women’s work


women’s work
Social concept
While the CCP defined women’s liberation as participation in public, productive labour, ‘women’s work’ includes paid and unpaid activities associated with femaleness and women’s roles in homes, factories, state and non-state entities. In post-Mao times many identify these roles, like that of the ‘virtuous wife-good mother’ (xianqi liangmu; see good wife and mother) as ‘natural’, in contrast to the stated ‘unnatural’ sameness of genders under Mao (e.g. ‘iron girls’). This encourages urban women to find ‘suitable’ jobs, meaning they have flexible hours so that they may take care of the family, do not involve travel, and are inside offices. The inside/outside (nei/wai) dichotomy frames notions of work through symbolic and spatial ideas about female sexuality, morality and reputation. Work done inside is considered more appropriate for women, while work outside is deemed better suited for men (see xiahai). Families claim inside work is safe and secure for young women, evoking images of jobs inside air-conditioned buildings, one’s own city or town, and preferably in the state system.
Economic reforms have brought new occupational opportunities for women, however, like the feminized roles of secretary (xiaomi), public relations, domestic work, bank teller and multinational ‘nimble fingers’ production.
Unmarried women from rural areas migrate to development zones (see development zones (urban)) to find production jobs, often being compensated less than men because their jobs are classified as less skilled and light (vs. heavy or dirty). Foreign companies also hire women for their language abilities, traditionally a female subject of study in college. If career women ignore their gendered home roles they may be called nuqiangren, chiruanfan.
Gao, Xiaoxian (1994). ‘China’s Modernization and Changes in the Social Status of Rural Women’. In Christina Gilmartin, Gail Hershatter, Lisa Rofel and Tyrene White (eds), Engendering China: Women, Culture, and the State. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 80–97.
Woo, Margaret Y.K. (1994). ‘Chinese Women Workers: The Delicate Balance between Protection and Equality’. In Christina Gilmartin, Gail Hershatter, Lisa Rofel and Tyrene White (eds), Engendering China: Women, Culture, and the State. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 279–95.
LISA M.HOFFMAN

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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