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Feminism in China

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Title: Feminism in China  
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Subject: Sexuality in China, Feminist art movement, History of feminism, War on Women, Feminism in India
Collection: Feminism in the People's Republic of China, Politics of China
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Feminism in China

Feminism in China began in the 20th century[1] in tandem with the Chinese Revolution. Feminism in China is closely linked with socialism and class issues.[2] 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.[3]


  • History 1
  • Differences from Western feminism 2
  • Prominent Chinese feminists 3
  • Issues 4
    • Sexuality and reproductive rights 4.1
  • See also 5
  • References 6
    • Notes 6.1
    • Sources 6.2
  • External links 7


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.'"[4] Women were to be submissive and obedient to men.[5] Women were not allowed to participate in government or community institutions.[6] A number of women, and some men, spoke out against these conditions in the early 20th century, but to little avail.

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."[8]

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."[9] 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.[10]

In 2005, China added new provisions to the Law on Women's Right Protection to include sexual harassment.[11] In 2006 "The Shanghai Supplement" was drafted to help further define sexual harassment in China.[12]

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.[13]

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.[14]

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.[15]

Another early 20th century prominent feminist was the anarchist He-Yin Zhen who founded the Journal "Natural Justice" while in exile in Japan.[16]

Yu Zhengxie and Yuan Mei were two of the first male feminists in China.[17][18]


Sexuality and reproductive rights

See also



  1. ^ Croll (1978), 1.
  2. ^ Lin (2006), 127.
  3. ^ Hom (2000), 32.
  4. ^ Quoted in Croll (1978), 13.
  5. ^ Croll (1978), 13.
  6. ^ Croll (1978), 15.
  7. ^ Quoted in Croll (1978), 1.
  8. ^ Quoted in Croll (1978), 15.
  9. ^ Lin (2003), 66.
  10. ^ Meng 118-119.
  11. ^ "China to outlaw sexual harassment". BBC News. 27 June 2005. Retrieved 2012-10-07. 
  12. ^ Li, Cao; South, Mark (27 October 2006). "Draft bill details sexual harassment". China Daily. Retrieved 2012-10-07. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ Brownell (2002), 25-26.
  15. ^ Wang.
  16. ^ Liu.
  17. ^ Ko, Dorothy (1994). Teachers of the Inner Chambers: Women and Culture in Seventeenth-century China. Stanford University Press.  
  18. ^ Ropp, Paul Stanley; Zamperini, Paola; Zurndorfer, Harriet Thelma, ed. (2001). Passionate Women: Female Suicide in Late Imperial China. BRILL.  


  • Barlow, Tani E. The question of women in Chinese feminism. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-8223-3270-1.
  • Brownell, Susan, and Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom. Chinese Femininities / Chinese Masculinities. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002. ISBN 0-520-22116-8.
  • Croll, Elisabeth J. Feminism and Socialism in China. New York: Routledge, 1978. ISBN 0-8052-0657-4.
  • Edwards, Louise. "Issue-based Politics: Feminism with Chinese characteristics or the return of bourgeois feminism?" In The New Rich in China: Future Rulers, Present Lives. Ed. by David S. G. Goodman. New York: Routledge, 2004. pp. 201–212. ISBN 0-415-45565-0.
  • Fan, Hong. Footbinding, feminism, and freedom: the liberation of women's bodies in modern China. New York: Routledge, 1997. ISBN 0-7146-4633-4.
  • Hom, Sharon K. Women's Rights: A Global View. Ed. by Lynn Walter. New York: Greenwood Publishing, 2000. ISBN 0-313-30890-X.
  • Honig, Emily, and Gail Hershatter. Personal voices: Chinese women in the 1980s. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-8047-1431-2.
  • Jaschok, Maria, and Suzanne Miers. Women and Chinese patriarchy: submission, servitude, and escape. London: Zed Books, 1994. ISBN 1-85649-126-9.
  • Lin, Chun. "Toward a Chinese Feminism: A personal story." In Twentieth-Century China: New Approaches. Ed. by Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom. New York: Routledge, 2002. ISBN 0-415-19504-7.
  • Lin, Chun. "The Transformation of Chinese Socialism". Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2006. ISBN 0-8223-3798-3.
  • Liu, Lydia et al. "The Birth of Chinese Feminism: Essential Texts in Transnational Theory". Columbia University Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0-231-16290-6.
  • Meng, Yue. "Female Images and National Myth." In Gender Politics in Modern China: Writing and Feminism. Ed. by Tani E. Barlow. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1993.
  • Wang, Shuo. "The New 'Social History' in China: The Development of Women's History." The History Teacher 39:3 (May 2006).
  • Zarro, Peter. "He Zhen and Anarcho-Feminism in China." Journal of Asian Studies 47:4 (November 1988), 796-813.

External links

  • All China Women's Federation (中国妇女网) Official website (Chinese) (English)
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