THE LEGACY OF THE MAOIST GENDER PROJECT IN CONTEMPORARY CHINA by Xin Huang M.A., Institute of Social Studies, 2002 A DISSERTATION SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in The Faculty of Graduate Studies (Women’s and Gender Studies) THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA (Vancouver) April 2010 ©Xin Huang, 2010 ii ABSTRACT This study examines various ways in which the Maoist gender project manifests itself in Chinese women’s lives today, as conveyed by a range of women currently living in Beijing. Oral histories were collected from fifteen women, four of whom were selected for in-depth analysis using a method informed by narrative studies and feminist approaches to women’s auto/bio/graphy. Judith Butler’s ideas on gender as performative serve as a framework to examine these individual negotiations with changing models of femininity, and the first chapter presents a critical account of the limits and applicability of her theory in this specific transnational context. The four following chapters provide detailed, contextualized analysis of these particular performances of gender in relation to the Maoist model woman (fun!, or socialist labourer), whose presence remains in the shadow of the currently preferred n!xing (feminine, consumer-oriented woman), while the even older pre-revolutionary devoted wife and mother remains in the background. Their gender performances bring out the intersections of physical embodiment and the construction of subjectivity through discourse. Analysis of the content of each story is complemented by a discussion of the structure and language of their narratives, including an innovative interviewing method of “telling and retelling”. Hybrid language— various mixtures of official dialect, regional dialects, and imported terms—is a feature that becomes prominent, conveying changing performances of being a woman, as do the visual representations (photographs, artwork) that some of them shared. The analysis reveals how women individually appropriate, resist or synthesize the ideologically motivated models proposed by government and media, from China and from the West. The concept of gender iii performance as a “project” is introduced to convey both conscious manipulation at the collective level, and personal agency for individuals. This research shows that the Maoist legacy still manifests itself in various ways in the lives of women with different social locations and sexual orientations, and is one of the resources for women to formulate strategies for gender subversion. The persistent existence of this legacy sheds light on how to formulate subversive strategies to challenge the narrowly defined, class-encoded, normative gender model of the post-Mao nüxing, and create a more diverse and democratic gender landscape in China. iv TABLE OF CONTENTS ABSTRACT................................................................................................................................... ii TABLE OF CONTENTS ............................................................................................................ iv LIST OF TABLES ....................................................................................................................... vi LIST OF FIGURES .................................................................................................................... vii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ........................................................................................................ ix Introduction................................................................................................................................... 1 Funü, nüxing, and the Maoist gender project ...................................................................................... 3 Feminist studies of the Maoist gender project ..................................................................................... 5 Research data .......................................................................................................................................... 9 Research summary ............................................................................................................................... 13 Chapter 1 Theoretical Approach and Methodology............................................................... 20 The conceptualization of gender in China.......................................................................................... 20 “Western theory” and “Chinese experience”..................................................................................... 28 Judith Butler and the theory of gender performativity .................................................................... 37 Gender (as) project ............................................................................................................................... 57 Feminism and narrative studies .......................................................................................................... 60 A critical and self-reflective approach................................................................................................ 73 Chapter 2 Born into the Mao Era: Lin’s Life Story ............................................................... 77 Context................................................................................................................................................... 78 Lin’s life story ....................................................................................................................................... 88 The storytelling ................................................................................................................................... 115 Conclusion ........................................................................................................................................... 122 Chapter 3 Desire and Shame: Dong’s Life Story.................................................................. 127 Context................................................................................................................................................. 129 Dong’s life story .................................................................................................................................. 138 The narration: dialect as the vehicle for a story of desire............................................................... 163 Conclusion ........................................................................................................................................... 170 Chapter 4 I am a Rock: Shitou’s Life Story .......................................................................... 173 Context: female same-sex desire in China........................................................................................ 174 Shitou’s life story ................................................................................................................................ 177 The storytelling ................................................................................................................................... 207 Conclusion ........................................................................................................................................... 220 Chapter 5 The Uninhabitable Place of the Nüxing: Anne’s Life Story .............................. 224 Context: economic reform and transnational Chinese identities ................................................... 225 Anne’s life story .................................................................................................................................. 233 v The storytelling: hybrid language and the cosmopolitan Chinese woman.................................... 270 Conclusion ........................................................................................................................................... 279 Conclusion ................................................................................................................................. 283 The Maoist gender project and its legacy......................................................................................... 283 Gender as project, situated subversion, and diverse strategies...................................................... 286 Feminist research and alternative story-telling ............................................................................... 289 Bibliography .............................................................................................................................. 294 Appendix I Participant Information................................................................................... 343 Appendix II Checklist and Questionnaire (English and Chinese)..................................... 345 Appendix III University Behaviour Research Ethics Certificate of Approval .................. 356 vi LIST OF TABLES Table 1 Lin’s description of her Nainai and her mother ............................................................ 121 vii LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1 Lin..............................................................................................................................88 Figure 2 See the hairstyles of the women on the right and left..............................................113 Figure 3 Dong at the restaurant where she works..................................................................138 Figure 4 PLA sneakers;..........................................................................................................143 Figure 5 White tennis sneaker................................................................................................143 Figure 6 The PLA uniform fashion........................................................................................144 Figure 7 The PLA uniform fashion........................................................................................144 Figure 8 Rural migrant workers in 2008,...............................................................................146 Figure 9 Dulong women (!!") in 2006............................................................................146 Figure 10 Shitou (seated) and her partner Mingming............................................................177 Figure 11 Shitou, Photo with Mother, 1997 ..........................................................................184 Figure 12 Shitou, Weapon Series #5, 1997............................................................................186 Figure 13 Shitou, Weapon Series #6, 1997............................................................................186 Figure 14 Shitou, Weapon Series #7, 1997............................................................................186 Figure 15 Revolutionary Model Opera (Ballet Version) “Red Detachment of Women”......187 Figure 16 Posters from the Cultural Revolution era ..............................................................187 Figure 17 Shitou, Girlfriend-reincarnation, 1993 ..................................................................191 Figure 18 Shitou, Girlfriend, 1997.........................................................................................192 viii Figure 19 Buddha Butterfly, from Shitou,“Mandarin Duck and Butterfly Series”, 2000 .....195 Figure 20 Cupid Butterfly, from Shitou,“Mandarin Duck and Butterfly Series”, 2000........195 Figure 21 Zhuangzi Dream Butterfly, from Shitou, “Mandarin Duck and Butterfly Series”, 2000 ........................................................................................................................................195 Figure 22 Shitou, “Together Series” No. 1, 2001 .................................................................196 Figure 23 Shitou, “Together Series”, No. 5, 2001 ................................................................196 Figure 24 A Photograph of Chunchun, from Shitou,“Girlfriend Series”, 1997 ...................198 Figure 25 Childhood Friend, from Shitou,“Girlfriend Series”, 1997 ...................................198 Figure 26 Karaoke, from Shitou, “Old Advertisement Series", 2006...................................199 Figure 27 Commemorate, from Shitou, “Old Advertisement Series”, 2006. .......................199 Figure 28 Shitou, “Together Series” No. 4, 2002 .................................................................202 ix ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Many people told me that doing a PhD is a long and lonely journey. I have been blessed with much loving, caring company on my way, people who have made this a journey full of joy, inspiration, excitement, and gratitude. Dr. Valerie Raoul, whom I met when I started my PhD program at UBC, has been accompanying me throughout this journey, nourishing me for my intellectual and personal growth with her generous and constant commitment, volunteering to mentor me through even after her retirement. Through her intellectual guidance, and dedication, I have learned to be a feminist scholar and teacher. I have benefited tremendously from her critical and challenging comments that always push me to think further, as well as her patient, meticulous reading of my dissertation. As I came to Canada as an international student, Valerie also generously provided me a “home away from home”, inviting me to join her family on all kinds of special occasions; those are my most treasured memories of my years in Vancouver. I would also like to thank Dr. Tim Cheek, who has been such a great pleasure to work for and with. He provided me with a democratic and respectful, challenging but supportive intellectual environment. I deeply appreciate how he trusts and encourages me to explore and find out my own way, free to pursue my own answers. He is also a caring and nourishing mentor, who constantly introduces me to new people, providing me with valuable comments, thoughtful advice, and endless encouragement, making sure I have every opportunity to better my academic and social life. I am deeply touched by Dr. Tim Cheek’s caring for his students, x even reading my chapters while he was briefly in hospital. I thank Dr. Amy Hanser for being very kind and supportive throughout this process, reading through my draft during her maternity leave. Her many important and critical questions helped shape the contours of this dissertation, and the many important and most up-to-date literature sources she provided broadened the depth and scale of my inquiry. I have benefitted greatly from a number of scholars who have given me comments, thoughts, and inspiring ideas during discussions and conference presentations of versions of the dissertation chapters, and Women’s Studies professors at the University of British Columbia have all been very supportive. Among them, I would like to specially thank Dr. Sneja Gunew and Dr. Yang Jie for reading the draft of one of my chapters and giving me constructive comments. I have also benefited greatly from participating in the peer review “China Study Group” of faculty and graduate students at UBC, where I presented some chapters of this dissertation. They provided an inspirational and supportive intellectual community, and became an important part of my graduate studies life. I thank all the members of the China Study Group; their work has greatly inspired my own, and their comments on my dissertation improved it enormously. I am grateful also to the University of British Columbia, for the scholarship that funded part of my PhD Studies, and for the opportunity to teach several courses, which supported and enhanced my research. Many thanks to Dr. Wendy Frisby, Dr. Tim Cheek, Dr. Valerie Raoul, Dr. Miu Chung Yuan, and Dr. Sneja Gunew, who have given me Research Assistant fellowships that broadened my understanding, made me a better researcher, and allowed me to complete my PhD. I want to thank the fifteen research participants of this project. Some of them remain xi anonymous, but all generously shared their life stories, many of which were very intimate. I thank them for trusting me to retell their stories here. I also want to thank many friends, and friends of friends, who helped and supported me during my fieldwork in Beijing in 2006. I want to thank my fellow graduate students at the Women’s and Gender Studies Centre and members of Wangshe at UBC (our China Studies graduate students club), for their friendship, for many invigorating conversations, and entertaining get-togethers. I thank the members of the dissertation writing group in Women’s and Gender Studies at UBC, for sharing issues and strategies, and for their emotional support. I want specially to thank Naomi Lloyd for her treasured friendship, intellectual stimulation, and for her critical comments on my work. My deepest gratitude also goes to my partner, Timothy Bult, for his love and unconditional support for my study, and for his quiet companionship and lively conversation. I also want to thank Timothy for being my first reader, with straightforward comments and up-front challenges. Lastly, I want to thank my mother, Ma Zhengfang, who is an extraordinary Maoist funü, who motivates me to always go further. It is because of the inspiration and legacy she passed on to me that I chose to write this dissertation about the Maoist gender legacy. I dedicate this dissertation to her, with deepest love and respect. 1 Introduction In 2007 Zhang Xiaomei,1 a member of the tenth National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), initiated a motion to the National People's Congress (NPC) proposing to change the Chinese name for International Women’s Day (funü jie). She suggested replacing the term used for “women” (funü), which has strong associations with images of the revolutionary women workers in the Mao era, by nüxing (literally female sex/ gender), which has positive associations of femininity.2 For her and many others, the latter conveys a more “modern” idea of what women should be like, one that contemporary urban women can identify with (Zhang 2007). In spite of wide support from other members of the CPPCC, many of them members of the cultural and business elites, this proposal was unsuccessful. It has been repeated each year since then with the same result. Zhang’s motion echoes a debate which first took place in the early 1980s, 3 over the claim of fulian (the All China Women’s Federation) to represent all Chinese women. It reflects widespread contestation since the end of the Mao era over the definition of women as funü, and rejection of the Maoist version of women’s liberation. The Maoist state defined funü as a political category based on the value of women as socialist labourers, and deliberately prioritized those from the proletarian peasant or working classes. Since the Maoist funü constituted a category based not only on gender but also on class, the proposal to rename Women’s Day concerns not only terminology - whether women in general should be referred to as funü or nüxing (or nüren, literally female person) - but which class of women can claim to represent 2 “Chinese women”, and what kind of woman now occupies the position of the norm, embodying the current ideal woman. This debate also concerns who has the right to demarcate or claim membership in the category of “women”, and who may lose her sense of place and value in a revised gender/class order. Chinese women are being asked to reposition themselves in a new “framework of intelligibility”, to use Judith Butler’s term (1990). Zhang’s repudiation of the image of the state-defined, politically motivated funü exemplifies an attitude shared by many educated post-Mao urban women. The preference for nüxing reflects a desire for de- politicization and de-proletarianisation, and for a more positive evaluation and visibility of sexual difference in the definition of “women”. The proposed change is part of a market- oriented ideological agenda which is no more hidden than that of the Mao era. In contrast to the prestige previously accorded peasants and workers, it values relatively affluent middle-class women who are construed as consumers rather than producers of products, especially those associated with femininity and domesticity. This debate over renaming Women’s Day raises questions about how we understand and assess the Maoist gender legacy in today’s China. Are the Maoist gender project and its product, funü, anachronistic, and will the signifier funü die out for lack of a referent? Or, as the on-going celebration of Women’s Day as funü jie reminds us, does the shadow of the Maoist gender ideology still haunt even young Chinese women’s lives today, for better or for worse? Is the funü still an undeniable/inerasable part of who Chinese women are, or want to be? For women in China today, is funü the Other within, or an abjected but constitutive outsider? How can we recognize this Other and assess its political significance? What kind of possibilities are opened up or foreclosed in the abjection or re-evaluation of the Maoist conceptualization of femininity? 3 These questions are the focus of this study, which will examine the legacy of what I call the “Maoist gender project” in contemporary China, as experienced, evaluated, and performed by a range of women living in Beijing today. The emphasis on “legacy” focuses on how the Maoist gender project was and is experienced and performed or contested by particular women, remembered or forgotten in their lives, and highlighted or buried in their narratives. By recording the oral life stories of fifteen women of different ages and backgrounds, and looking at visual materials that illustrate their stories, I hoped to discover more about how the Maoist gender project constructed the category of funü, in relation to individual women’s lives, and to assess whether it is still relevant to gender construction in China today. These personal accounts reflect tensions between the on-going effects of the Maoist gender project and the more cosmopolitan discourses on gender roles and images that have emerged since the end of the Mao era. Funü, nüxing, and the Maoist gender project In this dissertation, two Chinese terms for “women, funü ("#, women) and nüxing (#$, female sex), are central to my analysis. My use of these two terms derives from Tani Barlow’s (1991, 2004) analysis of the genealogy of various terms referring to “women” in twentieth- century China. Barlow demonstrates that both funü ("#) and nüxing (#$) have undergone a process of “re-signification” over time. Originally the term “funü designated the collectivity of kinswomen in the semiotics of Confucian family doctrine. It was later appropriated by the Chinese Communist Party to signify women as political subjects in the communist party-state. 4 The term nüxing (#$) operates in the framework of the western- inspired biologically differentiated male/female binary, and was initially invoked in the 1920s as a discursive sign and a subject position in the context of anti-Confucian discourse. It was taken up again in post-Mao gender discourse as a political tool to resist the state inscription of funü in the 1980s, and to imagine a supposedly less politicized (more individual, feminine, and consumer-oriented) “modern” Chinese woman. The Maoist re-signification of funü was not just a linguistic event. It was part of what I call “the Maoist gender project” (to be examined in Chapter 2) which prescribed, institutionalized, and enforced the performance of a range of new gender practices for women, at both the discursive and material levels, through symbolic representations and public policies. It involved various endeavors that reconfigured and regulated gender relations and roles, as well as women’s behavior and appearance. While the Maoist gender project also involved the reconfiguration of masculinity, the focus here will be on the efforts to redefine Chinese women as funü. 4 The socialist funü represented a new model of revolutionary proletarian womanhood, prioritizing women’s identity as socialist labourers rather than as wives and mothers, and their subaltern class identity over gender. However, rather than being a singular, coherent, and fixed project, the Maoist reconfiguration of femininity contained heterogeneous elements, often competing and conflicting with each other, and it changed over time (as explained in Chapter 1). While the funü model occupied the normative position, its existence depended on the repudiation of its constitutive other, the earlier gender models (especially the jiatingfunü or housewife) that did not disappear but persisted in the margins. Their survival, and necessary contribution to the 5 emergence of the funü, constantly disrupted and contested the centrality of the Maoist woman-as- worker. Individual women had different levels of identification with these competing gender models, as reflected in the diverse and innovative ways of adapting and contesting them illustrated by the stories to be examined here. Since Mao’s death, the Maoist definition of “women” and women’s liberation have been under attack by post-Mao Chinese feminists influenced by gender discourses that affirm gender difference. A new gender model for women, the nüxing, has replaced the hegemonic position of the Maoist funü. The post-Mao nüxing purports to present an essentialized “natural”, “feminine” image, associated with younger, educated, urban women from the emerging middle class, whose performance of being a woman is in marked contrast to the socialist ideal. Feminist studies of the Maoist gender project Feminists in China and abroad have mixed and sometimes contradictory views on the Maoist concept of women’s liberation and its effects on women’s lives. Many feminist analyses (for instance, Andors 1983; Johnson 1983; Stacey 1983; Wolf 1985) argue that the Maoist agenda for the liberation of women in China was incomplete or postponed. The Party had not been self- reflective and critical towards the patriarchal influences that shaped the revolutionaries, and the gender equality legislated at the constitutional level had not automatically translated into gender equality in the areas of employment, wages, education, and political participation as well as family life (Croll 1978, Young 1988). Many of the patriarchal beliefs and practices that underlay gender inequality in traditional Chinese society survived in the lived reality of the Mao era. The 6 Confucian patriarchal regime based on gender hierarchy still operated at different levels of public and private lives, and gendered divisions of labor persisted at work and at home. Chinese women were not liberated from patriarchy, but carried a “double burden” (Li 1989) or experienced what Marilyn Young calls “socialist androgyny”: they were expected to behave and work like men, remaining genderless and sexually invisible in public, while reverting to the role of chaste, devoted wife and selfless mother in private (Young 1989:236), and were continuously subordinated to the Communist state. Some scholars present a more nuanced account that attends to the diverse relationships various categories of women had with the model proposed by Maoist discourse, rather than treating “Chinese women” as a singular category. For instance, Rofel’s (1999) research on female workers focused on the range of relations between different political cohorts and China’s modernity projects, and demonstrates how some women already working outside the home genuinely felt “liberated” by the Maoist gender ideology. Tina Mai Chen (2004a) has demonstrated that although the socialist rhetoric of female model workers limited alternative female subjectivities, it also enabled some women to exercise a situated agency in envisioning alternatives. Gao Xiaoxian and Ma Yuanxi’s (2006) research on the “labour models” (laodongmofan) shows how rural women were empowered by the socialist state’s policies for women’s emancipation to challenge gender and class hierarchies, while simultaneously remaining constrained by existing gender norms and practices of gender inequality. Jin Yihong’s (2006) study of the “Iron Girl” of the Mao era also shows that, compared to urban women, many rural members of the “Iron Girl” teams experienced a greater sense of empowerment, because the “Iron Girl” campaign provided official sanction for them to challenge gender constraints and 7 oppression in rural life. Some analysts also make a positive evaluation of the impact of the Maoist gender project in other women’s lives, for many well-educated young urban women (for example, Chen 2004a; Lin 2006). In Some of Us, Zhong and others (2001) suggest that the Maoist gender project both empowered and subjugated Chinese women. They were empowered by legalized gender equality and equal participation in social production, but were also subjugated by the patriarchal and authoritarian Communist party. Harriet Evans (2008) also shows that many urban women born in the 1950s enjoyed access to a range of intellectual, social and travel opportunities that offered them self-fulfillment beyond the cultural horizons of their mothers. Maoist attempts to modify ideas of femininity also constitute a central theme in many feminist analyses. The new roles, social positions, and images ascribed to Maoist women disputed conventional perceptions of proper femininity, many aspects of which were now regarded as feudal, petit-bourgeois attributes (Yang 1999). Women were encouraged to participate in social production, especially in those occupations and tasks that were traditionally perceived as belonging to men. The slogan ‘Women hold up half the sky’ resonates with the pervasive images of women as model workers (Chen 2004), ‘Iron-Girls’ (Jin 2006), militant fighters, or political activists in official propaganda (Evans 1999). This remodeling of femininity has been referred to as the “gender neutral representation” of women (Honig 2002), or the “masculinization of Chinese women” (Yang 1999, Cui 2003; Dai 1995; Li et al 1988; Zhang 2003; Meng 1993). These critics argue that the Maoist gender project promoted gender “sameness”, claiming that women should be equal to men, and therefore like men, entailing the masculinization of society. 