The role of women in Modern Chinese Society contrasts greatly from traditional Chinese society. There are more equality and fairness, and most Chinese people back in China and abroad regard their women with respect. “Chinese women are now entitled to occupational and educational opportunities” (e How inc). It is important though to look at the role of women in traditional Chinese society, and what they have been able to accomplish so far.
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In traditional Chinese society, women were held at a lower level than men. They were expected to behave according to set traditional practice. Traditional Chinese society was repressive and strictly ordered, where women had no private lives.
Personal ambitions were seen as a disruption to social order. Whatever a woman decides to do, it had to be for the sake of the whole family or village. Women were supposed to keep issues surrounding their lives as secrets. In the book The Woman Warrior, the author Maxine Kingston, tells of occasions when her mother cautioned her of sharing the family secrets with other people.
Her mother tells Kingston, “You must not tell anyone”(Kingston) when she narrates about her aunt, who killed herself and her newly born baby. This story serves as a further illustration of the cruelty Chinese women faced. They were not supposed to behave in a manner that could sexually attract men. The aunt, illustrated in the first chapter of Kingston’s book as “No Name woman,” paid with her own life, the mistake of giving birth to an illegitimate child.
In traditional Chinese society, the birth of a girl child was considered a disappointment and bad luck. Girl education and skills were considered useless. The parents and the community scorned at women who expressed a desire to move beyond the traditional boundary set by society. Traditional Chinese women were supposed to be fully bound to their role as wives and mothers and to rely on their husband for provision solely.
In her book, Kingston tell of one time when her mother complained to her that her birth had cost her $200 at a “time when they were giving away slave girls in China for free” (Kingston)In the modern Chinese society, especially within the immigrant community in America, the role of women has expanded, although the lives of many women are characterized by traditional customs.
They are growing up as Chinese-American is different from growing up in China. Women have “learned to takes on a traditionally male role, wearing male armor and commanding men”(Kingston). Through the force of their will, Chinese women have taken up a great position within American society. They possess immense power in their ability to give life and play a significant role in their families.
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These powers give Chinese-American women the ability to maintain a sense of womanhood and perform a role as a wife and mother. Chapter two of Kingston’s book is a clear illustration of the power that Chinese-American women have.
The chapter, titled white tiger, describes the woman as a “warrior who ties up her hair when she is fighting and lets her hair down to cover the tattoo of revenge on her back when she is a wife”(Kingston). This chapter shows the increased freedom and ability to make a personal choice for Chinese-American women.
There is increased roles reversal within Chinese society in America. As women take up men’s roles, Chinese American men are finding themselves taking roles that were traditionally meant for women.
This is illustrated in the second chapter, a white tiger, where Kingston’s husband “leaves the battle to return home and care for their son”(Kingston). In the workplace, Chinese Americans, as any minority races have to speak out and fight a constant battle against racism. Like many immigrant families, career, Chinese women have to work for many hours.
Although many Chinese American children have spent most of their lives in America, they feel that the country they call home is a ghost country, just like China is a ghost country to them. Kingston expresses this feeling when she is refereeing her home as “a China town bigger than the one here” Many young Chinese-American are frustrated by this experience in their quest to live a normal American live.
In the modern Chinese American Society, Women have more say in a matter related to marriage. In the past, the family had to look for a suitor for their daughter. Young women are increasingly refusing to take the label that the Chinese traditions put on them.
They feel that they have more capability than just simply being wives and mothers. Kingston illustrates this by “burning food and refusing to clean dishes”(Kingston). Although most Chinese families in American continued to be bound by traditions, many parents realize the value of education and the role of women as a liberator. Many Chinese parents hone, mentor and support the education of their daughters.
Women’s empowerment is never complete without giving them a voice. In traditional Chinese society, and even among Chinese-American in the past years, silence has been used as a voice to deprive women of their rights. It’s a common practice among the older generation of Chinese-American not to open up to people outside their family or community.
Children have always been taught to lie or simply keep quiet to outsider rest. They give out the secret that could jeopardize society’s orders. This is seen as more of a trap where children are silenced and reined in by society.
Once silenced from a young age, girls are not able to express themselves and interact with other people. The young generation, on the other hand, is fighting hand to get assimilated into the larger society. Many are fighting a constant battle in order to look less Asian.
Traditional Chinese Society had low regard for women. Women were not allowed to pursue personal ambitions and interests. Birth of a girl child was considered a disappointment, and women were supposed to be fully bound to their traditional role as wives and mothers. The role of women in modern Chinese society have expanded by many women are still bound to traditions.
They are growing up as Chinese-American is both exciting and challenging. There is the increased choice for women, and many women have access to education and are able to pursue careers. On the other hand, the majority of young people are frustrated and are constantly fighting to live a normal American life that is not characterized by Chinese traditional culture.
For a very long time, silence has been use as tool for reigned on women. Right from childhood, children are taught to keep quiet and not share any family or community information with outsider. This silence makes it hard for young women to express themselves to and interact with other people.
e How inc. “Traditional Role of Women in China.” 2010. e How.
Kingston, Maxine Hong. The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts. Hawaii: Alfred A. Knopf, 1976.
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