Socialism. Berkeley, Calif: University of California Press, 1999. Internet resource.