8 While the post-Mao nüxing discourse re-asserting gender difference and valuing femininity is seen by some as a rejection of that aspect of Maoist gender discourse, other scholars point out that both Maoist and post-Mao discourses on gender share some essentialized assumptions of sex-based difference and hierarchy; their studies demonstrate various forms of continuity between gender constructions in the two eras, and the effects of the shifting and conflicting expectations on Chinese women (Rofel 1999; Brownell 1995; Ngai 2005, Hanser 2008, Evans 1997, 2008). For instance, Evans (1997) shows that “naturalized” gender difference persisted through the Mao and post-Mao eras. Roberts’ studies (2004a; 2004b) of the key cultural works of the Cultural Revolution period, the Yangbanxi (the Revolutionary model works or operas), suggest that the Maoist discourse on women displays significant cultural continuity with elements of both pre-Mao and post-Mao Chinese society. A wide range of perspectives has been taken in studies of women in the PRC, especially in the areas of anthropology and sociology, history, literature and film studies. Some researchers focus on the Mao era (Chen 2003a; 2003b, Gao 2006, Jin at al 2006, Manning 2006a, 2006b, Zhong et al 2001), while others direct their attention to gender and sexuality in the post-Mao era (Honig 1988; Rofel 1999, 2007; Shea 2005; Yang 1999). Attention has been paid to representations of gender difference in the Mao era in posters and pictures (Chen 2003b; Evans et al 1999), theater (Meng 1993; Roberts 2004a; 2004b), film and television (Chow 1995; Dai 1995, 2002; Shih 1998; Tang 2003), as well as literature (for instance, Lu 1993; Zhang 2003). There are also memoirs written by women who lived through the Mao era that provide valuable accounts of women’s experiences and reflections on the Maoist gender project, such as Jung Chang (1991), Anchee Min (1994), and Rae Yang (1998). While these personal histories are 9 written by members of an educated elite who can write and publish in English, ordinary women’s experience and voices also increasingly contributed to the representation and discussion of gender. Especially since 1978, with China’s open door policy, fieldwork in China has become increasingly open to foreign scholars. Many of the anthropological and sociological studies mentioned above are based on extensive fieldwork involving participatory research, observations, and interviews with a wide range of Chinese women from different backgrounds. My study of the Maoist gender legacy in contemporary China builds upon and hopes to extend the above scholarly works, by listening to ordinary women’s own oral narratives about their lives, which span a series of changing models of what it means to be, and to appear to be, a woman, with a specific focus on how the Maoist gender legacy is manifested in women’ lives today and narratives about them. In examining four accounts in detail, I will be employing and questioning feminist theories of gender as performance and female subjectivity, as well as feminist approaches to the study of women’s life stories, in the context of their telling. Research data In this research, rather than seeking similarities in the stories told, my focus is on diversity. I intended to obtain a wide range of individual stories and to seek to understand them through their singularity and uniqueness. Applying feminist qualitative research methods and narrative analysis, I recorded in-depth oral life stories with fifteen Chinese women living in Beijing, representing a range of backgrounds. They include life stories from women of varying ages (from their late twenties to fifties), from both urban and rural settings, well-educated and less 10 educated. Another consideration in the selection of participants was a desire to include women with different types of family situation, sexual orientation, and levels of ability, and some with experience of living abroad (see Appendix I for information on participants). An advantage of choosing Beijing as the major site for interviewing is that, as the biggest destination for relocation within China, it is an ideal place to find women with different backgrounds and from various regions. I approached the women through a snowballing method, via my acquaintances and personal network. Some of the participants are my friends or former colleagues, and some are friends or acquaintances of them. Four rural migrant workers were recruited from a restaurant owned by a female friend of mine, where they worked, and one who worked as a house cleaner was introduced by a friend. In a way, I was not a complete stranger to any of the participants, in the sense that at least someone they have a relatively long-term relationship with knew about me. I met most of the participants more than once, first to introduce myself, obtain consent and sort out logistics, and then to conduct the interview at the second meeting. I also arranged third meetings with some of the participants to view and talk about photos they provided. Most of the interviews lasted for about two hours, with the longest one being four hours long. Most were conducted at the participants’ homes; for the rural migrant workers, one interview was at the apartment where I stayed during my visit, and the rest were in the office of the restaurant. Several elements provided a relatively trustworthy and safe environment for my participants to tell their life stories: my credibility as a friend (of a friend), a former colleague, or an acquaintance (of an acquaintance); my non-involvement with their current lives, as someone who does not live there but was just visiting; and the anonymity not only guaranteed on the 11 consent form but also further secured by that fact that I will write about this study in English rather than in Chinese. My gender identity as a woman also assured some shared experiences and understandings about life as a woman, even though my heterosexual orientation did cause some doubt in my interview with Shitou, a lesbian artist, as discussed in Chapter 4. As a Chinese woman who lived in Beijing for twenty years, I share with most of the participants a knowledge of Chinese history and society in general, as well as culture and language (including in some cases a common dialect or the ability to speak English), and some personal experiences such as having lived abroad. These factors enabled some of my participants to tell me about more private issues, embarrassing and even painful moments, difficulties in life, unconventional thoughts and feelings, and to share their dreams and desires. For fourteen out of the fifteen participants (all except Shitou, whose story is discussed in Chapter 4), this was the first time they had been interviewed by a researcher and invited to tell their life story. Each of them was motivated by their own reasons. Five of them asked me for a copy of the digital recording of their interviews. Two who are old friends of mine asked me to give them a copy of the recording of the interviews, as they wanted their daughters to hear them when the time is right. Shitou, a lesbian activist and artist, also requested a copy of her interview, and I made an agreement with her that I would translate the Chapter on her into Chinese for her review, and maybe for publication in China. Feng, a rural migrant worker who worked as a freelance house cleaner, told me that in her six years of working in Beijing, this was the first time someone actually listened to her and cared to learn about her life. Anne, whose story is discussed in Chapter 5, asked me if she could commission me to write her biography, as she did 12 not have time to write it herself, but felt the desire to narrate her life in a more detailed form than our four-hour interview. Rather than being passive research subjects, most participants actively engaged in this act of self-representation and took it as an opportunity to reflect on their experience, communicate with others, and perform as agents in their lives. One participant told me in an e-mail one year after the interview that she was finally able to better answer one of the questions I had asked her. My various connections with these participants also made me an active participant engaged in the narrative process rather than a detached and passive audience for the storytelling. My research goal of exploring alternative ways of telling women’s lives shaped the choice of topic, language, and structure of their narratives. The interviewing, especially in the second part when I invited the participants to recount their lives again, with a focus on gender-related topics (see the discussion of methodology in Chapter 1) was an interactive process. The interviews became a collaborative project between the researcher and the participants, and the reflection of this process can be found in the discussion of the storytelling in each chapter. The core of the dissertation is composed of in-depth analysis of four women’s life stories: the first is an urban woman in her fifties who lived through the Mao era; the second a rural-born migrant woman born in the post-Mao era; the third a middle-aged lesbian artist who has traveled abroad; and the last a business woman in her thirties with experience of living abroad. The stories collected from eleven other women, all fascinating in their own way, provide a broader base for generalization or comparison, and contribute indirectly to the discussion. I chose these four women’s stories for their distinct social locations, and the different insights they bring to my understanding of the diverse aspects of gender constructions in the Maoist and post-Mao eras, as 13 well as their unique strategies of gender subversion and ways of conveying their experiences. Their stories demonstrate the divergent ways in which the Maoist gender legacy is manifested and negotiated in contemporary China. Each chapter provides a contextualized analysis of these women’s performances of gender in relation to the Maoist gender legacy, paying attention to their unique circumstances and social locations. Analysis of the content of their stories is complemented by a discussion of the structure and language of their narratives, as well as of methodological issues raised in the interviewing and interpretation process. Research summary The first chapter outlines the theoretical framework that guides the analysis, and defines key concepts. It starts with a historical review of the changing conception of gender in China, followed by a reflection on the debate on using “Western” theory to study “Chinese experience”. It reflects on how to formulate a critical and self-reflective feminist approach to both the “theory” and the research “subject”, which attends to difference and intersectionality on the one hand, and engages with the hybridity and fluidity of gender experience and subjectivity in a transnational context on the other hand. I then offer a critical reading of Butler’s theories on gender performativity and gender subversion, as well as a discussion of the criticisms of her theory. I situate Butler’s theory in its theoretical and social context, and explore the various ways my research can benefit from it or possibly go beyond it. I outline the ways in which my approach is inspired by and draws on Butler’s theories, including her notions of the subject as the effect of performative acts and a 14 “zone of uninhabitability”, and her emphasis on the discursive formulation and subversion of gender at individual levels, through both the body and speech. I also highlight areas where my research in a Chinese context calls some of Butler’s ideas into question, and attempt to address issues such as the experience of abjection, and how subversive performances of gender can be carried out by heterosexual as well as homosexual women. With Butler’s notion that gender performativity and subversion are contextual and contingent as my point of departure, emphasizing women’s active role as agents in envisioning and performing new gender possibilities, I have conceptualized “gender as a project” in order to distinguish and understand how individual women formulate and signify their own unique and situated projects regarding themselves as women. They each have individualized strategies of resistance and negotiation in the context of multiple, changing official and unofficial discourses on gender, both Chinese and foreign, that surround them in the current transnational context. Methodological issues addressed include the relation between gender and self- narration, feminist criticism of traditional narrative forms including auto/bio/graphy, the problematic articulation of a “women-centred and women-defined discourse”, and my exploration of alternative ways of telling women’s lives. I will discuss the three innovative approaches I used in the interviewing process: the use of dialect and hybrid languages, the “telling and retelling” interview structure, and the inclusion in some cases of visual records of their lives (such as photo albums and artwork) as a complement to their oral, recorded stories. Chapter 2 examines the life story of an urban woman, Lin, who has lived through the Mao and post-Mao eras. Lin’s narrative about her grandmother sheds light on how the production of the Maoist funü (or women of the socialist nation) as the normative ideal was 15 sustained through the abjection of “other” gendered existences, such as that of Lin’s grandmother, the jiatingfunü (housewife or woman of the family), one of those who still inhabit the margin, but were erased or rendered unintelligible by the Maoist gender regulatory system. Furthermore, Lin’s story of taming the Maoist funü she once was demonstrates how the encounter of the Maoist gender project with the post-Mao reconfiguration of gender is played out in an individual woman’s life. Lin’s conscious performance of a revised post-Mao nüxing demonstrates how an individual gender project that seemingly conforms to the post-Mao nüxing ideal actually revises and subverts it by incorporating the shadow of the “other” Maoist funü. This chapter also investigates the narrative structure of Lin’s life story, which reflects the Chinese master-script of “speaking bitterness”, prioritizing class over gender as the primary framework for representation and interpretation of her own life, as well as the role of inter- generational dynamics in her representation and interpretation of her Nainai (paternal grandmother) and Mother. The two parts of Lin’s life story, and a closer examination of the retelling practice, illustrate the adaptation of master-scripts in women’s narratives and the need to “go beyond the ending”. Moving from an examination of the Maoist gender legacy as experienced by an urban woman who lived through the Mao era to that of a younger, post-Mao woman from a rural background, Chapter 3 looks into the life of Dong, a migrant worker now living in Beijing. An analysis of the role of shame in relation to clothes in her story reveals the effects of changing notions of femininity and the construction of affects such as envy and pride. Her desire for a different physical appearance is governed by notions of class as well as gender. This account demonstrates that the Maoist and post-Mao regulation of gender involve not only the 16 reconfiguration of gender roles, but also the re-evaluation of femininity/masculinity, and the re- mapping of affects associated with these attributes, along class lines. Dong’s story conveys different forms of exclusion in both the Maoist and post-Mao imposition of hegemonic gender models, and the feelings of shame that many rural women now experience. This chapter also assesses the narrative potential opened up by speaking Dong’s hometown dialect in the interview. It explores how the use of dialect facilitated the articulation of some everyday experiences and private desires, and encouraged narrative agency. It also reflects on how the fusion of various language resources may lead to resorting master-scripts but also creates a space to exercise narrative agency. The analysis demonstrates how Dong mobilizes different ideological and cultural resources to represent and interpret her experience, and to construct herself as a woman who is beyond a single linguistic prescription. The image of the “masculinized” Maoist funü often evokes a connection with “butch” images in the West. What is a Chinese lesbian woman’s take on the Maoist gender legacy and its “masculinization of Chinese women”? Chapter 4 focuses on Shitou, an artist who openly describes herself as a lesbian. Her perspective allows me to explore how the Maoist funü, although apparently desexualized and defeminized, was produced and naturalized through a compulsorily heterosexual system and the exclusion of lesbian existence. That exclusion is challenged by Shitou’s personal gender project of articulating a distinctly Chinese lesbian identity. As a visual artist, she provided two interrelated sources for the representation of her life and identity: one verbal (her narrative) and one iconic (her paintings and installations). In tracing the trajectory of Shitou’s life and art, it becomes clear that although the Maoist discourse of gender-sameness (or the masculinization of women) may at first glance seem to overlap with 17 some butch lesbian projects, it actually erases a feminine space and the possibility of articulating “her story”. The individual story told by Shitou leads into an examination of how the Maoist legacy is selectively and strategically appropriated in post-Mao queer politics in a transnational context. Shitou uses various narrative strategies to resist the hegemony of heterosexual language and heterosexual meanings in articulating her experiences, often by resorting to multi-lingual and multi-cultural resources: Western and Chinese, traditional, Maoist and post-Mao. These linguistic exercises signify the transcultural dimension of the construction of post-Mao Chinese lesbian subjectivities, and represent a self-conscious gender performance -- one that challenges on the one hand the normative heterosexual and patriarchal representations of women’s lives characteristic of both Mao-era and post-Mao official discourses about gender, and on the other hand a “universal global gay identity”. The first three life stories demonstrate that the Maoist woman, rural women, and lesbians all appear to be constructed as “less-than-real-women”, in comparison with the hyper-feminine post-Mao nüxing who occupies center-stage and is now largely perceived as the norm. The fourth story told in Chapter 5, that of a post-Mao “nüxing”, Anne, sheds a different light on the persistent presence of the Maoist gender legacy and ambivalence towards it, from the perspective of a younger heterosexual woman with transnational experience. Anne is General Manager of a multinational company in China and studied and lived in the West before returning to work in Beijing. Her narrative assigns a pivotal role to her mother, whose portrait interrupts the stereotypical representation of the one-dimensional, masculinized Maoist woman. Rather than being the brainwashed political victim of communist ideology, her 18 mother has had a balanced and successful life (sustained and subsidized by Anne’s grandmother’s free domestic labour), in both the Maoist socialist-collective period and the post- Mao market-competition oriented one. Anne also appears to be highly successful, but her narrative of her experiences in the West and her eventual return to China, her search for meaning in her life, and her tendency to suicidal despair, demonstrate the limited promise Western models of personal liberation and individualism can offer. The tensions in her life and her narrative reflect the struggle to synthesize and reconcile various competing and often contradictory ideologies and values, about gender and also about the reason for living, in the process of re- orientation that many Chinese have experienced since the end of the Mao era and China’s opening up to the outside world. Anne’s adoption of an English name and frequent use of English words, as well as various other linguistic and ideological resources, communicate the discursive dimension of her hybrid subjectivity. Mastery of English, in both its linguistic function and ideological context, conveys Anne’s understanding and interpretation of the world and her life, and is instrumental in her performance of a transnational, cosmopolitan, post-Mao nüxing subjectivity. The Conclusion will return to critical speculation about the usefulness and limitations of using Butler’s theory of gender performativity and gender subversion in a transnational context, particularly in China and in relation to the diverse individual strategies presented in these four women’s narratives. I argue that they illustrate the potential for “bottom-up” agency initiated by individual women, which may change the gender landscape in China. Their re-negotiation of discursive and bodily constructions of being a woman is not based on a simplistic rejection or replacement of previous or existing norms. Rather, they challenge the exclusionary operation of 19 all gender norms by making alternatives visible and by their innovative appropriation of diverse gendered possibilities, Chinese or foreign, ancient or contemporary, and especially those on the margins or deemed illegitimate. These stories also offer a basis for exploring the various ways in which feminist research can facilitate, document, and theorize women’s subversive gender practices, in today’s transitional world. 1 Zhang is regarded as the “Queen of Beauty” (meirong nühuang) of the Chinese beauty industry. She is a pioneer in this field, and the president of China Beauty and Fashion Daily, a popular fashion newspaper in China. 2 There is indecision regarding which term can replace funü. In the discussion of the motion, some older people were not comfortable with the term nüren (female person), while some thought nüxing (female sex) put too much emphasis on sexual difference. See the commentaries posted at Zhang’s blog: http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_47768d41010008lk.html http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_47768d410100cepz.html (accessed May 11, 2009). 3 See Barlow 2004:257-264 for a discussion of these debates, especially Li,1990; Pan,1988. 4 . There are few studies on masculinity in the Mao and post-Mao era, for instance, Nancy Chen, William Jankowiak, Elizabeth Perry and Nara Dillon’s contribution in Brownell and Wasserstrom’s (2002) collection, and Zhong 2000. 