Guest Author - Inci Yilmazli
Woman. The unique creature honoured with fertility along with the beauty and feminine characteristics. Woman, who was seen as an indispensable constituent for the continuance of progeny in the first age societies, has lost this importance in time, her rights are taken away from her and got under the male hegemonia.
Women are considered as the silent majority and of secondary importance in Chinese society which is formed of a deep-rooted history, different cultural characteristcis and unique lifestyle just like in any other patriarchal society. However, the role of Chinese women has changed over time. Considering their position in the old Chinese society, it can be seen that they have come a long way to where they are right now.
In the old Chinese culture, women’s roles are mostly restricted with their homes. They were seen as an obligation until they were married and sent or given away to another family. Women are no longer restricted with their homes anymore.
Woman In Traditional Chinese Society
Traditional Chinese Society is built on patriarchal family system in which the women were always humiliated, excluded and udnerestimated. As soon as they were born, they were accepted as the secondary class in society and they tried to survive behind the walls of her home silently for centuries.
Young girls were seen as only a “temporary family member” as they would be married at a certain age and given away. The status of the woman within the society was dependent on her giving birth. To give birth to a male helped her to be accepted as a respected person in the family. Once her son is married and she becomes a mother-in-law, she would have power and higher status in the family.
Traditional Chinese Society was run by Confucian doctrines. According to thi doctrine, the beauty of women was considered as a trap for men as women are defined as unreasonable creatures who are run by their emotions. The only positive feature they has was being compatible.
The dominance of men over women is based on the fundamental Chinese philosophy in old China and defines the relationship between the man and the woman in Chinese society. According to this, the earth consists of two complementary elements called Yin and Yang. As Yin represents the dark, the weak, the passive and the female; Yang represents the bright, the powerful, the active and the male.
Women are expected to be obedient and passive and rules are made for this purpose. One of these rules is that the girls must be loyal to the men of the house, the wives to their husbands and the moms to their sons.
Women Under Mao
When communism came along, Chinese women started to have a more western woman look. One of his goals was to eliminate the discrimination between man and woman. At that period, many women wore the same uniforms as their companions and read the same red books. In addition to that, they started to go to school and even have professions and work. While the West was dealing with the women’s right to vote, Chinese women came into different positions under Mao’s power, they even worked in state offices. They were frequently defined as the most dominant figures of the period.
Earning Their Freedom
After Mao’s death, big reforms were made with the next leader. China opened its doors to the West. Women lost their power and the equality they had in Mao’s period. However, the change was not that significant, they didn’t go back to their old times. Women met a different perspective of freedom with Western movies, music and cultures.
Conservative Chinese women (compared to the Western women) started to discover different style of make up, fashion and life styles. Modern conditions came up in time and made their lives easier and helped them to have their positions back in schools and business world. Western world consepts like choosing their spouses, getting a divorce, being a single mom have become a part of their lifes.
During the 1900s, increasing number of women left China for graduate studies and work. Women learned how to stand on their own feet in a foreign country and developed the sense of independence, which is not a part of Chinese culture, during this period. They became the important part of China Towns’ development around the world.
Chinese women, who were expected to live their lives behind the walla, are now free and proved the world and their own country that they are as powerful as men in every area of life.