Thus the emancipation of women did not mean quite the same thing for the SED as it does for Western liberals or feminists. The latter usually adopt a rather individualistic conception of 'emancipation' in terms of the rights of and possibilities for individuals to exercise freedom of chose with respect to virtually every area of life... But the SED generally sought to replace oppressive patriarchal structures and mentalities not with liberal notions of individual freedom of choice, but rather with new forms of collectivism as defined by the leading Party.
Evan Osnos' excellent profile of Li Yang in the New Yorker from 2008.
Li stood before the students, his right arm raised in the manner of a tent revivalist, and launched them into English at the top of their lungs. “I!” he thundered. “I!” they thundered back.
“Tem! Per! Ture!”
“Tem! Per! Ture!”
One by one, the doctors tried it out. “I would like to take your temperature!” a woman in stylish black glasses yelled, followed by a man in a military uniform. As Li went around the room, each voice sounded a bit more confident than the one before. (How a patient might react to such bluster was anyone’s guess.)
I find your comment very interesting. I ask this next question as someone who is more schooled in English Literature and less in history, economics, & government: Is it possible for feminism to flourish in a government that is not democratic?
As far as I can tell, in 3000+ years of Chinese history, before the early-mid 20th C, there was exactly one woman who held any kind of open political power in China (Wu Zetian). Woman had pretty much no access to education, commerce, legal protection, or even a public status. The communists, in their efforts to overthrow most elements of the Imperial system, pushed, at least in theory, for equality between the sexes, and, it seems like a fair number of women made their way into at least the lower levels of the government. This may not seem like much, but, compared to their options for all of history, this was a huge step forward.
Women had lots of jobs in areas they were less well represented in in, say, the US (doctors, for example), especially after WWII when there was a serious shortage of males, but those jobs got far less pay and respect than in the West, and after work women had to come home and do everything involved in running that as well (which notoriously included standing in long lines for hours to get basic supplies).
“I have seen this kind of agitation,” Wang Shuo, one of China’s most influential novelists, wrote in an essay on Li. “It’s a kind of old witchcraft: Summon a big crowd of people, get them excited with words, and create a sense of power strong enough to topple mountains and overturn the seas.”
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