20 Chapter 1 Theoretical Approach and Methodology This chapter discusses the theoretical framework and methodology that guide my analysis. Since the center of my inquiry is how the idea of gender is formulated and demarcated, signified and articulated, in Chinese women’s oral narratives (as well some visual representations), I will first outline the changing Chinese conceptualizations of gender, with a critical reflection on the nature and relationship between theory, the researcher, and the research subject. I will then provide my reading of Judith Butler’s theories on gender performativity, which sets the theoretical foundation for this research, followed by an elaboration of my own conception of “gender (as) project”. I will go on to discuss feminist studies on gender and self-narration, feminist criticism of traditional narrative forms including auto/bio/graphy, and the problematic articulation of a “women-centred and women-defined discourse”, which provide the methodological framework for this research. The conceptualization of gender in China Many China scholars claim that the traditional (pre-twentieth-century) Chinese conceptualization of gender is different from the western modern gender system, which takes the male/female sexual distinction, understood as a fundamental and immutable opposition, as a central organizing principle in all symbolic systems. They argue that in traditional China, not only did 21 assigned gender tend to determine sex rather than the reverse, but gender symbolism and sex- linked symbols were also often secondary to other more fundamental principles of moral and social life (see for instance, Ann Anagnost 1989; Black 1986; Brownell 1995; Brownell and Wasserstrom 2002; Barlow 1994, 2004; Furth 1999; Ebrey 2003). The difference between Chinese and modern Western conceptualizations of gender starts from understandings of the human body. In the introduction to The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir quotes a classical definition of woman: “tota mulier in utero” (woman is a womb; de Beauvoir 1989:13). Charlotte Furth points out that in Huang Di Neijing (The Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor), an ancient Chinese medical text that has been treated as the fundamental doctrinal source for Chinese medicine, this definition of “female difference based on the womb as anatomy was reduced to an irrelevancy” (Furth 1999: 44). Derived from European biomedical science, Western anatomy perceives the human body as an ensemble of discrete parts, ascribing a function to every single part from the skull to the pelvis (Schiebinger 1989, 1993; Laqueur 1987, 1990). Sexual differences are understood as residing in the genitalia and the so-called reproductive organs. The Chinese conception of physiology, on the other hand, draws on the classical Chinese medical, philosophical and religious systems. The Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor understands the human body as a microcosm that corresponds to the cosmos, and is made up of the primordial element, the qi (%). Qi is regulated by two opposite yet complementary forces, yin and yang, with yin being associated with cold, moisture, darkness, passivity, the moon, and the feminine, while yang connotes brightness, heat, the sun, activity, and the masculine (Sivin 1987; Chen 2002). The classic Chinese body, or the “Yellow Emperor’s body” as Charlotte Furth (1999) called it, has no morphological sex but is 22 androgynous, containing both yin and yang forces. Contrary to the common Western misunderstanding of yang and yin as fixed essences, with yin “meaning” female and yang male, yin and yang are highly fluid, and the categories of male and female were explained in terms of the relative predominance of one or the other. In other words, the body is a site in which both configure in different combinations, varying from person to person and within the same individual according to age, seasons, weather, diet, and circumstances. Consequently, sexual differences are understood as moving along “a continuum of probability” (Bray 1995, 235). This cosmological understanding of the human body was transformed into hierarchal gender configurations. Bret Hinsch (2002) suggests that pragmatism, patrilinealism, and cosmology are important elements in understanding Chinese ideas on gender and women’s position in society. While in Taoist cosmology yin was identified with the natural and the female and valued more highly than yang, associated with culture and maleness, this hierarchy is reversed in Confucian orthodoxy. In her study of the lives of Song women, Patricia Ebrey (1993) points out that the yin-yang cosmological pair had been co-opted in the ordering of gender hierarchy in Confucian models of social relations, to naturalize male dominance. The two pillars of Confucian gender ethics (Ko 1994, Hinsch 2002) are the dictum of “three obediences” or sancong (obedience to the father before marriage, to the husband after marriage, and to the son after the husband’s death) and the doctrine of separate inner and outer spheres (neiwai), with man being associated with the outer and woman with the inner (nanzhuwai, nuzhunei). These two pillars defined the Confucian gendered subject in both hierarchical and special relations. The Confucian gender system evolved over time, and was firmly established by the Song era (960-1279) and became the dominant gender discourse in imperial China. Lisa Raphals (1988) 23 and Bret Hinsch’s (2002) research demonstrates that before the Song, women were perceived as intellectual and moral agents and women’s ethical and intellectual abilities were recognized. Under the influence of neo-Confucianism in the Song and Ming (1368-1644) eras, emphasis was put on the physical separation of men and women, the submission of the woman to the husband within the family, and the exclusion of women from direct or indirect political activity (Hinsch 2002). Nevertheless, the ideas of fluid and complementary relationships between yin and yang remained in the conceptualization of the Confucian gender system. For instance, many scholars have pointed out that while the physical separation of men and women demarcates separate spaces, it also suggests a permeable relationship between them. The inner/outer are overlapping spheres with fluid boundaries (Bray 1997; Mann 2002; Ropp 1993; Furth 1999), even through those who enjoyed the freedom of movement from one to the other were a privileged few (Ko1992). This contextual and fluid understanding of gender difference can also be observed in the Qing (1644-1911) juridical files (Sommer 2002), where an individual became socially male or female by playing a specific sexual role, and the focus of judicial anxiety was not the sex of the object of a man’s desire but rather who penetrated whom and in what context. Furth (1999) further argues that the distinction between the inner and outer spheres also demonstrates that traditional Chinese ideas about gender difference were not just bodily-based, but closely tied to the social roles of men and women. She suggests that in this system social gender overshadowed anatomical sex and sexuality in the definition of the categories male and female: the way one acted as masculine or feminine was often more important than one’s anatomy. She has shown that medical discourse in the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) 24 dynasties blurred the lines of sex and gender so that physical difference and change were appraised in terms of the capacity to fulfill normative social roles. One became socially male or female to the extent that one played a specific sexual role. Kinship is another important factor in defining a woman’s powers and in differentiating among different groups of women (Ebrey 1993, 2002), and the Confucian conception of gender was constructed primarily around a woman’s kinship position as daughter, wife, or mother (Barlow 1994, 2004). The notion of the primacy of social role over anatomical sex can also be observed in Jennifer Jay’s (1993) analysis of the gender of eunuchs. She concludes that even though castrated eunuchs remained unquestionably male, their sexuality remained heterosexual in orientation. They were referred to as males in formal address and kinship terminology; they could also claim patriarchal power through strategic manipulations of the gender symbols of proper masculinity, such as male attire, marriage, adopting children, and running their households. Their castration was not primarily perceived as an injury to their manhood but as an injury to the ability to reproduce, thus as unfilial. Some scholars therefore argue that the Chinese conception of gender privileges social role over biological sex (for instance, Barlow, 1994); they claim that a person’s gender identity in China was defined not in terms of her physiology but in terms of her relation to the family kinship system, linked to the cosmological yin-yang pair. However, some point out that rather than seeking to locate gender exclusively in either social roles or natural (bodily) attributes, we need to understand Chinese gender conceptions as encompassing both, and that the Chinese categories of male and female were understood as both natural and social (Furth 1999:7-8). The Chinese cosmological paradigm has been seriously challenged, since the modern 25 Western scientific construction of body-based systems of gender was introduced to China and began influencing popular understanding of gender, in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Under the iconoclastic May Fourth New Cultural Movement (1919-1925), traditional Confucian gender codes were under attack, and Western ideologies, such as social Darwinism, anarchism , humanism, Marxism, and feminism were introduced into China. Many Western- oriented Chinese intellectuals, such as Chen Duxiu (1982 ), urged replacing Chinese knowledge with Western science and Chinese medicine with biomedicine. As Frank Dikotter notes in Sex, Culture and Modernity in China (1995), numerous childbirth manuals and medical treatises were produced in the 1920s and 1930s to initiate the Chinese public into the biomedical language of the body. For instance, Yung-chen Chiang’s (2004) research shows that the discourse of exalted motherhood popular in the 1920s and 30s was based on a mixture of biological determinism, eugenics, and sexology translated from Japan, the USA and Europe. A new category of women known as the “new women,” or xin nüxing (new female sex) also emerged. As Barlow (1994, 2004) suggests, nüxing was the product of a new conceptualization of gender, defined by sexual physiology and based on a Western, exclusionary male/female binary. It emphasizes the opposition of men to women as well as sexual attraction. The gender discourses of the earlier decades of the twentieth century indicate a new feature of gender conception in twentieth century China: hybrid or co-existing combinations of Western and Chinese understandings of the body in relation to gender/sex, as the category of the “new women” (xin nüxing) exemplified. With the establishment of the PRC came another important stage in the reformulation of gender perception—also characterized by combinations of multiple gender discourses. The 26 Maoist gender discourse was not only based on a Marxist reframing of the “woman question” and class analysis, informed by some key feminist concepts of women’s rights and gender equality formed in the early twentieth-century global context; it also carried on the eugenic discourse and sacred motherhood ideology of the 1920s and discourses on scientific womanhood, health and sport from the 1930s (Manning 2004), as well as retaining some traditional Chinese gender beliefs. On one hand, the popular slogan “women can do whatever men can do” promoted the erasure of gender difference and implied an anti-essentialist and social constructionist view of gender; on the other hand, the Marxist maternalist position emphasized women’s biological difference (Manning 2004), while the “scientific construction” of sexuality in the Mao era put forward an essentialized biological determinist approach to gender based on sexual difference (Evans 1997). Even more interestingly, as Kimberly Manning’s (2009) recent research reveals, some leading figures in the All-China Women’s Federation in the 1950s who had been educated at missionary schools promoted a materialist approach to women’s roles that echoed the discourse of some Christian missionaries. Rosemary Roberts’ (2004a, 2004b) research on the revolutionary model operas (Yangbanxi) reveals that the supposedly revolutionary Maoist representation of gender roles often blends with traditional gender beliefs. For instance, revolutionary heroines often resemble the images of traditional military heroines who were motivated to go into battle by either filial piety or loyalty to their husbands. Roberts also shows how the gendered symbolism in Yangbanxi draws on traditional Chinese cosmology and the yin-yang symbolism (see also Denton 1987), in its gendered encoding of counterrevolutionary characters as yin/ feminine, and revolutionaries as yang/ masculine. Evans (1997) also notes that discourses on sexuality in the 27 Mao era have incorporated many traditional Chinese medical beliefs about aspects of female sexual health, such as menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth and the month following childbirth, as making women more susceptible to disease.1 One important feature of the Maoist gender conceptualization is the central role of class in defining gender. The Maoist gender ideas were constructed firstly through class differentiation, with subaltern labouring women as representatives of the Maoist gender ideal. This will be demonstrated in Chapters Two and Three, which show that perceptions of gender in the Mao era cannot be separated from the institutionalization of a class system and a rural/urban divide, and gender subjectivity was overshadowed by class identity. Post-Mao gender discourses (since 1976) convey a radical departure from the Mao era in many ways. One of their features is the interaction between Chinese and foreign ideas, or the process of introducing and indigenizing foreign theories (bentuhua, referring to the process of critically applying overseas scholarship to the Chinese situation, see Cheek 2009, Chow et al 2004), especially the introduction of contemporary Western feminisms, and more recently, post- colonial, Third World, and transnational feminisms. For instance, the term "women's studies" was introduced to China from the West in the 1980s (Du 2001). The influence of globalization, direct exchanges between Chinese scholars and feminists aboard, the hosting of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, and increased international funding for women’s organizations and gender projects in China, have brought new language and analytical categories into gender studies in China, and influenced the framing of theoretical and analytical perspectives (Du 2001; Liu 1999). One good example is the introduction of the concept of gender into Chinese Women’s Studies. Chinese scholars and researchers have now embraced the 28 concept of gender as a social and cultural construction and use it as a key concept in their discussions (Du 1993). Post-Mao gender discourses also inherited some earlier conceptualizations of gender. On one hand, some scholars continued to take Maoist theory on women as their theoretical base, for instance Li Xiaojiang (1987), Jin Yihong (2000 ), and Du Fangqin’s (1998) work combines Marxist class with gender analysis. On the other hand, some scholars reemploy gender discourses that circulated in the pre-Mao eras. For example, the biologically-determined notion of gender difference that can be traced back to the early twentieth century, and the urban bourgeois image of the nüxing are deployed to call for restoring women’s essentialized femininity and to construct a sexualized feminine body, as a sign of China’s market-oriented modernity. As Zhong Xueping (2004) points out, such a gender conceptualization is informed by a dichotomous framework of (female) femininity and (male) masculinity, with an emphasis on sexuality. They reduce women’s issues to questions of “femininity” and “sexuality”, ascribe a bourgeois class-based gender ideal as the universal “female essence”, marginalize the reality of class and class differentiations, and negate the socio-economic aspects of gender politics. “Western theory” and “Chinese experience” The differences between traditional Chinese and Western conceptualizations of the body and gender raise questions about the appropriateness of applying Western feminist theory and the concept of gender in the Chinese context, especially today when most China scholars working on gender are informed by Western feminist theories. In Mainland China, and even more so in 29 Hong Kong and Taiwan, many academics' research is more or less informed by Western theoretical frameworks in order to participate in the knowledge production of the institutionalized epistemic community, though the degree varies according to the discipline and background of the researcher (especially in terms of Western training and language skills). The academic exchanges we engage in are mediated by western disciplinary discourses that “structure the very way we articulate our research problems and define what count as legitimate topics of inquiry and meaningful explanations” (Ha 2009: 424). As Rey Chow (2006) argues in her book The Age of the World Target, the global dominance of Western, especially Anglo-American, knowledge is established through both military conquests and flourishing civil apparatuses such as funding agencies, educational programs, culture and information bureaus, religious missions, and publishing houses. As a result, there is a one-way hierarchical privilege between those who specialize in the West and those who specialize in non-Western cultures. Using language as a metaphor (or metonymy), she points out that the latter are pressured to be multilingual, to acquire global breadth -- to be cosmopolitan in their knowledge in order to pass as credible academic professionals, whereas specialists of the West tend to be monolingual, in the sense that they often speak only from within their own specialty or language (2006:13-14). In Western (mostly Anglophone) academe, the question of the appropriateness of applying Western theoretical frameworks in studying non-western experience is often raised, particularly in Anthropology and in area studies, since the division of intellectual labor often means that “disciplines” are expected to provide theories, whereas “area studies” provide raw empirical data. Even though Western theories are derived from the social structures of the West, 30 they are often taken as a universally applicable conceptual framework to interpret the non- Western world, whereas empirical data from the non-West “flesh out a theoretical skeleton that is substantially ‘Europe’” (Chakrabarty 2000; see also Sakai 2001; Cheah 2001). The use of Western theoretical approaches in the study of the non-Western world has long been an issue of debate (for instance, Spivak 1993; Mohanty 1994; Said 2000), and also a heated topic among Chinese scholars and in Chinese Studies in Western Universities (for instance, Chow 1991, 2006; Davies 2007). In China, the issue of the applicability of Western theory to Chinese experience can be traced to an age-old debate in the study of Chinese intellectual history, on whether culture is open or closed (Levenson 1958; Schwartz, 1964).2 This debate has gained new relevance today because of increased mingling of the “Chinese” and “the West”. For instance, Chinese scholar Liu Dong (2001) condemns those who indiscriminately appropriate and blindly mimic Western “isms”, as “designer pidgin scholarship” ”(2001: 91) and has raised concerns that “drawing the West into China” is a process of “ongoing colonization”, part of an “intense clash of civilizations” in the midst of a distorted discursive realm. On the other hand, for Yue Daiyun (2001), a Chinese literary theorist, many Western theories seem to echo some elements of traditional Chinese culture and are thus compatible with Chinese literary studies. This issue has also been raised in the study of gender in China. For historical and linguistic reasons, Anglophone 3 Chinese studies have mostly been produced by Western scholars, and there has been a long history of using a Western lens to look at China. Many Western scholars’ work presents China to Anglophone audiences, as a case study that illustrates differences, and aims primarily to enrich Anglo-American self-understanding through an 31 encounter with the “other”. Anglophone research on Chinese women has also been influenced by the feminist movement in the West and its changing agenda. In the 1960s and 1970s, some socialist feminists in the West turned to women in socialist China (as well as Soviet and Third World women) in their search for a universal solution to women’s oppression, taking China as a test case for theories on women’s liberation.4 Some early Western feminist writings on Chinese women adopted a romantic orientalism or pro-Maoist utopianism, presenting women in socialist China as part of a counter-discourse to the masculinist heroics of European socialism. China was idealized by some as a “feminine” mirror image to the ‘masculine’ West,5 as illustrated by Julia Kristeva’s essay “On Chinese Women” (1977). Western feminists’ views on Maoist women’s liberation later tended to disillusionment and criticism, while others viewed Chinese women’s liberation as a source of inspiration for white feminists, Asian-American women, and other feminists of color. From the late 1970s on, even leftist feminists became disillusioned with women’s liberation in Maoist China, and charged that rather than being liberated from patriarchy, Chinese women carried a double burden in the new form of the socialistic patriarchal family.6 Anglophone scholars engaged in studying Chinese women became more self-reflective in the 1980s, not only because of the demise of admiration abroad for Mao’s ideas but because “intersectionality” emerged as a central critical concept, with attention to gender accompanied by consideration of race/ethnicity as well as class, largely in response to critiques from Third-World feminists and women of color. Since the 1990s, feminists informed by post-structuralism and post-colonial theories have criticized the objectification, generalization, and essentializing of Chinese women in previous representations. Studies in the 1990s challenged Eurocentric assumptions about the backwardness or victimization of Chinese women (see Chow 1991; Ko 32 1994), and a dialogue began with newly emerging feminist scholars from China (see Gilmartin 1994) who reject the woman-as-victim/woman-as-agent dichotomy. Since 1978, with China’s open door policy, fieldwork in China has become increasingly open to foreign scholars, and dialogue and networking between Chinese and Western scholars have increased. As for the development of gender studies in China, there has been a history of importing, translating, and indigenizing feminism, a global discourse, to China with its own ideas about gender, class, body, and sexuality. As Dorothy Ko and Wang Zheng (2004) points out, historically “translated feminisms have transformed the terms in which modern Chinese understand their own subjectivities and histories.” The establishment of Women’s Studies as a newly institutionalized discipline in China has been accompanied by the translation and introduction of foreign (predominantly Anglophone Western) feminist theories.7 In theorizing women’s issues in contemporary China, feminists in China have turned to Western feminism for inspiration and sources of resistance (Bao 1995), and their patterns of inquiry are often influenced and structured by Western academic discourse. Some scholars express concern that China's Women's Studies are being limited, marginalized, and/or colonized by well-developed, well-financed international movements dominated by Western feminism. They argue against using the concepts of sex and gender developed in the West in explaining Chinese gender configurations, on the grounds that these concepts are different from traditional Chinese understandings of sexual difference. For instance, Li Xiaojiang, a prominent Chinese feminist, argues that “it would be redundant to introduce the notion of gender, shehui xingbie (literally social sex difference), to the Chinese language, since nü (women/female) and nan (man/male) are already understood as social, and not natural, 33 beings.” (1999:262). In their study of Chinese masculinities, Kam Louie and Louise Edward (1994) claim that Western conceptualizations of gender “only serve to prove that Chinese men are ‘not quite real men’” (Louie and Edward 1994, 138),8 and propose a Chinese wen-wu model to understand Chinese masculinity, with wen referring to those “gentle, refined qualities that were associated with the literary and artistic pursuits of classical scholars”, and wu associating with the attributes of physical strength and military prowess embodied by the soldier. In studies of homosexuality in China some scholars also argue that the dichotomy of sexual orientation (homosexual/heterosexual) that has informed many Western gender studies bears no relevance in the context of traditional China. For instance, Sommer argues that the hierarchy of roles in a stereotypical act of intercourse (penetrator/penetrated) constituted the definitive framework for conceptualizing gender and sexuality in late imperial China (Sommer 2002). Even though homosexual anal intercourse had been banned since the sixteenth century, the rationale behind the regulation was that phallic penetration should take place only within marriage, based on the Confucian vision of family-based order. The legal ban can be seen as directed against the marginal man outside of (and presumably opposed to) the family-based social and moral order, such as the bandit, the libertine, the rootless rascal, the marginal rogue males at the bottom of the socioeconomic scale, rather than those with a homosexual orientation (Sommer 2002: 67). As I outlined earlier, in the twentieth century Chinese conceptions of sex and gender, especially definitions of the ideal woman, underwent radical reformulation with the changing social-historical context, and shifting relations between China and the West. Even though traditional Chinese conceptualizations of gender originated from a different epistemological 34 framework from those in the West, ideas of gender in twentieth-century China are heavily influenced by various western discourses on the body, gender, and sexuality. In her recent study of Hong Kong women’s perception of their bodies, Ha (2009) shows that while the traditional Chinese understanding of sex and gender has been displaced at the institutional level by Western biomedical discourse, the former still maintains a strong hold in many everyday practices. It has survived among people in China from the pre-1949 years to the present, and continues to inform the sociocultural habitus of contemporary Chinese people, alongside Western scientific ideas. She argues that the multicultural social practices of Hong Kong women demonstrate a heterogeneous understanding of the female body and combines both the traditional Chinese understanding of sex and gender and Western biomedical discourse. The transnational flow of people and ideas since the 1978 beginning of China’s “open door” policy has enabled many Chinese people to have the experience of traveling or living outside of China, and exposed many more to foreign ideas and ways of life. It can be asserted that in today’s transnational context, there is no historical, enclosed, pure “Chinese” conception and experience of gender. What we can observe is heterogeneity and hybridity: there are multiple overlapping and competing gender discourses, Chinese and foreign, traditional and contemporary, global and local, circulating in China today. These discourses interact with each other to constitute various configurations of gender that are often hybrid products. I am in agreement with Ha, that rather than falling into an either/or debate on which theoretical framework (Western or Chinese) is better suited to understanding contemporary Chinese concepts of gender performances, we need to articulate a research framework that acknowledges our heterogeneities. Perceptions of gender in China today are the result of 35 Chinese-Western interaction and local-global interplay. My research also shows that the experience of gender, as revealed in the women’s narratives discussed in the following chapters, cannot be explained simply by resorting to a “Chinese” (often meaning traditional, Confucian- based) conceptual framework for gender, but needs to be understood in a framework that accounts for the ways multiple gender discourses work together to produce overlapping structures of domination, as well as opening up possibilities for resistance. Furthermore, not only is there no pure “Chinese” concept of gender, there is also increasingly no single Western feminism. While there has been a history of “othering Chinese women” and Third World women in general in Western feminist studies, the critical inquiry put forward by post-structuralist feminism, the development of post-colonial feminist critique, Third World feminism, and transnational feminism, have unveiled and interrogated the unequal power relations between the researcher and the research subject, and between Western theory and Third World experience. They have also facilitated the deconstruction of the previously homogeneous and binary conceptions of “Western theory” (or a ‘global feminism’), and “Third World Women”, and complicated the relationship between them. These critiques of western feminism point out that rather than assuming a global feminism and universal sisterhood, feminism needs to be attentive to the intersections of nationhood, race, gender, sexuality, and class, and develop analytical frameworks that can understand the hybrid subject with transitional experience or living in a transnational context (see for instance, Grewal and Kaplan 1994, 2001). Transnational feminism urges us to draw attention to difference and intersectionality on the one hand, and the blurring and transgression of boundaries, the hybridity of experience and identity on the other. 36 Not only are both the theory and the research subject increasingly heterogeneous and hybrid, but so too are the researchers who engage with these issues from two sides. For instance, in the context of the study of Chinese women, there are increasing numbers of students from Mainland China studying abroad, working as academics in the West, and publishing in English. They have not only engaged with but also reworked Western feminist theory (e.g. Wang 1999, Liu, 1999, 2004; Zhong 2000, Sang, 2003). Their membership of both the community in which they do research and the academic community in which they publishing their results, and the increasing level of intellectual exchange and hybrid scholarship with blurred boundaries make the homogenized term “Western theory” even more difficult to define and less productive to use. My research on women’s live in China today is part of the knowledge production that will contribute to feminist research on “ how women become ‘women’ (or other kinds of gendered subjects) around the world” (Grewal and Kaplan 1994:79). As a Chinese-born, Western-trained researcher, occupying a space in-between, and writing for an Anglophone audience, I view this study as a hybrid product illustrating cultural communication and intellectual exchange between Western and Chinese feminisms. My research is part of the equal dialogue between Chinese scholars and their counterparts in the international Women’s Studies community (see Du 2001). This research on Chinese women’s experience of gender today evokes a hybrid use of theories. Rather than using “a” Western feminist theory to understand a singular ahistorical “Chinese experience”, this study of contemporary Chinese women’s lives in a transnational and transitional context draws upon feminist scholarship produced by Western scholars discussing gender in a Western context, Anglophone feminist studies of women in 37 China (produced by both Western and Chinese scholars), and Sinophone research on Chinese women, including studies of women’s lives in contemporary China in a transnational context. Judith Butler and the theory of gender performativity Western feminists’ attempt to theorize “gender” was initially driven by a desire to establish the epistemological foundation for gender equality and to counter biological determinism, the view that biology is destiny. Psychologists like Robert Stoller (1968) first separated gender and sex, to explain the phenomenon of transsexuality as a mismatch between the two. Feminists found this distinction useful, and started to understand gender as a combination of culturally specific roles, behaviors, and symbols attached to anatomical sex; sexual difference is the foundation for gendered roles and the combination of sex and gender codifies a wide range of social hierarchies (Haslanger 2000; Millett 1971; Stoljar 1995). Simone de Beauvoir’s statement that “one is not born, but, rather, becomes a woman” (de Beauvoir 1989 [original 1949]) is taken as a claim about gender socialization. Gayle Rubin, for instance, used the phrase “sex/gender system” and described gender as the “socially imposed division of the sexes” (1975:179). Feminists have viewed gender as a socially shared and historically constituted construction acted out by individuals. Feminist theorizing of gender based on the gender/sex distinction has been under attack in recent decades, particularly by feminists of colour and post-structuralist and queer feminists, for failing to take into account differences among women, and for positing a normative ideal of womanhood. Judith Butler’s theorizing of gender performativity emerged from these debates. 