First off, I have to say, I haven’t lived in China for over 30 years and when I did, it was in diapers so you’re completely valid in questioning my credibility in writing about feminism in China. However, here comes the plot twist and at the start of the story. I hear you yell…yeah! We’re all about shaking things up here at Naari (yeah that’s the Sanskrit word for woman with another A…so different, so edgy). Yes, the plot twist is that I’ll be writing this blog from the perspective of a Chinese woman living in Australia and wanting to re-enter Chinese culture after a 30 odd year hiatus. When arriving in Australia we didn’t have much, two suitcases and a couple of birds (the featherless, flightless middle finger kind) thrown at us when my mum, dad and I were waiting for our bus to Melbourne. My parents struggled with finding white collar work and subsequently money but did a good job at bringing my sister and I up. I’ve had an amazing opportunity to work in the corporate world and create a great life for myself. The banking industry has been good to me, looked after me but now it’s time to give back. The prodigal daughter has returned.
As I re-enter the sphere of China and its now globally dominating presence, I enter with caution firstly, because I am attempting to break the Chinese market as an entrepreneur with little knowledge of its nature. Secondly, I’m entering the Chinese market peddling menstrual tampons knowing that a minimal number of the menstruating population currently uses them and lastly, as a female into a culture that is historically and predominately patriarchal.
My reasons for caution have lead me to ponder about the current status of feminism in China and pondering is all I’ve done so far, prompting me to write a full blog about it without any material research. Boy, I can’t wait to find out what I’ll be writing about once the research comes my way.
I’d like to share with you my pondering or reflections of Chinese women as I’ve experienced it through my grandmother, the most “woman” woman I’ve ever known. I’d love to hear whether you’ve had similar experiences or whether you’ve had completely different experiences in the comments below or, write to me at email@example.com.
What it is to be a Chinese woman as I’ve experienced it through my grandmother. She’s had a tough life – as a very young bride she was married to a wealthy man that could provide for her better than her own family. Or so they thought. Before long, she had packed her bags with her three youngest in toe escaping from the North East of China to the North West in hope of a better life. Once arrived and settled down, she suffered the same dominating patriarchy of most men in China during the era of the 1950’s; one of many wives and lacking freedom.
I know little of my grandmother’s history but I can tell from her personality that she has lived a tough and vigorous life. Through her stern and repetitive warnings to us, I can tell that she herself has suffered some form of similar pitfalls she wishes us to avoid. Through her analysis or some would say judgement of others, I can see how she may have been scrutinised within the environment she lived in, by people whom were harsh critics. Through her domestic prowess, efficiency and inventiveness I gain insight into the mastery she has of the domestic domain. But it is through her son, my uncle and her grandsons, my cousins, where she shows me that she understands what it is to truly be a woman. I say this because the next generation of men she has raised are men who understand women, they are loyal, gentle, they understand a need for balance between male and female, they have great empathy for what women have suffered and at the same time they know the potential a woman is capable of. They experienced it first hand from my grandmother and from this they can see and recognise it in their partners.
She has shown her two daughters and four granddaughters that although struggles for women are inevitable we can take them in our stride and overcome them, strengthening our dignity and sense of independence to build a foundation of resilience and still make mean dumplings.
To be a Chinese woman as I’ve experienced it through my grandmother tells me that even though the odds, the environment, the conditioning of the system tells you women in China are disposable subordinates, you can overcome all of it and allow everything that makes you a woman emanate. You can show future generations the true meaning of what it is to be a woman, Chinese or otherwise.