” China week has brought scholars from all around the world to discuss a range of issues. A Tuesday presentation, Chinese women of past, present and future covered a wide range of subjects from foot-binding to higher education. The presenters of this information were University of Akron professors Dr.””
China week has brought scholars from all around the world to discuss a range of issues. A Tuesday presentation, Chinese women of past, present and future covered a wide range of subjects from foot-binding to higher education.
The presenters of this information were University of Akron professors Dr. Baomei Zhao, Xing Liang and Hefeng Guan, who is a visiting professor from Henan University in Kaifeng China. Guan is a part of the Confucus Institute.
In the presentation they explored the changing roles of Chinese women over time.
Traditionally, Chinese women held an inferior position both at home and in society. Along with the arrangement of marriages there was also the polygamy aspect to Chinese marriages. Dr. Zhao told how her great grandmother found two other wives for her husband. The act of a wife finding other wives for her husband was seen as a way to honor him.
Their role in that time was to serve their husband and family, but as the government of China changed, so did the roles and opportunities for women. When the constitution for People’s Republic of China was written in 1949, women’s rights changed. The old marriage system and other traditional women’s roles were abandoned. With a new government came a new image of the Chinese women. They went from an inferior role to a more equal role, emerging a belief that women can hold half of the sky.
In the late 1970s women’s opportunities expanded again. With the higher education reform women were able to enter professions that were not open to them before. The percentage of women taking such professions as doctors, lawyers and politicians continues to rise.
Despite the immense opportunities available, Chinese women are not immune to the glass ceiling, similar to what women experience here. There is subtle gender discrimination. Dr. Guan describes how while many female students may have better performance in the classroom than their male peers, it is the women that have a harder time finding employment.
Employment is not the only thing that presents a challenge.
Women are struggling with who they are, said Dr. Liang.
Along with all the change that has happened comes a confliction for Chinese women. Unlike American women, who fought for their own rights, Chinese women were suddenly given rights. Many of the traditional things that were part of their culture were gone and replaced with a new equal view. Even today, many women still struggle between the traditional and modern positions. With women that lead such different lives from their mothers and grandmother, the question is: am I still a Chinese woman?
Chinese women didn’t ask for the rights that were given to them, but they have taken advantage of the opportunities opened to them. Their roles in society have changed greatly over time and the future holds even greater potential. They are excelling in sports, science and foreign language. It isn’t hard to see how Chinese women will play an essential part in China and around the world.