38 As Lois McNay (1999) notes, western feminist thought on gender and sexuality can be traced along three predominant theoretical trends: post-Lacanian psychoanalytic theory, theories of intersubjective communication derived from Habermas, and post-Foucauldian theories of discursive construction. Working in the Foucauldian tradition, Butler’s work on the performative construction of gender bridges between the psychoanalytic and constructivist perspectives. Her work has provided a major inspiration for me in structuring my analysis. In what follows I will briefly outline her theory of gender performativity, especially the key points on which I draw in this research, and explain how I approach them in my analysis. Through a critical reading of Butler’s theories on gender as performative and gender subversion, as well as a discussion of criticisms of her theory, I will situate her ideas in their theoretical and social context and explore the various ways my research can benefit from them or possibly go beyond them. Butler is best known for her theorizing in Gender Trouble (1990) of gender as performative, which implies a radical reformation/disruption of the assumed “natural” link between sex, gender, and sexual desire. Her other writings build on or revised the ideas she developed there, including Bodies that Matter (1993), “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory’ (2003), and Undoing Gender (2004). Her works theorize and affirm the value of gay/lesbian and trans practices and provide a foundation for an inclusive queer politics that challenges both patriarchy and heterosexual hegemony. My take on Butler’s gender theories focuses on those aspects that can help me to rethink gender construction in contemporary China, concerning both heterosexual and queer gender politics. 39 The elaboration of Butler’s theory of gender starts with a critical re-reading of some important feminist thinkers’ theorizing of “women” as the subject of feminism, including Simone de Beauvoir, Luce Irigaray, Julia Kristeva, and Monique Wittig. Butler builds up her theory of gender performativity by extending some of the arguments of these feminist thinkers, as well as challenging the epistemological or ontological premises of some of their thoughts. To situate Butler’s theory in its theoretical context and in relation to earlier writings on gender and sexuality, I will first outline Butler’s critique of feminism. Butler’s critique of feminism There are two major critiques Butler puts forward: one is that the totalizing gesture in some feminist theories assumes a shared structure of oppression and fails to recognize “the multiplicity of cultural, social, and political intersections in which the concrete ways of ‘women’ are constructed” (Butler 1999, 19–20), thus reinforcing the gender binary and closing up opportunities to recognize differences. This totalizing gesture is based on the assumption of a “feminine” substance existing before culture, an assumption that reproduces rather than challenges the structure and epistemological foundation of masculinist traditions. Her second critique is that these attempts to define “woman” imply a normative way to be gendered as a woman and lead to political exclusion. For instance, de Beauvoir argues that the “subject” within the existential analysis of misogyny is always already masculine, conflated with the universal, and differentiating itself from a feminine “Other”; women are irrevocably positioned outside the universalizing norms of personhood, designated as the Other, the negative of men, the lack. Butler notes that while in de 40 Beauvoir’s theory the radical dependency of the masculine subject on the female “Other” exposes his autonomy as illusory, de Beauvoir’s analysis of gender oppression formulates a feminist politics that calls for the right of women to be included and become existential subjects, like men. On the contrary, Luce Irigaray (1985) argues that the female sex is neither “Other” nor the “lack,” rather; it constitutes the unrepresentable, unconstrainable, and undesignatable, because in a closed phallogocentric signifying economy, both the subject and the Other are masculine constructions. The feminine could thus never be the mark of a subject, she is the sex that cannot be thought, a linguistic absence, the “sex” or “subject” which is not “one”. In the masculinist mode of signification in which the masculine constitutes the closed circle of signifier and signified, the female body is “marked off” from the domain of the signifiable. The relation between masculine and feminine thus cannot be represented in a signifying economy. Butler sees Irigary’s inquiry as assuming a monologic masculinist economy that transcends cultural and historical contexts, and as failing to acknowledge the specific cultural operations of gender oppression. Butler points out that these two seemingly contradictory claims made by de Beauvoir and Irigary share a similar fallacy in assuming a universalizing tendency or epistemological imperialism. This presumed universality of female identity and masculinist oppression has provided the epistemological standpoint for a feminist politics based on common or shared structures of oppression and interests. The assumed “identity” of “women” reinforces a binary view of gender relations on which heterosexuality is based, rather than opening up possibilities for multiple and individualized identities. 41 Butler’s second major critique is exemplified in her analysis of Wittig’s notion of “Being” and Kristeva’s politics of the “maternal body”, which are both presented as existing prior to their cultural formulation. Arguing that a metaphysics of substance is the epistemological foundation for the production and naturalization of the category of sex, Butler criticizes Wittig’s (1985) project of lesbian emancipation, which calls for the destruction of “sex” and replacing the universal masculine “subject” with a lesbian subject as the speaking subject. Butler points out that this project still adheres to a metaphysics of substance that presumes a presocial and pregendered “person,” a substantial Being existing before representation. It confirms rather than contests the normative premise of humanist ideals by replacing the “masculine subject” by another universal subject-position, evoking a new totalitarianism. Butler’s critique of Kristeva’s theory of the semiotic dimension of language follows the same line of argument. Kristeva takes up Lacan’s notion that women’s “appearing as being” the Phallus leads to a masquerade, presupposing a “being” prior to the masquerade, and promising an eventual disruption and displacement of the phallogocentric signifying economy. Kristeva contests Lacan’s equation of the Symbolic with all linguistic meaning and argues that the “semiotic” is a dimension of language occasioned by the primary maternal body, manifested in affective and poetic language in particular. For Kristeva, the semiotic serves as a perpetual source for disrupting, subverting and displacing the paternal law. Butler argues that since the semiotic is still positioned as subordinate to the Symbolic, Kristeva’s theory depends on the stability and reproduction of the paternal law that she seeks to displace. In addition, Kristeva states that the semiotic cannot be maintained within the terms of culture, and thus can never become a sustained political practice. Furthermore, Kristeva reinstates the paternal law at the 42 level of the semiotic itself, as it may be disruptive but does not ultimately challenge Lacanian ideas of sexual differences. Butler further argues that the prediscursive maternal body Kristeva seeks to express, rather than being external to culture, and its secret (or ignored) primary cause, is itself a construct produced by a given historical discourse, it is an effect of culture. Butler points out that the idea of a suppressed feminine desire evokes feminist strategies of unmasking, recovering, and replacing, which may reproduce the totalizing structure. What differentiates Butler from the feminists discussed above is that, coming from a post-structuralist theoretical position, she takes an antifoundationalist approach to feminist coalitional politics. She questions the assumed “identity” of “women” as the premise for feminist politics, and suggests a poststructuralist understanding of sex, gender, and sexual desire, which she argues may serve as a more effective strategy of subversion. Butler’s theory of gender builds on earlier writings on sex and gender, while questioning them. She draws upon Foucault’s notion that the artificial binary category of sex is the product of a diffuse regulatory economy of sexuality; “sex” thus should be understood as an effect rather than an origin. She also takes up de Beauvoir’s claim that the category of women is a variable cultural accomplishment that gender is always acquired, and therefore sexual difference does not cause gender distinctions. She also draws inspiration from Wittig’s idea that the supposedly biological and innate binary regulation of sexuality is artificial, serving the reproductive aims of a system of compulsory heterosexuality, and based on the suppression of a subversive multiplicity of sexualities. For Wittig, the category of “sex” is itself a gendered category, fully politically invested, naturalized but not natural, and is the reality-effect of a violent process of social configuration of bodies, through a coerced contract. Kristeva’s theory of “abjection” also 43 influenced Butler’s theorizing of the relationship between the subject and its constitutive outsider, the domain of abject beings. Kristeva (1982) argues that subjective and group identities are constituted by excluding what threatens one's own borders, through the psychic operation of abjection, that is the rejection and expulsion of the in-between, the ambiguous, and the composite that disturbs identity, system, and order. She goes on to claim that in a patriarchal culture, becoming a subject means one must abject the maternal body (Kristeva1989), and this misplaced abjection of the maternal body is one cause of women's oppression (Kristeva 1987). In Gender Trouble, Butler takes up this idea and goes further to suggest that the homosexual is the abjected queer ‘Other’ that is central to the formulation of the "straight" subject. Butler also takes up Irigaray’s argument that women can never be understood on the model of a “subject” within the conventional representational systems of Western culture, which questions the epistemological, ontological, and logical structures of a masculinist signifying economy. In addition to its roots in feminist tradition, Butler’s theory of gender performativity is also influenced by Lacanian psychoanalysis, phenomenology (Edmund Husserl, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, George Herbert Mead, et al.), structural anthropologists (Claude Levì-Strauss, Victor Turner, Clifford Geertz, et al.) and the speech-act theory of John Searle. Butler adopts their understanding of social reality as not a given but continually created as an illusion “through language, gesture, and all manner of symbolic social signs” (2003: 415). She further explores how linguistic constructions create reality through the speech acts, especially gendered acts that people participate in every day. 44 Gender performativity and the body Butler (1993) goes back to de Beauvoir’s claim that one is not born but becomes a woman, and argues that the notion of becoming could be applied to the conceptualization of gender more generally, and leads in many directions. This claim inspires her to understand gender as a process of doing, acting, and becoming in response to a model proposed by a specific context: To be a woman is to have become a woman, to compel the body to conform to an historical idea of “woman”, to induce the body to become a cultural sign, to materialize oneself in obedience to an historically delimited possibility, and to do this as a sustained and repeated corporeal project. (Butler 2003:417) In Gender Trouble, Butler (1993) argues that “woman” (as well as “man”) does not exist in a pre-social or pre-discursive state: “There is no gender identity behind the expressions of gender; that identity is performatively constituted by the very ‘expressions’ that are said to be its results”(1990: 33). The body acquires a gender through a series of acts which are renewed, revisited, and consolidated through time (2003: 418). The gendered body is performative because it has no ontological status apart from the various acts which constitute its reality. Gender attributes are understood, not as expressive of a pre-existing condition, but as producing that condition: gender is a performative accomplishment. In Bodies that Matter, Butler reworks some of the ideas in Gender Trouble and further explores the working of heterosexual hegemony in its violent circumscription of the cultural intelligibility of the body as gendered. She challenges the dichotomy set up by many feminists that sees sex as a “biological” category and gender as a “socio-historical” one. The distinction between gender and sex has enabled feminists to argue against biological determinism, and to 45 prove that many differences between women and men are socially produced, and, therefore changeable by political and social reforms that would ultimately bring an end to women's subordination. This distinction, however, has been questioned in recent decades. Moi (1999:6) points out that the distinction between sex and gender and the focus on the latter ignore lived experiences and embodiment as aspects of womanhood (and manhood). Some feminists (such as Antony 1998; Gatens 1996; Grosz 1994; Prokhovnik 1999) argue that there are no tenable distinctions between nature/culture, biology /construction and sex/gender. Butler goes further by questioning the very distinction between gender and sex and arguing that both are socially constructed: sexed bodies never exist outside social meanings and how we understand gender shapes how we understand sex (1999, 139). Building on Wittig’s idea that “sex” is already gendered, already constructed, and Foucault’s notion of sex as a “regulatory ideal”, Butler argues that sex as sexual difference is part of a regulatory practice that produces the bodies it governs. Sex (m/f) is not “a bodily given on which the construct of gender is artificially imposed, but a cultural norm which governs the materialization of bodies" (1993: 2-3). The ritualized repetition of norms thus produces not only the effects of gender but also the materiality of sexual difference and relations, in the service of the consolidation of the heterosexual imperative. The idea that gender/sexual identity is free-floating rather than connected to an innate “essence” of sexual difference opens the way to reveal the artificial and historical nature of gender construction. Rather than searching for the origins of gender difference and the “inner truth” of female desire, Butler proposes a feminist politics that investigates the political constitution of the gendered subject, destabilizes gender categories, contests heteronormativity, and ultimately leads to potential gender transformations. 46 The subject and abjection The perception of gender as performative reveals that what are generally believed to be "natural" masculine or feminine attributes, and even the categories of gender and sex, are the result of social constructions and coercions. The historical manifestations of gender differences are materialized and sustained through bodily signs and discursive means which together constitute a corporeal style. This politically regulated corporeal style marks which bodies qualify as fully human, delineating also a zone of abjection. It is scripted by hegemonic social conventions and ideologies establishing two sexes/genders, through “a signifying practice within a cultural field of gender hierarchy and compulsory heterosexuality” (1990:139). Since the corporeal style is not “natural” or linked to “biology”, bodies never quite comply with the norms. In other words, gender performance is always never perfect, and everyone fails to some extent to conform to the model. In order to maintain gender divisions within a heterosexual binary frame, the never stable gender boundary has to be constantly re-established through the endlessly repeated performative acts that mark our sexual identities. The idea of gender as “doing” is also explored by Sarah Fenstermaker, Candace West, and Don H Zimmerman (West and Zimmerman 1987; West and Fenstermaker 1993, 1995; Fenstermaker and West 2002). Their work illustrates a sociological understanding of gender as a situated “doing” and an accomplishment though social interactions. While Butler and these sociologists all conceptualize gender as something one “does” rather than an attribute (what one “is”), they approach this “doing” in different ways, West and Fenstermaker focus on how gender is “done” (established and reinforced) in social interactions with assigned roles, broadly defined, 47 and Butler emphasizes that gender is discursively constituted and is “performed” through shared discourse, also broadly defined. However, Butler’s conceptualization of gender performativity goes beyond gender as doing and into a theory of subjectivity. In Bodies that Matter (2003), she points out that the repetitive gender performance is not performed by a subject but is what enables subjectivity to evolve and constitutes the temporal condition for the subject. There is no “subject” preceding or behind the acting out of gender, rather, the “subject” is anticipated and produced in and through the act. It is subjected to and subjectivated by gender, or a process of assuming a sex. In other words, discourse produces the effect that it names, regulates and constrains, and the enactment of gender norms constructs people’s sense of subjectivity, or the “social fiction of its own psychological interiority" (2003: 139) Butler suggests that certain cultural configurations of gender exert a hegemonic control. Other feminists have discussed this idea as well. For instance, in her 1995 book Masculinities R.W. Connell builds on Anonio Gramsci’s idea of hegemony, distinguishing between hegemonic masculinity and subordinated or marginalized masculinities. She defines hegemonic masculinity as the one that occupies the hegemonic position (though it is always contestable) in a given pattern of gender relations. In Butler’s analysis, she uses the term “normative”, which refers to “the norms that govern gender.” Where Butler goes further is to argue that normative gender presumptions are built into language and work to delimit the very field of description, or the imaginable domain of gender. The domains of political and linguistic “representation” of gender set out in advance the criteria for what qualifies as a subject of representation, by presupposing what are the imaginable and realizable gender configurations within a given culture and 48 preempting any others. It extends its representation only to what can be acknowledged by the hegemonic cultural discourse, without threatening a heterosexual matrix—a grid of cultural intelligibility through which bodies, genders, and desires are naturalized. Butler proposes a feminist genealogy of the category of women, tracing the political operations that produce and conceal what qualifies as the juridical subject of feminism. She argues that the concept of “women” as “the subject” of feminism is itself a discursive formation and the effect of a given version of representational politics; the unproblematic invocation of such category may preclude what can be represented by feminism. Rather than asking how women might become more fully represented in language and politics, a feminist critique ought to question how some types of feminism restrict the meaning of gender in the basic presupposition of their own emancipatory practice, producing new forms of hierarchy and exclusion, and setting up exclusionary gender norms with homophobic consequences. She calls for a new feminist politics that contests the reification of gender and identity, in order to increase the possibilities for a livable life for those who live, or try to live, on the sexual margins. For Butler, the ritualized repetition of gender, reiterated through normative constraints, prohibitions, and taboos, produces not only “the domain of intelligible bodies”, but also a corresponding domain of abject, rejected or discarded non-conforming beings with “unthinkable and unlivable bodies”. The "normal" gender subject’s identification with “the normative phantasm of 'sex'" (1993:3) is accomplished through the creation and repudiation of the zone of uninhabitability: This zone of uninhabitability will constitute the defining limit of the subject's domain; it will constitute that site of dreaded identification against, which—and by virtue of which—the domain 49 of the subject will circumscribe its own claim to autonomy and to life. In this sense, then, the subject is constituted through the force of exclusion and abjection, one which produces a constitutive outside to the subject, an abjected outside, which is, after all, “inside” the subject as its own founding repudiation. (Butler 1993:3) Butler goes on to argue that this abjected domain is not the opposite of the intelligible, but is its reminder, its “unconscious.” It is a domain of unlivability and unintelligibility that bounds the domain of the intelligible, and haunts it as the spectre of its own impossibility. The disavowed abjection threatens to unground the sexed subject, and Butler sees this threat and disruption as a critical resource in the struggle to rearticulate the very terms of symbolic legitimacy and intelligibility. Gender subversion Butler’s theory of gender performativity is also a theory of agency. She points out that gender is not an artifice to be taken on or taken off at will, thus not merely an effect of individual choice; the enactment of gender scripts has to be within the confines of a specific grammar of gender. In order to become a subject and to be recognized, people have to subject themselves to the rules that govern social and linguistic existence, to cite or repeat pre-existing norms and conventions. However, the body is not simply a lifeless recipient of cultural codes, nor is gender imposed or inscribed upon the individual. “Gendering-as-doing” means that it cannot be simply imposed onto a passive body from outside, but needs the performers’ participation and cooperation. Gender norms need to be embodied and enacted through individual acts and practices. How gender is played out is subject to negotiation, struggle, and resistance at the individual level, and 50 this opens up possibilities for the cultural transformation of gender. Construction therefore both circumscribes and enables agency. Since gender enforcement entails public actions and its performance needs to be repeated by subjects, the possibility of gender transformation resides in its very performativity and citationality. Gender subversion emerges between the acts of repetition, through unwarranted improvisation and non-conforming performances. Butler sees that these performances may reveal the psychological presuppositions of gender identity and sexuality, destabilizing the naturalized categories of gender, sex, and desire. They may expose the need for a critical reworking of gender norms, and alter the very terms that constitute the “necessary” domain of bodies. Butler (2003) suggests that one way to denaturalize and resignify bodily categories is through parodic gender performances that denaturalize and contest given codes of sexual difference through citational recontextualization, revealing the “masquerade”. In Undoing Gender, Butler (2004) revisits and refines her notion of performativity. She looks at the ways in which the hegemonic structures of power undo us by either “conferring recognition” to constitute us “as socially viable beings”, or “withholding” it. She claims that the collective disidentification of “New Gender Politics” can undo restrictively normative conceptions of sexual and gendered life, and “establish more inclusive conditions for sheltering and maintaining life that resists models of assimilation.” (Butler, 2004:4) Reflections on using Butler’s theory Butler’s works on gender, especially her theorizing of gender as performative, have been hailed as representative of poststructuralist feminism, as pioneering queer theory, and especially as 51 indicating new directions in the study of gender and sexuality. They have opened up critical debates on subjectivity, gender, sex, and language, and provided the epistemological foundation and supplied theoretical tools for queer politics. Butler’s theorizing of gender as constructed in and through discourse is helpful in thinking about how, in today’s China, there is no essentialized, authentic “Chinese” configuration of gender and the body before its discursive formulation and conceptualization, and also how ideas about gender in China are hybrid products of the interaction between various Chinese and foreign gender discourses. In this study I use several of Butler’s notions, including the subject formation as the effect of performative acts, the subject as emerging through the repudiation of abject beings, and the gender system as operating through the creation of a “zone of uninhabitability”. These concepts are relevant in asking how what is thinkable in gendered life in the Mao and post-Mao eras in China is foreclosed by certain changing and violent presumptions that delegitimize some performances of gender and sexual practices. These notions inspire me to attend not only to the visible, hegemonic gender models that represent the norm of a given time, but also those gendered existences that inhabit the margins, the intelligible outsiders (not necessarily homosexuals, but others in various forms), that help define and support the subject but also disrupt the boundary with the abject and haunt the subject. For instance, this approach draws my attention not only to how the normative Maoist funü is positively defined but also those “invisible” gender existences that the Maoist funü was defined against, such as the jiatingfunü (housewives or women of the family). Butler’s emphasis on the discursive formulation and subversion of gender at individual levels through both the body and speech draws my attention to the enactment and subversion of gender scripts in individual women’s 52 (straight and lesbian) narratives about their lives. I also take up Butler’s notion that gender performativity and subversion are contextual and contingent, to develop a conceptualization of “gender as project” in order to distinguish and understand the unique and situated aspects