good wife and mother


good wife and mother
(xianqi liangmu)
Social concept
The Chinese traditional view of gender is rooted in Confucianism, which prescribes individuals’ roles based on their positions relative to others. Accordingly, the Chinese woman is defined in relation to, and subordinate to, the males in the family—she is supposed to submit to her father before marriage (zaijia cong fu), to her husband during marriage (chujia cong fu) and to her son(s) during her old age (laolai congzi). The virtue of a woman is therefore measured by how well she plays the roles of wife and mother. In addition, women are believed to belong to the ‘inside’ and men the ‘outside’, referring respectively to activities within and outside the home. The notion of ‘men till; women weave’ had dominated historically the division of labour within the rural household. Women’s interior domain is largely defined by their nurturing activities, and their identity is tied to their achievements in taking care of their husbands, reproduction and raising children. The old Chinese saying that ‘it is a virtue for women not to have education and skills’ (nüzi wucai bian shi de) further illustrates the ideological constraints that confine women to the domestic sphere.
During the Maoist period, traditional notions of women’s roles were challenged and women were encouraged to contribute to both reproduction in the home and production outside the home. Though the CCP did little to change household division of labour, it organized collective services such as childcare so that women could participate in the labour force. Since the economic reforms of the late 1970s, it appears that the ideology that a woman should stay home and strive to become a good wife and mother has once again gained popularity. The state’s retreat from the discourse of gender has paved the way for gendered practices, such as higher rates of layoff among women workers and gender discrimination in the labour market, that discourage women to work outside the home.
See also: gender roles
C.CINDY FAN

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.