of deliberately formulating and signifying gender at public, national and individual levels, in different historical periods. Individual gender projects in China today reflect the articulation of competing and overlapping multiple local and global gender discourses. There are also areas where my research calls into question some of Butler’s ideas, for instance, by examining how the experience of abjection and strategies of performative subversion are both relevant to many heterosexual women, as well as homosexuals, when they find themselves reconstructed as the residue of an abandoned gender regime, or at the bottom of the hierarchy that rates heterosexual performances. My use of Butler’s theory is also informed by and in dialogue with some critiques of her theories. One critic, concerned about the political implications of Butler’s theory, accuses her deconstruction of the subject of depriving feminism of its foundation, dividing the feminist movement, and making collective action impossible.9 Some criticize Butler for being apolitical and abstract. For instance, in her essay “The Professor of Parody”, Martha Nussbaum (1999) accused her of attending to "sexy" questions of representation rather than addressing the suffering of “real women”. Such reactions occur because Butler’s writing aims to subvert hegemonic structures by exposing their limits; yet she has always had a political agenda of carving out a space, theoretically and politically, for sexually marginalized groups. In her later works she emphasizes more explicitly the political and ethical impetus and implications of her theories. The political potential of her work has been taken up by queer politics and has inspired 53 marginalized groups in their struggle for equality. My use of Butler’s theory is also driven by a political agenda that questions the rigidly defined, class-encoded, normative gender model embodied in the post-Mao nüxing, by exploring some subversive strategies that emerge from individual women’s life narratives, ultimately aiming to contribute to a more diverse and democratic gender landscape in China. There are some critics who are disappointed that Butler did not offer practical suggestions on “What is to be Done?” (Bell 1999). As Sara Salih (2002:149) suggests, Butler deliberately resists the demand to specify or prescribe the “right” political practices, because they are contingent, differing according to context, and cannot be predicted, as Butler explained: When theory starts becoming programmatic… it pre-empts the whole problem of context and contingency, and I do think that political decisions are made in that lived moment and they can’t be predicted from the level of theory. (Bell 1999: 166–7) Some scholars are concerned with Butler’s emphasis on discourse and language, and claim that she ignores the “real” and “substantial” bodily experience of gender (for instance Bordo 1993; Digeser 1994; Moi 1999; Prosser 1998). Nancy Fraser (1995) also argues that Butler’s focus on language makes it difficult to apply her work to real-life situations. Others are not convinced by the examples of subversion offered by Butler’s theorizations of agency, and think that subversive performances such as drag, butch/femme, and trans practice have little political relevance to many women’s struggle against gender oppression. McNay (1999) and Fraser (1995) both assert that Butler’s account of agency is too abstract, and relies primarily on individualistic political practice. Nussbaum (1999) also criticizes Butler’s theorizations of power 54 and agency, accusing her of resorting to minor, individualistic acts of protest such as parody and drag, which are irrelevant to certain classes of ‘oppressed women’. In my opinion, Butler’s primary focus on discourse and individualist practice is not a weakness but precisely the strength of her theory. This focus is closely connected to the locus of potential agency she looks into, her emphasis on the contingency of subversive strategy, and her resistance to a totalizing frame of universal political prescription, which risks the danger of replacing one hegemonic structure with another. The criticism of her ideas, however, reminds us that rather than being a universal all-encompassing theory of gender, Butler’s thought is most beneficial when applied to the analysis of certain specific aspects of gender performance; for instance, how an individual gender project is constructed and subversive practices are engaged at the symbolic levels of verbal discourse and visual signs. My research on individual gender projects, as seen through women’s oral narratives and visual records, thus can benefit from Butler’s theory of gender that emphasizes the discursive formulation and subversion of gender at individual levels, through both the body and speech. The criticisms claiming that Butler focuses on discourse and representation and overlooks the material realities of gender are also relevant to my project. For instance, Carrie Hull (1997) points out that Butler’s rejection of materialism precludes a political analysis of capitalism, in relation to society and economics, and that more is needed in order to theorize suffering in relation to economic oppression (1997:32). McNay argues that Butler overlooks the social and economic changes necessary for the resignification of terms such as “queer” (McNay 1999). My focus on China forces me to situate my analysis of individual gender projects in their broader historical, social and cultural context, as well as to consider the individual’s social location, 55 personal environment, and age/life span. This approach is reflected in the structure of the analysis of each woman’s life story, which starts with an overview of the historical and social context in which this woman lived, and a summary of the main changes in her life. Some scholars have also cast doubt on the validity of Butler’s theory of gender performativity in general. Prosser rejects the notion of performativity and argues that rather than intentionally performing a certain gender, some transgendered individuals simply want to be what they believe they inherently are, and aspire to a non-performative identity (1998:32). Hood Williams and Cealy Harrison (1998) see Butler’s theory of performativity as simply replacing the essentialist biological notion of gendered identity with an alternative foundational gender ontology. Peter Digeser (1994) argues that explaining gender in terms of performativity oversimplifies the complexity of gender formation, just as the essentialist view did. Others, like Bordo (1993), argue that Butler’s theorizations of the body and gender are too abstract and fail to situate resistance in specific cultural and historical situations. These criticisms point to a weakness in Butler’s theorizing: that she takes for granted and does not sufficiently specify the social context her theory derives from, or circumscribe its applicability. Butler comes from a Western philosophical tradition, and puts forward a theory of gender based on the modern sexual regime of Western societies, but she often talks about “gender” with no specific reference to time and place. This ungrounded (at least the ground is not stated) theory about an abstract “gender” gives the probably unintentional but nonetheless inevitable impression of being a universal claim, leaving her open to an accusation that she has often leveled at others. This abstract universalization also leads to the unrealistic expectation that Butler can provide a meta-narrative whose explanatory power can extend to pretty much 56 everything under the sun: hence the criticism of her emphasis on discourse and individualistic practice, and the claim that her theory is irrelevant to the practical problems of many “women”. Butler’s theory is based on one historically and culturally specific system, the modern sexual regime of Western societies, which is just one among many other forms of gender system. In his study of the history of anatomical discourse in the pre-Enlightenment West, Thomas Laqueur (1990) demonstrated that gender used to be viewed as the more salient, primary category, from which beliefs about sex derived: in short, gender may be seen as determining sex rather than the reverse. He points out that the separation between sex and gender, and the idea that sex is more fixed than gender, is a product of a particular movement in the history of sex in relation to social roles in the West, as a result of developments in medical science and changes in social structure. It is certainly necessary to bear these criticisms in mind, when applying Butler’s ideas in a Chinese context. For instance, she argues that the modern Western heterosexual subject is constructed through the abjection of the constitutive outsider, namely homosexuals. This argument does not fit the formation of gender subjectivity in China, especially prior to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, before the introduction and pathologizing of homosexuality and the construction of a hetero-homo sexual identity dichotomy, as discussed earlier. Aiming to theorize queer politics, Butler especially notices gender performances that destabilize the naturalized categories of gender, sex, and desire, and those which resignify bodily categories, as promising examples. In other words, “subversive” here means specifically undermining compulsory heterosexuality and its binary gender system. If what is abjected is not necessarily demarcated only by sexuality, but also by other gendered ways of being within the heterosexual 57 category, can a gender performance that does not involve the crossing of the binary divide also be subversive? Is acting queer the only way to be subversive? Or can acting straight differently also produce similar effects? What about gender practices that involve the critical reworking of gender norms within heterosexuality—a shaking up of those that are hegemonic and those that are abjected? These questions are central in examining the implications of the stories I collected from Chinese women. Gender (as) project In this study, I choose to focus on the linguistic and visual aspects of gender performance in selected women’s oral and visual self-presentation through narrative, seeking to understand how such performances become performative (producing what they begin by imitating or rehearsing). Butler’s approach to the acquisition and transmission of gendered identities through performances that entail different versions of embodiment (including speech) will be combined with my own concept of “gender (as) project”, which I will define and explore below, at the level of official and unofficial state discourse as well as individual expression. Wittig (1992) used the term “project” to refer to the repeated, obligatory corporeal endeavor of materializing the body to make the physical self become a cultural sign — a dichotomized sexual difference regulated by compulsory heterosexuality. Butler also mentioned “gender is a project which has cultural survival as its end”(1990:177). Inspired by the connotations of the term “project”, which suggests an intentional will, I use it to emphasize the construction of gender as a purposefully designed social project with interrelated components or 58 sets of signifiers, and often with specific contours and conscious goals. I understand Butler’s (1990) discussion of gender performativity as emphasizing the performing stage of a gender project, the enactment of gender scripts and the subversive possibilities that are also opened up by the realization of gender as performance. As I have demonstrated earlier, gender perceptions in twentieth-century China often involved the process of translating foreign gender discourses and indigenizing them. In this study, I extend the discussion further by attending to the often conscious (but not necessarily critical) design and performance of individual gender projects that cite broader normative and collective ones, conveying strategic mobilization of various Chinese and foreign gender models including those that are abjected by dominant gender discourse. As McNay (1999) points out, Butler’s account of agency is based on a negative model of action, as the subversion and displacement of constraining social norms. Understanding gender as a designed “project” enables me to shift the discussion of agency to the creative dimensions of action, where actors take an active approach not only to subvert dominant models but also to initiate and institute new possibilities of gender enactment by appropriating various discourses from both local and global sources. In China, the radical changes that are evident in perceptions and projections of gender highlight the fact that sexual difference and gender categories are not given, but manipulated more or less consciously and even celebrated by official cultural discourses, and also by individuals. Over the last century many women in China have experienced the disruption and overthrow of gender models that appeared to be hegemonic, and the radical promotion of new gender models. For instance, the Maoist gender project represents a radical transformation of many (but not all) of the traditional Confucian notions that preceded it. Comprehensive design, 59 innovative action, and intensive imposition were necessary to make it acceptable. Old pre-Mao ideas did not disappear overnight, but existed as the spectre haunting the present gender construction. In post-Mao China, we observe the same story, but this time with the Maoist gender project abjected, while modern reincarnations of other previously marginalized gender models, combined with foreign models, occupy the normative position. These radical reconfigurations of gender require an analysis that treats the structure of gender not as one static and stand-alone system, but as multiple and dynamic, shifting and competing, overlapping and contradictory. They call for an analysis that traces historical change as well as cross-cultural intersections. The concept of gender as project enables me to discern and capture the dynamic, multiple, and hybrid gender constructions that co-exist in contemporary China. The Maoist gender project that I invoke in the title of this dissertations points to the construction of funü as revolutionary proletarian women, and the prioritization of women’s identity as socialist labourers rather than as wives and mothers, and their class identity over gender. While the construction of a gender project takes place at various national, group, and individual levels, my examination of the Maoist and post-Mao gender projects will explore how they are manifested, received, and subverted at the individual level. In the stories conveyed in this study, each woman enacts an individual gender project in and through her narrative, citing not only the current norms but also other gender models, often represented by female family members who belong to an older generation. The contours and strategies of their projects vary according to their circumstances, as illustrated by the four stories that will be examined in detail. Even though they are quite different in many ways, in all of them the Maoist gender project re- appears in one way or another, in their post-Mao era narrative, often as the abjected constitutive 60 other, the spectre. Rather than being banished or buried, the Maoist funü persists in many post- Mao women’s individual gender projects, through conscious rejection, unconscious abjection, or as ambiguous, shifting loyalty or nostalgia. Feminism and narrative studies Butler’s theorizing about gender offers a useful point of departure for a contextualized analysis of contemporary Chinese women’s conceptualizations of femininity and what constitutes a satisfactory gender performance. In the accounts to be analyzed, changes in physical appearance play an important role in revealing shifts in the models proposed and/or adopted. As the participants presented a verbal narrative about their lives as women, the telling of their stories also conveyed the construction and contestation of prescribed gendered subjectivity through discourse. Narrative studies provided a framework to examine more closely the form of their oral life stories. Following feminist theorists in this area, I assume that women’s storytelling, and oral life histories in particular, are important sites for the construction of knowledge from a feminist/female perspective and can convey alternative, personal perceptions about the performance and subversion of gender. “Narrative” is understood here as having both ontological and epistemological dimensions and functions. The exchange of stories is a way of producing and acquiring knowledge, imposing form and meaning on experience, and providing a contextualized “narrative truth” (Bruner 1991) that is inseparable from the identity of the teller. By listening to a range of accounts that may contest (as well as adopt) dominant (official or cultural) “meta- 61 narratives”,10 we can discover the complexity of the intersections of various competing discourses. In line with Butler’s idea that gender identity is constituted in and through discourse, narrative theorists also argue that paying attention to how the story is told reveals that a sense of self in relation to the social world is not a pre-linguistic given but a result of discursive praxis, constructed in and through language and particularly through the exchange of narratives of various kinds (Kerby 1986). Narrative is deeply constitutive of what we perceive as “reality”, as well as essential for individual identity construction (Dienstag 1997; MacIntyre 1984; Nash 1994; Taylor 1989): our “life” (including our gendered identity) is a narrative achievement (Bruner 1987). Women’s Studies have been at the forefront of narrative studies and numerous specialists from many disciplines work in this area. They often emphasize the relationship between auto- bio-graphy and gender construction, and the ways in which women’s self-representations contest master-scripts through innovative formal structures.11 Women’s narratives, whether polished and published or informal and relatively private, play an essential role in understanding what it means to be a “woman” in various contexts and how women resist imposed definitions both in their lives and in the stories they tell about them. Feminist criticism of traditional narrative forms Feminist theory asserts that systems of meaning are never gender- neutral but bear the gendered marks of their originators and their receivers. When participating in narrative practices, women need to be cautious in adopting or adapting established models and strategies, including assumptions about genre, plot, and style or rhetoric. Teresa de Lauretis (1987) and Sidonie 62 Smith (1987) have pointed out that when narrating their lives, women often have difficulty in adjusting to narrative forms derived from masculine models and norms. De Lauretis (1987) argues that because conventional narrative forms are patriarchal, women have learned to read and experience narrative texts through masculine eyes, and tend to see themselves through “the male gaze”. Smith has summed up many studies of autobiography that have shown how that genre was constructed according to ideologies of male selfhood that posit women as the “incomplete man” or the essentialized Other (1987). Some critics, like Maria Brewer (1984), claim that the classic “plot” of many male life-stories reveals a “discourse of male desire recounting itself through the narrative of adventure, project, enterprise, and conquest”, with the conquest often including that of a woman (Lanser, 1986:687). Lancer (1986) showed that traditional narrative theorists defined plot in terms of units of anticipation and fulfillment, or problem and solution, assuming a power and possibility available to the hero that may be inconsistent with women’s experiences or desires. Women’s lives are often seen as “plotless” in traditional narratology, aside from the predictable fate (assumed to be fulfillment) of marriage and motherhood. Like Nancy Miller (1988) Lancer urges us to reexamine theories of plot and story, as well as examples by women, and to seek new language and narrative forms to convey women’s attempts to “make sense” of their lives. Hélène Cixous (2000), followed by other poststructuralist feminist theorists in France (including Luce Irigaray) and elsewhere, asserted that women are ultimately unrepresentable in language, when it is seen as “the discourse of man”. Patrizia Violi (1992) argues that since most women still do not have social and collective forms of self-representation which they have produced themselves as subjects, they have to negotiate with existing language structures and 63 social representations of what a ‘woman’ is. When women are invited to speak, they have to speak ‘like men’, or as men imagine women should speak, in order to be heard. Smith (1987) argues that when women write and tell their lives, they often convey their feelings, experiences, hopes, and identities in a way that lives up to conventional patriarchal notions of being female. For example, they tend to prioritize partnership in a heterosexual marriage above female friendship, or the joys of domestic life over their desire for more education, or envy of men’s more public life, rather than longing for community with other women. Irigaray (1985) also showed that women can implicitly place quotation marks around such accounts, showing in subtle ways that they are quoting from a pre-scribed script, consciously performing a role and therefore potentially questioning or contesting it by revealing it as impersonation or masquerade. The context in which women’s narratives are produced and received controls how they are interpreted (for example, as conforming or parodic). As Dale Spender (1980) pointed out, since the general context of narrative production and dissemination is based on gendered, male- centred expectations, women’s public discourse may be contaminated by internal or external censorship. Writing/telling publicly has often been synonymous with writing for men (Lanser 1986: 684), and narrative forms associated with women’s own desire to write for themselves or other women have mostly been in the private domain (journals, letters) or the denigrated sub- genre of popular “female” (romance) fiction, producing texts which reproduce models that are “culturally mandated, internally policed and hegemonically poised” (de Lauretis, 1987:5). Feminist criticism of traditional autobiography points out that its form is not only patriarchal and masculine, but also heterosexist. As Sedgwick argued, knowledge is constrained by and modeled on ideologies that support heterosexuality (1990). William Stephenson (2000) 64 notes that traditional narrative systems are dominated by a “heteronarrative”, organized around the patriarchal goals of marriage and reproduction, enforcing “compulsory heterosexuality” (Rich 1980). Marilyn Farwell points out that the traditional narrative as an “institution” depends on “gender and sexuality alignments” and normative sexual expectations, its narrative patterns are the condition of and reaffirm a heterosexual dyad with male centrality (1996: 26, 41). Most literary representations of women have been based on “the plot of heterosexual romance” (Julie Abraham 1996:xix), even those produced by women, making lesbian experiences un- representable, and invisible (Hallett 1999:79). The limits of narrative Women’s narratives, even those that reveal conformity, are useful for our understanding of social life and the production of gendered subjectivities, but there are some further limitations in using narratives as research data and narrative analysis as a method. On the one hand, we need to be conscious of the subjectivity of truth claims derived from narratives. On the other, we must acknowledge that even “scientific” truth is based on narrative, and data are always shaped by interpretation. We also need to be cautious and aware of the danger of “narrative imperialism” (Phaelan 2005), of reducing (or expanding) everything to narrative. As Strawson (2004) warns us, we need to consider whether the grand narrative of self-as-narrative (the argument for “narrative identity”) can be “one size fits all”. My understanding is that individuals have different relationships to both meta-narratives and personal stories, based on differences of gender, class, ethnicity, age etc. At a theoretical level, people are able to experience selfhood as narrative in different degrees. At a practical level, not everyone is a good storyteller and not 65 every woman will find narrative (especially textual or oral narrative) the best way to express herself. Gender is clearly established and represented discursively, through language (with all the problems of translation that entails). The choice of words and narrative structure may also deploy stereotypes about women’s modes of self-expression, or display resistance to them. Oral narrative has the advantage of revealing directly how the narrators negotiate the use of a particular language, but it alone has limited capability to provide a rich sense of the visual aspects of a particular gender project and how the multiple cultural significations of gender work. In addition, gender as a signifying practice is also produced and performed through “the stylization of the body” (Butler 1990: 140), relying on a shared sign system that encodes gender. Cultural significations are inscribed on, shown through, and materialized through bodily gestures, expressions, movements, and styles of various kinds. The materialization of gender through body-language is extended through clothing, hairstyle etc. It can be asserted that the visual aspect is as important as the discursive aspect of gender signification, if not more so. In the stories to be examined here, the women’s performance and depiction of their gender through external physical appearance will be given as close attention as their use of narrative form and language. “Women-centred and women-defined discourse” Narrative constructs subjectivity and vice-versa, since the structure of subjectivity is inscribed in the deep structure of narrative itself (Violi 1992). In order to make the meaning and experience of being a woman speakable, symbolized, and heard, women must seek or invent ways of 66 representing themselves, to construct and convey their “other” subjectivity (Violi 1992). Smith suggests that a “women-centered and woman-defined discourse” (1987: 59) is required so that women’s experiences and feelings can be represented in their narratives. Many women in the West have now attempted to experiment with “alternative languages of self and storytelling”, including consciously describing experiences that would not be considered interesting or appropriate autobiographical material by traditional male standards and trying out new forms or media of expression (Smith 1987). While some may question the concept of a “women-centered and woman-defined discourse” as essentialist, my understanding is that a differentiated woman’s voice can derive from one’s gendered social location of being constructed, socialized, and positioned as a woman in a male-dominant world, rather than from one’s biology. The focus is thus not on the sex of author or reader as a predetermined condition of “feminine” narrative production, nor should we assume a correspondence between a subject’s sex, gender, and sexuality; rather, we can trace how gender is constructed in women’s lives not prior to but through the process of becoming a woman, in narrative processes,12 and analyze the gendered context in which specific women’s lives are situated and their narratives are produced. Following Smith’s advice to experiment with alternative narrative strategies that “shift the terms of representation, and (…) produce the conditions of representability of another—and gendered—social subject” (Smith 1987: 109), I chose to develop an innovative interviewing method. Three aspects were different from most oral life-history procedures: (1) I used dialect and hybrid languages in the interviewing process, drawing attention to the situation of both speaker and listener in relation to language; (2) I used a “telling and retelling” interview method 67 by asking participants to re-tell their lives a second time, probing more deeply into gender- related issues, making their narrative choices and the effects of the first telling more noticeable; (3) I requested visual records of their lives (such as photo albums and art) as a complement to their oral, recorded stories, in order to juxtapose their physical performances of embodied gender with their narrated stories. Language and alternative storytelling The range of women I was able to interview in China led me to consider the implications of narrating in different dialects or multiple (or hybrid) languages as an important element in opening up alternative ways of telling their lives. I conducted four interviews in the participants’ hometown dialect (Sichuan dialect, which I speak),13rather than using the official spoken language, Mandarin (see Chapter 3).14 “Chinese” is an umbrella term for many different forms of written and spoken Chinese languages. Spoken Chinese comprises many regional varieties, and the English word dialect is used to translate the Chinese term fangyan (literally “regional speech”) for these varieties. Some of the dialects are not mutually intelligible. In Mainland China, Mandarin is taught starting in elementary school, and the entire educational system is in Mandarin. Yet for many people from the southern regions, Mandarin is not their mother tongue or everyday language. They speak their own dialects at home, and often only speak Mandarin at school and on official or professional occasions. Even for those interviews conducted in Mandarin, many participants still from time to time resorted to using certain expressions unique to their local dialects (for people from the North, this means variations of Mandarin), to articulate certain reactions and feelings. The story in Chapter 3 also shows that dialect is not 68 immune from the invasion of official discourses, and its use may not necessarily prevent participants from resorting to master-scripts in the representation of their experience. Three of the fifteen participants had studied or lived outside of China. When they told their life story (one in the Sichuan dialect) to me, a Chinese researcher based in Canada, they sometimes used English words in their narratives. One woman, a lesbian artist (Chapter 4), has had long exposure to transnational queer culture and the global gay network. Not surprisingly she also used English to evoke certain queer issues. The use of English words was partially facilitated by the specific narrative context, when both participant and researcher spoke the same second language. This brought a hybrid quality to the narrative exchange, involving not only language choice, but translation and synthesizing, appropriation of different ideological resources, and the construction of hybrid cosmopolitan gender identities. The mix of English words in these women’s narratives opens up the potential to disrupt the dominant, masculine and heterosexual, language system representing a culture that makes women’s and lesbians’ experience and desires unrepresentable. Telling and retelling The conventional way of conducting a life story interview is the “stream of consciousness” (Atkinson 1997:32) approach, in which a researcher invites participants to tell their life stories with minimal interruption and intervention. The researcher will ask open-ended questions only when necessary, in order to elicit the telling of the life story and to encourage the narrator to continue. It is generally recommended that in a life story interview, the fewer questions asked, the better (Atkinson 1997:42). Letting the narrator hold the floor not only leads to the free 69 association of thoughts, it also makes it possible to analyze what has been called the participant’s “meaning-frame” (Hollway and Jefferson 2000), which is the way she organizes and phrases her life, thoughts, and feelings. However, there are limitations to this interviewing method, because of the masculine conventions traditional narrative forms convey, as discussed earlier. As feminists (such as Smith, 1987) have argued, women often unconsciously follow a masculine paradigm of what is important and worthy of telling, and minimize or leave out women-specific experiences. It is hard to go beyond and revise “master-scripts” when employing only the conventional life story interview method, when the storyteller is not intentionally reflective about her choice of narrative models. Rachel DuPlessis (1985) asserts that one way to subvert and rewrite master narratives so that women can be represented is to change the conventional patterns of narrative closure. She suggests a “writing beyond the ending” (1985:4) strategy that rejects the “happily ever after” endings of fairy tales (see also Miller 1988). To offer alternative narrative closures or non- closures, women who narrate their life stories can be encouraged and given space to tell and retell their stories, to verbalize and examine the contradictions of their lives, enabling them to articulate the complexities, confusions, and indeterminacies of lived reality and thwarting the inclination to end with “happily ever after.” Feminist critics and theorists who work on “lesbian autobiography” argue that differences in desire change an autobiographical narrative’s content and form. Lesbians can disrupt patriarchal narrative conventions through excess, manipulation, and alternative plots, as they narrate “within, under, and beside accepted narratives” (Johnston 2007: 7). 70 Duplessis and many other theorists focus mostly on written accounts. How can “narrating beyond the ending” be facilitated in an oral life story context? My solution was to conduct the interviews in two parts: in the first part the research participant tells her life-story straightforwardly, as she sees fit, and in the second she retells it, in response to open-ended questions from the interviewer. The first telling gives prominence to the narrator’s agency and imagination, as she decides not only the content but also the structure of the story.15 The first telling enabled me to examine their representation and interpretation of their life through both the content and the narrative form. The second telling often takes the form of a conversation, with my gender- specific probing intervening through open-ended the questions. They focused on women’s life cycle (including intergenerational differences), family relationships, love and marriage, childbirth and motherhood, and female friendships. I invited them to comment on their understanding of gender identity in relation to femininity, especially with regard to appearance (fashion and style). At the end, I asked each woman to reflect upon the storytelling process and give her assessment of her life. I used a checklist of questions adapted from the sample life-story interview questions provided by Atkinson (1997:43-54),16 with some revisions. I made notes when I listened to each life-story, and invited further commentary on any aspects that seemed to be missing. By attending to what was absent in the first story, I gained a more in-depth understanding of each woman’s life, based not only on what was told, but what was initially silenced. Since many of my questions are gender-related, they often triggered the participant’s memories and led her to tell more stories that revealed unexpected or hidden aspects of her life, 71 as well as encouraging her to comment on gender issues and freely discuss them. The life story told in the first part is often invaded, revised or replaced by the retelling and reflection in the second part. Contradictions and conflicts often emerge, as will be seen in the four stories that I will analyze in depth. In my analysis, I indicate whether the narrative extracts are from the first or second part of the interview when I cite them; this should help the reader to contextualize the narratives, and speculate on the gains of the retelling. This process of further discussion through open-ended questions creates the conditions and space for women to tell “beyond the ending”. In this process, the researcher and the participants work together to explore alternative ways of telling, knowing and representing women’s lives. Their cooperation creates a feminist narrative project that goes beyond the usual narrative conventions of what is worth telling and how, and becomes a collaborative endeavor enabling conflicting, desires and previously un-representable experiences to be conveyed. The gaps, contradictions, and revisions between the two parts of the storytelling bring hidden aspects and emotions to the foreground. The retelling empowers the narrator as she gains self- knowledge through telling her life as a woman and reflecting on it. Juxtaposing verbal and visual representations As a further stimulus to reflection, and a means of reviving memory and rethinking some of what was told the first time around, I also invited the participants to show me their personal photo albums (or art work), which convey a different type of information about physical appearance in relation to gender, over time. Considering the limits of oral narrative, paying attention to these visual images helped me work against the conventional, culturally consecrated primacy accorded 72 to the mind over the body, and provided access to alternative ways of knowing. In Chapter 4, dealing with an artist, I use two interrelated sources, verbal and visual, to better understand the artist’s self-representation in images and words. Attending to both helped me explore the interrelations between image and language, and between the “self” as constructed through autobiographical narration and the artist’s depiction of her own body in her paintings. In both cases, what is not said, or not shown, but may be implied, provokes a reflection on the limits of the sayable or showable (or the hearable or seeable), and the relationship between them. While I have not made extensive use of the photographic material provided by other participants in this project, it is an aspect that I intend to follow up on in future research. Master-scripts and Chinese scripts While Western feminist narrative studies provide important insights, in the course of this dissertation I also reflected on difficulties posed by the use of Western feminist theories as a lens to examine Chinese women’s experiences. Even though the idea of a “masculine master-script” is useful in keeping me alert to the problematic relationship between women and narrative, I found that this concept sometimes seemed too general and abstract, hard to pinpoint, and lacking in applicability. In analyzing the stories in depth, I explored strategies to identify not only generally recognized masculine master-scripts but specific models unique to the Chinese cultural context, such as "speaking bitterness" and “Cultural Revolution as the dark age” storylines (Chapter 2). 73 I also found that there is no single “masculine master-script” to be identified and dealt with, rather, master-scripts take culturally and historically specific forms and manifest themselves through numerous variations. Furthermore, the “masculine master-script” does not always have a coherent and therefore readily recognizable presence, but is often fragmented and illusive, its power and influence on a certain narrative depending on the narrator’s exposure to and reception of it. Especially in oral narrative, the pre-defined path may be disrupted by language and the telling context. In the stories I collected the masculine master script did not always have a strong presence, and in some cases it was significantly weakened when a less- educated and less well-read rural woman narrates her life in her hometown dialect (Chapter 3) associated with informal conversation rather than formal accounting for one’s actions. Throughout the process, I was made aware of my own role as addressee, occupying an in- between status of intermediary between Chinese and Western contexts. A critical and self-reflective approach In this research, rather than drawing on one single theory to explain Chinese women’s lives, I engage in a wide range of theoretical discussions, in relation to the specific lives of women I interviewed. My approach is inductive, exploring my own ways of approaching these stories, of analyzing, interpreting, and theorizing these women’s lives, through repeatedly listening to their narratives. When themes and patterns emerge from these stories, I examine existing research to help me understand and interpret them. Theories and concepts have been called upon after my listening to these narratives, rather than being chosen beforehand. They offer me vocabulary and 74 ways of conceptualizing themes and issues, and put my analysis of Chinese women’s lives in dialogue with other feminist works, both inside and outside of China, in the Western or the Third World. The core value of this research lies in its engagement with a wide range of intersecting feminist theorizing about women’s lives around the world, to which I hope to offer my own insights as a Chinese woman transplanted to North America. In this process, theory is borrowed, and returned with interest.17 The first two stories to be discussed (in Chapters 2 and 3) are from women who have never left China, but whose experiences in relation to changing gender models have been very different because of their contrasting class backgrounds. The third conveys a lesbian life-story in a specifically Chinese context, where national or class identity is eclipsed by the transnational dimensions of global queer politics. The last is that of a successful, cosmopolitan businesswoman who has lived abroad and seems to represent fulfillment of the current dream. Yet her story, like the others, reveals ambivalent negotiation of Chinese and Western models of what it means to “become a woman”. Rather than using a theory to test my hypothesis, or China as a test case to examine Western theory, my analysis critically contextualizes theories, and consciously situates these women’s experiences in the context of Chinese history and the present social and political environment. By doing so, I explore the possibility of bringing forth an alternative way of approaching feminist analysis and theorizing, so that “a new understanding of the grounds of reciprocity and power relationship among different feminisms [can] be envisioned” (Lydia H. Liu 1999: 36). 1 Evans argues that these understandings make “normal” bodily functions a sign of women’s weakness and 75 contribute to the pathologizing of Chinese women’s bodies, reminding Chinese women that their sexuality is fundamentally defined by their reproductive function. As some critics suggest, Evans’ claim valorizes the “truth” of Western scientific perception of the female body and fails to understand the internal rationality of Chinese medical discourses on the body and female sexual health. See Jeffreys and Ross 1998. 2 Levenson argued that “culture is closed”, whereas Schwartz, argued that “culture is open”. 3 In Voicing Concerns: Critical Chinese Inquiries, Gloria Davis (2001) divided scholarship on China into Anglophone and Sinophone. I use this term to refer to scholarships written in English, by researchers in Europe, North America, and Australia, including both white feminists and those of Chinese descent. I put diverse studies into the same category as they are all more or less speaking to a shared intellectual community. 4 For instance, Andors 1983; Croll 1978; Davin 1976; Rawski 1977; Rowbotham 1974; Sidel 1972; Stacey 1975, 1976, 1983; Wolf and Witke 1975; Young, 1973. 5 For instance, Beauvoir 1958, Black 1986, Kristeva 1977; Sidel 1972, see also critiques of their work by Chow 1991, 1993; Teng 1996; Yu 2002. 6 See Andors 1983; Broyelle,1977; Johnson 1983; Stacey 1983; Wolf 1985. 7 See, for instance, the activities of a feminist translation group (“East meets West”) in Beijing (Ge and Jolly 2003; Wang 1998). 8 See also Louie 2002; Louie and Low 2003. 9 For instance, this concern is expressed by Nancy Fraser and Sevla Benhabib, and Butler responds that the deconstruction of the subject does not mean its destruction, but involves an inquiry into the processes of its construction (Benhabib et al 1995:36). 10 See Somers and Gibson’s (1994) distinction between different types of narrative. 11 For example, Bell and Yalom 1990; De Lauretis 1985; DePlessis 1985; Fetterly 1978; Gordon 1986; Heilbrun 1988; Agarwal and Studies 2002; Lanser 1986,1996; Lieblich, Tuval-Mashiach, and Zilber 1998; Personal Narratives Group 1989; Robinson 1991; Rutland 1997; Smith 1987, 1988; Warhol 1999. 12 Robinson 1991: 198, note 230; quoted in Warhole,1997: 348. 13 For instance, Cantonese, which is spoken in Hong Kong and some parts of south China, is incomprehensible for a Mandarin-only speaker. Speakers of different dialects of Chinese have historically used one single formal written language. The contemporary Chinese written language is based on the grammar and vocabulary of Mandarin. 14 Mandarin is a category of related Chinese dialects spoken across most of northern and southwest China. “Standard” Mandarin refers to the standard Beijing dialect of the Mandarin language. As Rey Chow (2000:8) notes, as “standard Chinese” in the discipline of Chinese studies outside of China, Mandarin is also the “white man’s Chinese”. 76 15 There are limitations to this project too. When the participants are good storytellers and feel more comfortable talking about their lives in front of a stranger, the telling flows smoothly, their stories are told with fewer interruptions, and the structure of their life stories are more a product of their own. Some participants were not very good at telling their life stories; they often stopped and needed my guiding questions to move on. In these cases, the structure of their life stories is more heavily influenced by my questions and is less an independent product of their own. 16 Atkinson’s sample life story interview questions are not designed in gender specific ways and are heterosexual- orientated. I revised them to reflect women’s life cycles and concerns, and added some questions about gendered appearance, and some to include same-sex relationships. Sample questions are attached in Appendix II. 17 I am rephrasing Nicky Hallet’s remark: “In the economy of words, language is borrowed, if only temporarily, and returned with interest.” (Hallett 1999 23) 77 Chapter 2 Born into the Mao Era: Lin’s Life Story I will start my examination of the Maoist gender legacy with the life story of Lin, a fifty-year old urban woman who grew up in the Mao era and is now living in Beijing. Lin’s narrative sheds light on the configuration of the Maoist funü and how gender, class, and political membership intersect to define who qualified as one. Her narrative also reveals how the production of the Maoist funü as the normative ideal was sustained through “socially instituted and maintained norms of intelligibility” (Butler 1999: 23), which illegitimated those gendered beings who failed to conform to the funü prescription. Furthermore, having spanned both the Maoist and post-Mao eras, Lin’s life story demonstrates how the encounter of the Maoist gender project with the post- Mao reconfiguration of gender is played out in an individual woman’s gender project, and how a certain version of the Maoist funü inside Lin haunts her present-day negotiation with the post- Mao nüxing. To contextualize Lin’s life story, I will begin with a brief survey of the Maoist women’s liberation project and its post-Mao critique, as well as the class system in Maoist China. 78 Context Women’s Liberation in the Mao era As Lisa Rofel (1999) has demonstrated in her book Other Modernity, gender is one of the central areas in which modernity is imagined and desired in twentieth century China. “Women’s liberation” was, and still officially is, part of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) revolutionary agenda, and the Maoist gender project is at the centre of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) imagined vision of Chinese modernity. The PRC’s constitution, policies, and legislation are supposedly built upon “Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong thought”. “Women’s liberation” in China was largely guided by Mao’s interpretations of the May Fourth Movement and based on Marxist analysis of women’s oppression.1 The terms funü jiefang ("#&' women’s liberation) and funü yundong ("#() the women’s movement) were quickly taken over and used by the CCP, and women’s liberation was explained as achievable only through socialist revolution and women’s participation in productive labour. However, under Mao, western feminism was condemned at the time of the Revolution as bourgeois and individualist, and outspoken feminist women like Ding Ling (1942), who dared to criticize the party line on women, were punished for engaging in a type of “gender politics” deemed to be in conflict with party policy.2 79 In her analysis of the historical changes in the linguistic construction of “women” in twentieth-century China, Barlow (1994, 2004) points out that before the early twentieth century “funü” (!") was a relational subject produced within differential kin linkages. It signifies the collectivity of kinswomen in the semiotics of Confucian family doctrine. The term nüxing (#$ female sex) has been invoked as a discursive sign and a subject position in the context of anti- Confucian discourse since the 1920s. This conception changed the foundation of women’s identity from kin categories to sexual physiology. The term nuxing (#$) operates in the framework of the Western, male/female binary. It valorizes notions of female passivity, biological inferiority, intellectual inability, sexuality, and social absence. Rejecting the term nüxing for its bourgeois orientation, the Chinese Communist Party appropriated the term “funü” (!") to designate a collective political subject. Funü, or the masses of Chinese women, become the subject-effect of state discourses and a by-product of the Party’s legal, ideological, and organizational apparatus. As Barlow notes, the Maoist creation of the category of funü was not just a linguistic event but was embedded in a semiotic system that explicitly linked theory and practice (2004: 190). In reconfiguring gender relations and roles, it was implemented through public policies that affected both the private sphere (the family: equality of the sexes within consensual marriage, availability of contraception and family planning), and the public one (women’s full participation in the workforce, entailing equal rights to education and activity outside the home).3 These public policies partially reconfigured gender relations in both the home and the workplace, as well as women’s relation to the state. The rhetoric of these policies enabled the production of both symbolic and material effects, taking the idea of funü beyond its linguistic significance and 80 changing collective perceptions of women in society, including women’s own perceptions of themselves. “Women’s liberation” became part of a “universally validated and internalized notion of justice” (Lin Chun 2006:117), a goal accompanied by and accomplished through the redefinition of women. With changing expectations of women’s contribution to society and modified gender roles and behaviors a new, strong image of the ideal woman came into being in Chinese history: the Maoist woman, with a renewed name, funü, as a revolutionary subject. Funü, a new model of gendered being enabled by these public policies, was consolidated as a socialist subject through various symbolic representational practices. Fulian ("*), the All China Women’s Federation (ACWF), was designated as the political representative of funü ("#). As Barlow (1994, 2004) and others (such as Wang Zheng 2005) point out, until recently, Fulian has been in charge of all inscriptions of womanhood in official discourse, and retained the power to determine what constituted a funü. The celebration of Women’s Day (funüjie) is another important symbolic event that was institutionalized to propagandize the importance of funü. The first celebration of Women’s Day was announced in December 1949, immediately following the establishment of the PRC.4 Propagating the new model of funü involved the reconfiguration of femininity and masculinity through stylization of the body. Funü was made present by pervasive images of strong, active women engaged in physical work or traditional male occupations. Funü possess a re-defined “femininity”: a revolutionary proletarian womanhood that incorporated some aspects of traditional masculinity. Being a woman no longer implied traditional femininity associated with fragility or weakness, but revolutionary, proletarian force. What were previously 81 considered valuable qualities in women (domesticity, tenderness, goodness, moderation, humility, austerity, and tolerance: wen liang gong jian rang) became regarded as feudal, petit-bourgeois attributes, not suitable for funü because “revolution is not a dinner party” (Mao 1964).5 Characteristics earlier described as deviant, inappropriate, or vulgar because they were associated with lower-class men and women rather than upper-class women became positive attributes of the funü, who could speak loudly, adopt cruder body language, and appear more aggressive. This change has often been referred to as the “masculinization of Chinese women” or the de-emphasizing of gender difference. This interpretation, however, results from a conflation of gender and sexuality. As Roberts (2004a, 2004b, 2009) argued, rather than erasing gender difference, the Maoist gender project reassigns the feminine/masculine binary on a class basis, with the revolutionary masses valued as virile and strong (including fighting women), and more educated or sophisticated “counter-revolutionaries” derided and femininized as useless and non- productive.6 The supposed minimalization of gender difference according to appearance (by wearing uniforms, for example), was in fact less rigorous than is often assumed. There were actually clear-cut differences between women and men’s clothes (Finnane 1999, 2008). Wearing plain, faded, and patched clothes with no personal style or adornment signaled not so much a rejection of femininity as of the bourgeois lifestyle, and implied identification with the proletariat (Chen 2004). While the gender line was re-drawn or sometimes blurred when it came to the expression of femininity and masculinity, the regulation of women’s sexuality and reproduction largely remained under a compulsory heterosexual framework. Even though women’s sex- specific needs were ignored, and the funü’s body is a labouring body that does not menstruate, 82 give birth, feel sexual desire, or seek out pleasure (Barlow 2004: 275), women’s reproductive body was scientifically constructed and closely controlled by eugenic discourse, public hygienic campaigns, and increased population control through family planning (Evans 1997). Pre-marital chastity and sexual fidelity within marriage were required for both men and women. Rather than totally breaking away from traditional patriarchal ideas, the Maoist gender project actually espoused them in its strict control over women’s bodies and persistent gender division of labour (Stacey 1983). It is important to note that the Maoist refiguration of gender changed over time. As Barlow’s analysis (2004 :57-8) of the category of funü shows, before its political closure in 1949, funü inside the Soviet state had taken a range of subject positions beyond the reach of family and feudalism. While funü was positioned as an agent of politics outside of domestic closure before the late 1930s and 1940s, it was later reformulated through political processes that retained women and men in a sphere of politicized domestic relations. The ACWF was closed down (though later revived) in 1968 during the Cultural Revolution, after being accused of raising gender issues in opposition to class interests, and of distracting women from political life by focusing too much on family problems. There are also gaps and discrepancies between normative prescriptions and lived realities.7 Other gendered existences that are excluded from the statist category of Maoist funü persisted at the periphery and constantly disrupted and contested the centrality of funü. Furthermore, women’s reactions and relationships to the Maoist gender project were (and still are) complex and diverse, depending on their class, age, and other social locations.8 83 In the early 1980s, while the newly restored fulian (in 1978) sought to reassert its claim to represent the nation’s women and reinsert them into post-Mao political ideology, public debate questioned fulian’s position as representing Chinese women and the Party-mandated women’s liberation.9 These debates challenged the Maoist state’s exclusive control over Chinese women’s liberation discourses and the definition of “women”, and anticipated a new female subject position unrepresented by the Maoist funü. Li Xiajiang (1995) and other feminists accused the official Maoist gender project of obliterating sexual difference, denaturalizing women’s bodies, and making Chinese women into non-women. In both academia and popular culture there was a surge of interest in gender differentiation and discourses that affirm gender difference and heterosexuality (Woo 1994; Croll 1995). Discourses that define womanhood as a marker of “difference from men” and revalue femininity were developed as a political tool as part of “de-Maoicization” in the 1980s (Barlow 2004:275). The May Fourth conceptualization of nüxing, based on a heterosexist male/female binary, was recuperated in the post-Mao period as a means to resist the state inscription of funü. Some call this the “re-feminization” of Chinese women (Landsberger 1995:144, Luo and Hao 2007), characterized by a return to ‘traditional’ sex stereotypes. This process is parallel to what happened in post-communist Eastern Europe, where “tradition” was wielded to take back the state’s previous usurpation of familial patriarchal authority, and to recover men’s lost authority in nuclear families (Verdery 1996). The image of a sexualized, glamorous nüxing is constructed in contradistinction to what now seems to some to be a ridiculous, unnatural, overly politicized, and sexless Maoist funü. Many young urban women in the present era have disassociated themselves from the term funü, 84 viewing it as passé, associated with the Mao era and the older generation of socialist women. The development of an increasingly publicly visible lesbian community in China in the last decade has further problematized funü as a category that was supposed to represent “Chinese women”. Many lesbians reject this term for its implicitly heterocentric orientation, and object to the heterosexual focus of fulian, funü’s official representative. They identify themselves as nüxing, nütongzhi or lala rather than funü, implying their refusal to be subsumed under the jurisdiction of fulian, and allegiance to a different political orientation (see Chapter 4). The new category of women, the post-Mao “nüxing”, differs from the “masculinized” politically oriented Maoist funü by her more “natural”, “feminine” image and market orientation. Nüxing as consumer is associated with women from a different class location: she is a “modern”, educated younger urban woman from the emerging middle-class. As some researchers (such as Zhong 2006) point out, the changing terms and definitions for “women” are accompanied by radical shifts in class composition of the category of “women”, and the post-Mao nüxing represents a “bourgeois feminine imaginary” which is itself class-encoded, but erases the reality of class differentiations by evoking an essential “femininity” and “sexuality” (Zhong, 2006: 637, see also Chapter 2 for more discussion on this transition). Parallel to the Maoist reorganization of gender relations through the construction of a new category of women, funü, was the reorganization and new interpretation of social relations through a theory of class that reversed the hierarchy of the class system and sought to eliminate it. Funü was never a category encompassing all the women of China, but designated women associated with certain classes - namely workers and peasants – the proletariat whose women were supposed to be revolutionary. It defined funü as a political category represented by 85 socialist workers, women building the nation, and excluded “other” women who did not fit into that category. Furthermore, Barlow (2004:62) points out that the Maoist gender discourse inscribed gender difference at the level of reproductive physiology, positioning material (re)production as the site of difference, but did not theorize personality in physiological terms. This leaves the realm of feeling and identity bound to social class rather than sex or “gender”. Class, rather than gender, became the primary site where personal identity was assumed to be constructed and one’s relationship with the other defined. The class system in the Mao era Following the Marxist-Leninist tradition, the Chinese Communist Party (hereafter CCP or “the Party”) analysed Chinese society and politics primarily in terms of class struggle. It defined the Chinese revolution as the overthrowing of the class order of the “old society”, and the creation of a new egalitarian society free of class exploitation and oppression, by eliminating the ruling class and property-owners such as capitalists and landlords.10 Theories of class structure and class struggle were understood as scientific knowledge of social reality, and they created “a new consensus, a new public spirit, new social relationships and new institutions” in the new China (Billeter 1985:157-8). The connotations of “class” in China have changed over time since 1949. In the pre-liberation and immediate post-liberation period, the CCP leadership defined class primarily in socio-economic terms. A person’s class (jieji chengfen) was assigned according to the source of her/his economic support in the three years preceding 1949. The “class origin” of children follows the class of their parents, usually the father’s, and children experienced all its advantages or disadvantages (White 1976; Billeter 1985). In 1952, most of the Chinese 86 population was classified by class origin (Chan, Madsen, and Unger 1992; Hinton 1966), since “there is no one on earth who is not a member of a class” (Li Zhongyang 1956:9, cited in Kraus 1981:40). People’s class status appeared in all their papers and in all the files that concerned them, because of great importance in the working world, in social relations, and especially in political life. Abstract classifications became lived representations, as the functions of class status include not only representation but also distribution of resources (Billeter 1985:P. 129-130; Kraus 1982; J. Watson 1984). Class determined the distribution of property, rights, opportunities, power, and prestige. In short, a person's entire social reality was defined in terms of her or his class label (White 1976: 2; Billeter 1985: 138, 146-7). In the 1960s, there were two institutionalised definitions of “class’ in China, which White (1976) called the “old” and the “new” class systems. (1976:5). The ‘socialist transformation’ of 1955-56, the land reform and the subsequent collectivization of agriculture in the countryside, and the socialization of private industry and commerce in the city, had destroyed the foundation of the old propertied classes. However, the “old” class system had never been updated, and became a frozen set of markers of social status that indicated one’s historical location in a property-based stratification system which no longer existed (see Kraus 1981). Mao Zedong redefined “class” as an ideological category, which differs from Marx’s purely economic definition. In Mao’s work, the word “class” confuses class strata, occupations, and political attitudes, dissolving all these into “the people”. The terms “proletariat”, “peasant”, and “capitalist” do not refer to objective categories based on different relationships to the means of production, but to political attitudes and degrees of support for the Communist party (Harris 87 1978). In this “new” class definition, classes are no longer defined by their relationship to the means of production, but to subjective factors. The definition takes into account personal class status, subjective attitude (sixiang) towards the socialist regime, and their individual behaviour (biaoxian) (Billeter 1985; White 1976). The “old” socio-economically based class categories are overlaid rather than replaced by the “new” understanding of class (White 1976). This new explicit system of class status was introduced to control the comprehension of social relations, and the strict categorization of people created a new stratification system that institutionalised inequalities of power. Ironically, in a system ostensibly aimed at achieving equality, all the designations, whether derived from standard class analysis or referring to professional categories, constituted a new system of inequalities and established a society fashioned even more than before on a hierarchy of status that governed every individual’s life and relationships with others (Billeter 1985). In official rhetoric, the triad of worker-peasant- soldier (gong nong bing) was glorified as the most progressive and leading force in socialist China (Billter 1985).11 Two elite groups also emerged: a party-power elite with its own sense of superior solidarity and a life-style based on special economic and social privileges, and a new social elite composed of university-trained specialists and professionals (White 1976). These groups were called “cadres”, and constituted a class unto themselves, as the term “cadre” was attended by special rights and prestige (Billter 1985). In the work-grades categorization of 1956, the “cadre category” (ganbubianzhi) belonged to a special system managed by personnel departments. A university graduate was classified into the “cadre category” on entering the workforce, while other employees, including workers and lower ranking civil servants, belonged to the “worker category” (gongren bianzhi) managed by 88 the labour department. The two distinct groups received different treatment in terms of salary, health benefits, housing, medical care, and retirement pensions. The cadres became a new elite group distanced from other citizens, and their children enjoyed superior status and privileges (Kraus 1981). This hierarchy is an essential component of Lin’s story. Lin’s life story Figure 1 Lin: Photo by Xin Huang, 2006, reproduced here with Lin’s permission. Outline To facilitate the analysis, I will provide a brief summary of Lin’s life story before proceeding to discuss it.12 Lin grew up in the Mao era, in one of these new elite cadre families. Her paternal grandfather was an old-style private-school teacher and a doctor. Her paternal grandmother (hereafter referred to as Nainai) was illiterate and had bound feet. She married into the family as the grandfather’s concubine, and had been a widow since her 30s. She lived with the family of her son, Lin’s father, who went to university in Beijing and became the principal of a high school 89 there. Lin’s mother worked in the Machinery Bureau in Beijing. Lin was born in the Mao era, in 1956, and was fifty years old at the time of the interview. Her family moved to Beijing when she was two. Lin was brought-up by Nainai and is very close to her. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), Lin’s father was beaten by the Red Guards and sent to a labour camp, and her mother was sent to work in a factory in Shaanxi province. Lin finished high school and was sent down to live and work in the countryside for two years (1974- 1976, when she was aged 18-20). In 1976, Lin came back to Beijing and worked in a post office for five years. In 1980, she obtained a job as a librarian where her mother worked. In 1985, Lin quit that job and began work as an office administrator for a small company belonging to a university, with only two employees. She was still in this position when I interviewed her. Lin married her husband, a doctor at a university hospital, in 1984 at the age of twenty- eight, and has a daughter. She lives in a three-bedroom apartment on the outskirts of Beijing, and drives to work. Lin’s daughter was in New Zealand, having just finished her university education, and was looking for a job there. Lin wants to travel or live abroad with her daughter after retiring. Lin’s interview is composed of two parts: her telling of her life story, and our further discussion about her life based on open-ended questions. I have used information from both parts of the interview in my analysis, and indicate the sources of the extracts by noting whether they are from the first or second part of the interview. At the end, I will compare the two parts of the interview, and explore how the telling and retelling of Lin’s life helped generate new ways of representing and understanding her life as one woman in particular, and of thinking about women’s lives in general in China. 90 Jiatingfunü Nainai: the forgotten protagonist In Lin’s family, there were two women in the house: Lin’s mother, who worked outside the home, and her Nainai, who lived with them as a housewife and primary caregiver. Lin grew up between these two models of being a woman: the traditional domestic funü represented by her Nainai, and the “liberated” working funü represented by her mother. I actually grew up with my Nainai, because my parents … at that time everyone was a bit busy, so Nainai looked after me… My Nainai didn’t read a single word. She was a housewife. But my Nainai was a typical Shandong person. She was very bold and uninhibited, upheld justice and was very loyal to her friends. . . She stood up against the Japanese, and…because she had lived as a widow since she was in her 30s, she was very tough. Apparently my Nainai was my grandpa’s concubine... (Lin 2006, part 1) Being illiterate, with bound feet, and a former concubine, Nainai in many ways fits the stereotype of the traditional funü, who is simultaneously the victim and embodiment of traditional Chinese patriarchy. Lin’s narrative reveals her ambivalent attitude towards Nainai as a housewife (jiatingfunü), which is the social identity she used to describe her. The conjunction “but” in the narrative segment above indicates that Lin is aware of the negative connotation attached to Nainai’s social status, but tries to contest its negative association. She strategically deploys Nainai’s multiple identities and prioritizes her regional identity, one that is positively evaluated in Chinese society. She also emphasizes Nainai’s moral qualities as a loving, nurturing, and upright person. Her positive evaluation of Nainai challenges the negative perception of a housewife. In response to the often unacknowledged contribution and invisible social position of the jiatingfunü under the Maoist reconstruction of funü, Lin repeated four times 91 in her narrative that she was brought up by her Nainai, giving her credit for caring for the young and sick, and all the family members’ daily life: It’s my Nainai who brought me up, so the feeling I have for my Nainai seems much deeper than that for my parents….Then they suspected me having leukemia... During this period, to be honest, why did I like Nainai? My Nainai cooked about 100-200 batches of Chinese herbal medicine for me. …She also went to look for folk prescriptions for rheumatism treatment. She got tiger’s excrement from the zoo, wrapped the excrement around my legs, heated up a big rock, and pressed it over the excrement. The heat penetrates into the joints, to treat them, to treat rheumatism. It was very effective. My Nainai, with little bound feet, went to the zoo to collect the tiger’s excrement... (Lin 2006, part 1) Some feminists, such as Li Xiaojiang, argue that discourse about the emancipation of women in the Maoist period made participation in the workforce equivalent to women’s liberation. Yet women were still (like elsewhere) mainly responsible for reproductive and domestic labour, which often resulted in the “double burden” of being responsible for work inside and outside the home (Li Xiaojiang 1989). In practice, the picture is more complicated. Working women in the Maoist time, especially those living in the cities, had some resources and strategies to deal with their double burden. In order to enable women’s participation in “productive labour” (meaning paid formal labour outside of home), social services offered by the state and work units, such as canteen meals, nurseries and kindergartens, helped to relieve them of some domestic tasks. Even though the dining halls and collective childcare and collective washing and sewing circles disappeared after the ending of the Great Leap Forward campaign (Manning, 2006), they were still largely available in urban areas, mostly provided by working units. However, these services could not eliminate all the housework, and many families, like Lin’s, adopted a common coping strategy in calling on other (often older) female family 92 members with no formal employment to shoulder the task. They could be the grandmothers (often a mother-in-law who lived with the son’s family), or other female relatives such as cousins, nieces, aunts, or sisters.13 Lin mentioned that Nainai was called on for help not only by her family, but also by her uncle’s family. Female neighbours or colleagues might sometimes help as well. Before the Cultural Revolution some families hired maids or nannies, or left babies in the care of host families. After the Cultural Revolution started, hiring a maid or nanny was regarded as bourgeois exploitation and was forbidden. When some family members with rural hukou (residence registration) were required to leave because of their suspicious political background or unlawful presence in the city, many urban families with working parents had to put their children in boarding nurseries, or send them to their parents’ families, either in the city or back in a rural hometown where there were women without formal employment who could provide care for their children. They are the unacknowledged domestic workers whose unpaid labour enabled other Maoist funü to work outside the home. The Maoist gender project aimed to divert women’s loyalty from the Confucian patriarchal family to the communist party-state. As previously discussed and by Barlow (1991, 2004), before the early twentieth century “funü” (!") was not a sexual identity grounded in anatomical difference, but was situated within jia (+, family) or a kinship network. When the communist party-state appropriated the term and made it designate a new political entity, it reconfigured women’s gender roles and resituated funü within both the state (guojia ,+/ production) and the family (jiating +-/ reproduction). In other words, women were transformed from the women of the family/kin, to the women of the nation/family. Barlow further argues that since the modern socialist jiating and Maoist guojia coexisted in a 93 synecdochic unity and are concept-metaphors of each other, funü becomes the mediation between the modern state and the modern Chinese family. As Kimberly Manning (2006) points out, the Marxist materialist gender discourse promoted by the ACWF rearticulated rather than rejected the family; it emphasizes women’s economic independence, maternal health and family harmony, thus putting great stress on both women’s financial independence outside the home and their duties as wives and mothers inside the home. Official discourse on women’s gender roles fluctuated along with the changing needs for labour after 1949. The official line encouraged women’s mass participation in the work force in the 1950s, but then changed to encouraging women to stay at home as good wives and mothers in the early 1960s when the economy slowed down and a labour surplus emerged. However, since the CCP’s Marxist analysis of women’s liberation theoretically regarded women’s participation in the labour force (and consequent economic independence) as the only means to women’s liberation, jiatingfunü were still looked on as women who had not yet been liberated. While many women were enlisted into the formal labour force after the establishment of the PRC and became “socialist labourers”, many others remained outside of the formal economy. Those who become funü were materially rewarded and recognized as the official collective female subject of the socialist state, while those who fell outside of the category of funü experienced marginalization and stigmatization. Lin’s story about her Nainai lead me to look at a very important protagonist whom I have overlooked in my initial research design, a person who emerged as of central importance in many women’s life stories: the jiatingfunü grandmother. Among the fifteen women I interviewed, four were brought up by their jiatingfunü grandmothers, one was brought up by her jiatingfunü 94 mother, and one rural woman was brought up by her sister-in-law. Some had their grandparents living with them or nearby, lending helping hands. This group of women was largely invisible in the Maoist era, and not included in the representation of the Maoist funü as socialist labourer since they had no formal employment. As Evans (1999:75) points out, there is an erasure of the “old woman” in Cultural Revolution posters, contrary to the regular appearance of older men in authoritative positions, such as the arbiter, the potential head of the household, the old doctor, and the old peasant. When older women did appear in some of the model operas and films of the Cultural Revolution, they were frequently honored as the mother of revolutionary heroes or volunteers (see also Paul Clark 1987). Evans sees this choice of representation as signifying the cultural associations of revolution with the future, and thus with the youth who can transform the socialist ideals of the present into reality. Women who were older, illiterate, from a “bad” class background, or with heavy family burdens worked at home or in informal sectors; they did not fit the funü ideal and were therefore not counted as “women”. They were leftovers from the “old China” who failed to keep up with the times and transform themselves into the “new women of China”, were victims of the old gender order, embodiments of “tradition”, who could not represent China’s socialist future. They were referred to as “women of the family” (jiatingfunü +-"#) as opposed to the “women of the nation”: funü. The Jiatingfunü designation thus had negative connotations during the Mao era and was often associated with older, illiterate, rural or small town “traditional” women, or bourgeois wives (taitai). They were perceived as women who were uneducated, politically backward, and economically dependent, whose work at home was not recognized as work. Their lives were described as centered on the wok, ignorant of the outside world and new 95 thoughts. The existence of these “women of the family” revealed the exclusionary process by which the Maoist funü was constructed: it prohibited “other” women from entering the realm of representation and rendered other gendered existences illegitimate. Excluded from the category of funü and “labourer”, these women were left out of the “women’s liberation” of the CCP, and their contribution to the family and to society was erased. Even though the Maoist gender project glorifies the Maoist funü and marginalizes jiatingfunü, my research participants show that they did not forget these jiatingfunü who brought them up, and have deep emotional connections with them—often exceeding their affection for their parents (and mothers in particular). They tried to contest their jiatingfunü caregivers’ negative social status and acknowledge their contribution. They also experience emotional and intellectual struggles and identification conflict between two very different gender models, valorized for very different reasons. I will discuss this issue further in Chapter 5, in relation to Anne’s life story. Despite growing up soaked in the women’s liberation rhetoric of the Mao era, Lin consciously acknowledged and valued Nainai’s life as a jiatingfunü, and positively identified with the traditional script for women passed on by her. Nainai won Lin’s love and respect through her affectionate care, self-sacrifice, and dignified conduct. Lin identifies with Nainai not only emotionally, but also intellectually. She clearly acknowledges Nainai’s influence in her understanding about how to be a woman, and strongly identifies with Nainai’s teaching about womanhood , which she repeated six times in her narrative: My Nainai told me that a woman shouldn’t be gluttonous or lazy. If a woman is gluttonous, then there will be trouble. It is also not OK for a woman to be lazy. So I always remember these two teachings. So I told my daughter, “You remember, a woman shouldn’t be gluttonous or lazy. Other things are not essential.” 96 (Lin 2006, part 2) The important role Nainai played in Lin’s ideas about being a woman reminded me to look into not only the emotional but also the intellectual influence of the jiatingfunü gender model on some women who grew up in the Mao era. Even though their existences were largely invisible in Maoist gender discourse, these jiatingfunü often occupied a unique position in their families, where they contested the power and gender roles conferred by the state on the Maoist funü. So my Nainai…is illiterate, and had a very strong belief in the feudal mentality (fengjianguanlian). So things like… about the daughter-in-law, “How could a daughter-in-law just sit around? The daughter-in- law has to go and do the laundry; my son can’t do the laundry.” …But I felt my Nainai was always right, everything was my mother’s fault. Even today, when my mother talks about it, she would say, “You see, when I was about to deliver you, I grabbed a big basin of clothes. It was me who had to wash them, your father wouldn’t help. If your father gave me a hand to wash the clothes, your Nainai would be upset: ‘How could a big man wash the clothes? You are complaining about doing the laundry? Who doesn’t give birth? What is such a big deal about that?’”….. I told my mom, “To be honest, I know that Nainai was being unreasonable, but that was the way people were back then, she lived through her life that way…you can’t criticize her now…” (Lin 2006, part 1) The reference to a “feudal mentality” here refers to Chinese traditional thinking. It covers a broad range of “old” ways of thinking as compared to the new thoughts of the Mao era. In the context of this story, Nainai’s “feudal mentality” might include her idea of men as superior to women, and the traditional gender division of labor Nainai tried to maintain. The “men are superior to women” idea was criticized during the Mao era, and replaced with Mao’s teaching: “times are different now, men and women are the same, women can do whatever men can do”. In this story, Nainai the jiatingfunü attempted to maintain the traditional patriarchal gender order 97 and exercise her power derived from that order over her Maoist funü daughter-in-law, who worked outside of the home, earned an independent income, and expected her husband to share the housework. As a chaste widowed mother who managed to bring up two sons by herself, Nainai enjoyed a socially recognized and respected position in the old gender system, but lost her social privilege and experienced marginalization in the Mao era. Lin’s educated mother, the funü who stepped out of the home and disobeyed the traditional gender prescription by shying away from her obligations as a daughter-in-law, wife, and mother, saw her “transgression” socially sanctioned and financially rewarded. The clash between Nainai and her mother-in-law goes beyond a common domestic power struggle between mother and daughter-in-law, typical of the Confucian patriarchal family setting, and exemplifies a political contestation over legitimacy and authority between two gender models: the Maoist one and the previously dominant Confucian or “feudal” one. Ironically, the younger generation of women attained their goals (and the government’s) on the backs of the older generation of women whose labour was not recognized, who were rendered invisible as women, or became non-women. Yet in this case the “liberated” Maoist funü had to submit to her old-fashioned mother-in-law’s gender order. Nainai made it very clear that no matter what had changed in the outside world, inside the home tradition ruled. Nainai’s rule revealed the limitations of Maoist women’s liberation, as funü competed with men at the workplace to prove they were men’s equals, but often still had to submit to a traditional gender hierarchy at home. In this narrative, Lin is more sympathetic towards her Nainai than her mother. She is politically aware but emotionally forgiving towards Nainai’s “feudal mentality”. The conflict 98 between Nainai and her mother had a long-lasting influence on Lin’s life, and she remains ambivalent towards both models. They have left her with conflicting views and perceptions about herself and how she should live her life as a woman, a topic to which I will return shortly. Never, never a worker Lin’s ambivalent attitude to the Maoist funü model represented by her mother’s generation is also revealed in her reservations about the class-based concept of a “proletarian” femininity. On the one hand, she is influenced by the ideal that women can do whatever men can do, and inspired to be a strong and successful funü, on the other hand she wants to disassociate herself from the “proletarian” aspects of being a strong and independent woman, and to claim an elite class identity through what I will call a “petit bourgeois” femininity that she sees as an alternative revolutionary femininity. Coming from an elite family of cadres, Lin grew up with a sense of class privilege and distance from the workers and peasants. Her family lived in a house assigned by the Ministry where her father worked. It is in a big courtyard in a quiet lane where the residents saw themselves as different, and kept a distance from their neighbors behind high walls. The neighbours outside the courtyard were mostly workers, clerks, and small private business owners—the local population of old Beijing. There were clearly demarcated special and social boundaries between the two groups of residents in the same lane. When the Cultural Revolution started, the new elite groups became its major target, and Lin’s father suffered political persecution and humiliation. As a result, her family lost its social and political status and privileges. 99 After we came back, it was chaotic on the street, so my mom exhorted us that no one was to leave the courtyard… so they closed the gate; no one was allowed to go out… Actually at that time we were different from them. They were all Red Guards, and we were not. We couldn’t even join the Litter Red Guard. 14 (Lin 2006, part 1) The people who caused terror were the Red Guards—children of the workers. The workers and “us” were not only different, but also antagonistic, with the earlier hierarchy reversed. Once the inheritors of the revolution, “we” were now not only excluded from participation, but were its enemies and targets. Lin’s personal and family experience during the Cultural Revolution fueled her antagonism towards workers and peasants. On the first day of class, I fell asleep. It was some kind of public accusation meeting... Then they said, “Everybody look back, Lin from class three grade two15 is sleeping!”... Everybody was laughing at me. I hated that Yang Zikun [the teacher’s name] very much, because I was made a fool of in front of everyone….He was a rebel party member (zhaofanbai). They were students two or three years more senior than us, and were from the workers’ and peasants’ families....Those from bad family backgrounds wouldn’t be qualified. They were just like those hatchet men (dashou)16…At that time, what was in my mind was that we were different from them. And I just didn’t like those workers and the kids of the workers and peasants (gonglong zidi). Even today, this idea of disliking kids of the workers and peasants is still deeply rooted in my mind (genshendigu). (Lin 2006, part 1) These students from workers’ families overthrew the school authority (including Lin’s father) and practically ran the schools. Note that Lin describes them as like ‘hatchet men”. For her, they were the same as the students who beat up her father. Lin’s sense of class division began in 100 her childhood and was intensified in the class struggles between the “Red” and the “Black” in the Cultural Revolution. Lin’s experience in the Cultural Revolution and the strong sense of class division made her dis-identify with many of the revolutionary heroines propagandized in that era. On one hand, Lin desired to be part of the Revolution and to become a revolutionary heroine; on the other hand, the social positioning of these heroines in terms of class and political background did not match her own social location and implicitly disqualified her. Yet Lin managed to find her own heroine: That was during the Cultural Revolution. At that time, all the movies we had were the eight revolutionary model operas.17 There were almost none of them I couldn’t sing all the pieces of. Not a word I couldn’t sing. I remembered every line of them….It happened that at that time they imported movies from Albania… one is called “Rather Die than Surrender”, I watched it 11 times…that woman, she was sort of a heroine, Alfertida, she had a mole here. So I went home and used ink and I painted a mole on my face. I felt really great!.... Really, I remembered every line of the movie clearly….. And then, I watched the news before the movie. Today is the first time Chairman Mao meets the Red Guards. Tomorrow was the second time Chairman Mao meets the Red Guards. At the end then it was the 13th time Chairman Mao met the Red Guards. Still I watched. I love movies. I also loved to watch Chairman Mao meet the Red Guards. (Lin 2006, part 1) During the Cultural Revolution, Mao’s wife Jiang Qing supervised the production of the eight revolutionary model operas (Yangbanxi). One of the influences Jiang Qing exercised in these productions is that six out of the eight pieces featured female protagonists (which furthered her own political agenda). However, to implement Mao’s instruction that the arts should come from, serve, and be approved by the masses, only the triad of worker-peasant-soldier could be the subject of art (Mao 1980 ). The heroines in the revolutionary operas therefore all come 101 from peasant or worker backgrounds. Meng Yue (1993) argues that these female images were used to convey the political code of class struggle rather than gender messages, and these female protagonists represented a class rather than a gender stance. While Lin was familiar with all these Chinese female protagonists in the operas, her deepest identification went a foreign heroine. The movie Rather Die than Surrender18 is similar to many Chinese stories about revolutionary martyrs.19 They aimed to educate the youth about the sacrifices the past generations of revolutionaries had made to obtain the happy life and new China they (the youth) now lived in. The protagonist in the movie was a student living in a city. She would be a typical “petit bourgeois” according to China’s class system. While Lin could not identify with the heroines in Yangbanxi because of their class and their “proletarian femininity”, she was attracted to the combination of petit bourgeois background and feminist revolutionary zeal in a foreign film.20 Since the Maoist funü is a class-encoded gender identity, Lin’s rejection of it took the form of pursuing a different class identity. In other words, she disassociated herself from the proletarian Maoist funü by refusing to remain a peasant/worker, which she had been forced to be during the Mao era. LIN undertook a long journey of escape and recovery from having been forced to become a peasant/worker in her youth. After graduating from middle school, all the students in her class were assigned jobs working in a factory. Being a worker in a big state- owned factory was a prestigious job in the Mao era. It was not only politically favorable but also offered permanent employment with job security and cradle-to-grave benefits. Skilled workers could earn higher salaries than some cadres and were widely respected, at least in official discourse. Being such a worker was a dream for children from ordinary families. Lin, however, was firmly against going to the factory to be a worker, and rejected her first employment 102 opportunity. By the time she graduated from high school, the wave of sending youth to the countryside to be re-educated by the peasants had come. Having escaped from being a worker, Lin faced an even worse fate (in her value system): to be a peasant. She eventually managed to return to Beijing and obtained a job (still in the worker category) at a post office. Five years later, Lin’s mother got her transferred to be a librarian where she herself worked; Lin finally escaped the worker/ peasant category. In 1980, when Lin met her future husband, class identity, combined with occupation, was her primary criterion of desirability in a potential marriage partner: So we dated… Firstly, he works at Peking University. To be honest, these four characters, Beijing Daxue (Peking University), could count for 80% of the success of this relationship…. To be honest, I set my sights on FG because he worked at Beijing Daxue. I really didn’t pick him for the type of person he was…Really, the four characters, Beijing Daxue, attracted me the most…. I didn’t take a fancy to him based on the person he was… I really didn’t take a fancy to him. But Beijing Daxue, these four characters really attracted me. (Lin 2006, part 1). After years of denouncing intellectuals, there was a shift of attitudes in the Party in the post-Mao era.21 The positions of workers and intellectuals in the hierarchy switched yet again. Regarded as the victims of political campaigns in the Mao era, intellectuals were redeemed and renewed their status, whereas workers became the embodiment of the shame of socialist history in official and popular discourse. While intellectuals were constructed as the revolutionary “other” in the Mao era, as Rofel (1999) points out, the post-socialist construction of otherness fixes the worker once again in the position of historical otherness. No longer the proud agent of history and hero 103 of socialist progress, workers were de-centered and reconstituted as one of the central obstacles on China’s road to modernity (Rofel 1999:103). After her marriage, Lin worked as a sales person, office administrator, and assistant to the General Manager, all so-called “white collar” jobs, in several businesses. Tracing the trajectory of Lin’s life, her job changed from peasant, to worker, to clerk, and finally to white collar worker. After having been forced into the class categories she hated, in the post-Mao era she undertook a journey of disassociating herself from workers and peasants, in order to be associated with cadres and intellectuals, pursuing a career and family life typical of an educated elite. In conjunction with the downfall of the status of workers and peasants came the post-Mao rejection of the Maoist funü, while the re-emergence of intellectuals and bourgeois values was parallel to the post-Mao construction of the nüxing, representing urban, educated, affluent women. Lin’s pursuit of an elite class status involved not only shaking off her worker and peasant past, but also rejecting a Maoist proletarian funü femininity. The tough funü my mother and I were Even though Lin was determined to distance herself from the proletariat, she nonetheless identified positively with some aspects of the strong revolutionary woman, and was proud of having acquired some qualities associated with workers. In other words, the Maoist funü image that she severely criticized is nevertheless part of who she is, and it appears that she had internalized some of the shame previously associated with being bourgeois. As well as learning a model of pre-revolutionary feminine behaviour from her grandmother, Lin admired and imitated some typical Maoist funü qualities exemplified by her mother. 104 I am like my mother. Even working hard like hell, my spirit was high. … you see, no matter how tired I am, I am hustling and bustling…. my mother is also always like…I got to be tidy and pretty… I like my mom very much. We are always very vigorous. (Lin 2006, part 2) The phrase “even working hard like hell, my spirit was high”, and terms like “hustling and bustling” or “vigorous” were often used to describe revolutionary labour heroines who fully participated in production. Lin’s forced and unpleasant experience of working in the country also imbued her with certain values, including the need for physical effort and a strong body and the ability to defend oneself verbally as well: When I was young, I was short and skinny. The big hoe I used was a lot taller than me. But I felt I wasn’t afraid of doing hard labour. I didn’t mind working hard. Whatever hard tasks you asked me to do, I wasn’t intimidated…Um, I think I changed a lot when I was in the countryside…our party secretary, I really couldn’t like him… He always gave me the hardest labour to do... So sometimes I yelled at him. So that way, maybe I picked up that way of talking in the countryside…If you say how tough I was, I wasn’t. Do you think I am tough? No, that is not tough. Even now, I am not tough. I am not very tough. But if there is unfairness, I like to speak out. I have to say it. Just like this. I wasn’t like this before. I didn’t like to speak much. (Lin 2006, part 1) Able to endure harsh physical labour, hardworking and upright, outspoken and tough, Lin’s description of herself resembles the qualities of the “Iron Girls” that were presented as the model of young women in the Mao era (Jin 2006). However, while Lin is proud of that tough woman she once was on the one hand, and also tries to deny it as part of herself, not wishing to be classified as “tough”, which has negative connotations for the modern woman. At the same time, she has contempt for a “squeamish woman (jiaoqi)”: 105 Giving birth to Maomao [Lin’s daughter] was very smooth…I didn’t really take the fetus very seriously, such as carefully protecting the fetus. Never! I rode a bicycle. I went hiking and swimming, I did everything…. I am a person who is not squeamish. I was never squeamish (jiaoqi). I have always been like that. (Lin 2006, part 2) Jiaoqi is not only a gendered but also a classed quality. It is seen as a negative feminine attribute associated especially with bourgeois women in the revolutionary discourse of the Mao era. As opposed to women of the bourgeoisie, women from the proletariat were perceived as tough, hardworking, and definitely not “jiaoqi”. In a time when bourgeois and elite classes were being publicly denounced, the feminine attributes associated with those classes, such as domesticity, delicacy, and self-indulgence, were the target of criticism and seen as shameful. As a member of the proletariat and a revolutionary, a woman should not expect special treatment for any real or imagined specifically female needs. In the Mao era, in order to construct funü as primarily a socialist labourer, women’s gender differences and sex-specific needs were de-emphasized, their reproductive labour and needs trivialized. By emphasizing that she was not jiaoqi, Lin identifies with the attitude that women should be like men and not show or admit any physical weakness, if they are to receive, or deserve, respect: 22 I never show my weakness. No matter to whom… “You did that well,” I always say, “I can accomplish the same task as well as you.” So I was never a chicken….It seems my mom was like this. My mom … In many ways I took after my mom…. we had a printing workshop. When the papers came in, we needed to transfer the papers, then print, print a very small amount. The men would arrange the papers and our documents; I went over to have a look at them setting the papers. I felt I could do it too. I also could do it. I could even do better. They felt, “Oh, she could, she could do it well. ” Then I felt good 106 (Lin 2006, part 2) In this story, it is explicitly men that Lin wanted to emulate. This reminds us once more of Mao’s famous speech claiming that “The time is different; men and women are the same; whatever men can do, women can do too”. This was popular during Lin’s years of growing up. The fact that she did not want to be looked down upon because of her gender implies that this attitude was often the case, and there was still a real need to prove that women could measure up to men’s standards in order to be taken seriously, even when the task might have been physically more difficult for them. Telling this story in the present, Lin is now critical of the necessity of appearing to be a strong woman. She reflects on the personal cost she has had to pay to live up to the ideal of funü, and also believes that a strong woman who appears to be invulnerable risks foregoing a man’s love and sympathy, since she does not seem to be in need of protection. I think, actually, women should exhibit their weak side. Show your weakness, and then you gain people’s sympathy. Others will help you… Actually I think women should show their weakness…I have never done that…So I feel it’s not good. You couldn’t get that kind of… to let others to love you dearly... Women who don’t show their weakness are not good. .. It is very laborious. (Lin 2006, Part 2) Lin’s criticism of the ‘strong woman” model as putting too much strain on women and forcing them to appear stronger than they (naturally) are reflects the post-Mao return to a belief in inherent gender differences and positive valuing of femininity in contrast with masculinity. Since Mao’s death in 1976, both the party line and popular discourse represent the Cultural Revolution as “ten years of chaos” (shinian dongluan) that distorted “HUMAN nature”. Gender is an important constituent in these discourses about the Cultural Revolution, as critics of the 107 Maoist era argue that ultra-leftist policies distorted “women’s nature” (nüren de tianxin) and led to the “unnatural” masculinization of Chinese women. While the Cultural Revolution was a time of general disorder, the Maoist funü is seen as the disorderly woman who is the manifestation of chaos, threatening not only the political order but also the gender divide. As Roberts’ (2004) research notes, gender discourses in the Cultural Revolution period associated the strong revolutionary with masculinity, and conflated the weak feminine (symbolic female) with the counterrevolutionary, and the latter was to be subordinated to the former. On one hand, revolutionary women’s appropriation of masculine power threatened the male ownership of masculinity; on the other hand men who had belonged to the counter-revolutionary classes were emasculated and feminized and experienced identity crises. With the ending of the Cultural Revolution, it became imperative for many men to throw off their counterrevolutionary/feminine identity, to reassert their masculinity and male supremacy, and restore the old gender order, pushing women back into their subordinate role. This process is reflected in the search for the “real man”, nanzihan, in the literature of the 1980s (Cao 1988; Zhong 2001). Post-Mao discourse on sexual difference seeks to reestablish “real women” as more fragile and dependent, and “real men” who can protect them, conforming to a “tough guy” (yinghan) stereotype. With this man around the new hyper-feminine woman should not need to appear to be tough herself in order to survive. (It is not foreseen that she may need to defend herself against the tough guy!) The Maoist funü no longer appears as a model to emulate, but as an unfortunate and dangerous deviant, the monstrous product of that era. Her transgressive survival disturbs the post-Mao project of restoring “proper” gender order, and she is in need of taming in order to reestablish clear categories of masculinity and femininity. 108 From funü to nüxing: negotiation and revision The post-Mao discourse of restoring women’s feminine nature offers new models for gender (re)construction, which may not always seem compatible with each other. Among them, two images representing the post-Mao nüxing ideal gained primacy in post-Mao popular discourse: the “white collar beauty” (bailin liren) active in the market economy, who is young and beautiful and enjoys a successful career working in a prestigious business (at least until she marries, if she does); and the “virtuous wife and good mother” (xianqi liangmu) reminiscent of the pre-Mao era, who may have an undemanding job but devotes her energy mainly to her family. Many Chinese women, like those in the West, find themselves torn between these two models. In opposition to both is a third model, the “strong woman” (nüqiangren) who puts career before family, successfully competes with men by acting likes a man, and renounces “feminine” values and virtues. The first two models offer an “ideal” life trajectory for many urban women: to have a prestigious job when young, and retreat to a less demanding one to devote time to a family and children. The third (nüqiangren) can be seen as an almost caricatural reincarnation of the Maoist funü (as well as of older stereotypes of dragon ladies), and anecdotes about women of this type tend to turn into cautionary tales of disorderly women, whose gender transgression threatens the configurations of gender deference and destabilizes the meaning of femininity and masculinity. The negative connotation of the term nüqiangren serves to discipline women who deviate from the newly re-inscribed and prescribed social norm of being a post-Mao nüxing and disrupt the new (re-established) gender order. Lin sees herself as having enacted a gender project of transforming herself from a Mao funü into a post-Mao nüxing, but many aspects of both mingle uncomfortably in her self-image. 109 Lin’s shift from dreaming of being a revolutionary heroine in her youth to accepting the role of the happy housewife not only follows a scenario proposed by the post-Mao discourse of domestic femininity, it also echoes the pre-Mao values of her grandmother. She imagines achieving fulfillment from being a good wife and mother, renouncing all other ambitions, but her doubts emerge between the lines: I am a very well qualified housewife (jiatiangfunü). Really. I am a very well qualified housewife. I have the breakfast ready in the morning, have the kid ready to go. I can only say that I am a very well qualified housewife. I also enjoy doing housework very much. I feel that to make the home nice and orderly is a very happy thing to do. I could give up my job. I felt as long as my husband can earn enough money, I don’t need to work at all. I make the home nice. Just be a housewife. No ambitions... Actually if I put in some effort, in 1985, if I had stayed in Shenzhen, I might have earned a lot of money. I might have been a “strong career woman” (nüqiangren). Then this home wouldn’t exist anymore... But this home, I never could turn away from this home. No wonder I said my life is unpromising, it’s really unpromising. I don’t have strong willpower. Can’t make that step… There are always concerns (qiangua) for the family... (Lin 2006, part 2) In this narrative, Lin repeats three times that she is a very well qualified housewife, obviously trying to convince herself that this is what she could or should be. However, she then turns to speculating on the alternative possibility of becoming a rich and successful nüqiangren, but ending up without a family. Since she now has one, that path is no longer open to her, and her narrative retrospectively justifies her choice. She repeats the popular idea that a nüqiangren loses out by not having a family and children, and thus is not a complete nüren (woman). Yet she is nostalgic about the lost possibility of freedom from family obligations, and reveals (once more through repetition) that for her, being a housewife is “unpromising”: however well she does it, it cannot bring the satisfaction and respect that a successful career would. It appears to 110 be a fall-back solution for those (like herself) who did not have the willpower to succeed in a man’s world. According to my personal knowledge of Lin’s family, it is mainly thanks to Lin’s earned income that they can afford their current life style.23 Lin could not actually give up her job, so her hypothesis of being a stay-at-home housewife is an imaginary rather that realistic scenario. The return to a male-led nuclear family popular in modern middle class myth is as unattainable for most families in China as it is in the West, and women have the same doubts about whether they would like to return to it. Under the influence of popular cultural products from the West and other parts of Asia, especially Taiwan,24 Korea and Japan, this model has made a come-back in China. Lin’s fantasy is fuelled by watching Korean soap operas,25 and she also admires the stereotypical gender norms she sees projected in many Western programmes: I feel in China men are not gentlemen and women are not lady-like. I really dislike that. No fine breeding. Men never give up seats to women on the bus. I just really dislike that. I just like Western civilization. I like it very much… Why did I send my daughter abroad? I just want her to learn the foreign civilized life. I like it very much. (Lin 2006 Part 2) Obviously, Lin has not yet experienced the reality of living in the West, where two incomes are necessary for most families to survive and seats on buses are rarely given up. What she imagines as a current way of life elsewhere is in fact long gone, reminiscent of the 1950s post-war period when Western women were forced into suburban domesticity in order to provide work for returning soldiers. The situation is similar in post-Mao China, and a parallel shift has occurred in what is expected of women. Post-Mao discourse sees the revolution as having destroyed traditional Chinese culture and disrupted the “natural” gender order, just as the Second World 111 War was seen as having disrupted the social fabric in the West by leading women to expect to work outside the home in jobs previously restricted to men. In both China and the West women have been expected to act like men when it suits the national economic and political interest, but to revert to womanly submission when it does not. In both contexts, women have much to gain and to lose with every shift in expectations, and end up having to negotiate, like Lin, a way between conflicting paths. The main difference in the Chinese context is the overt association of conventional masculinity and femininity with the class structure. The images of gentlemen and ladies in Lin’s narrative convey a dream of changing class rather than gender, a fantasy of being a “lady”, rather than just a labouring “woman”. Lin’s attempts to reaffirm her belonging to an elite social class entail not only reflection on her role at work and at home, but also the re-stylization of her body. The hardworking, tough body that she was once proud of is perceived as a body whose strength had been exploited and desires suppressed. This awakening body now becomes a site and source of agency, which Lin acts upon and from which she derives identity and power. Her body has literally changed: once that of a short-haired, uniformed, anonymous worker, it has now softened into a more glamorous and decorative feminine body: I never wear make up. I also never knew how. These (her ears) were pierced two or three months ago. I just had them pierced two or three months ago….Xiao Xing (a younger colleague)…(said) it would be a pity to live a life as a woman but never pierce your ears. That would be a pity, yep. We should have whatever a woman should have. I said that makes sense ….If you say I am really into dressing up, I am not particularly like others. If you say I am not into it at all, but I, when I dress up, I want them to match well, it must be appropriate. I must dress up appropriately, I feel, it must be what I feel is appropriate. (Lin 2006, part 2) 112 Her attempt to conform to the regulatory practices imposing what it means to be and look like a “real and complete”, appropriate woman in the post-Mao era leaves Lin with a sense of lack. Her remark that “we should have whatever a woman should have” indicates a sense of deprivation during the years when the Maoist funü was denied feminine attributes and pleasures. Yet her austere past and internalized values from the Mao and pre-Mao eras still make her reluctant to indulge in wearing make-up or risk appearing to be the “loose woman” such an appearance would have indicated earlier. At first glance, Lin seems to be attempting to conform to the post-Mao hegemonic ideal of nüxing. Yet a close examination of Lin’s bodily transformation reveals that it is not simply an acceptance and enactment of the post-Mao nüxing ideal, rather, it represents her own individual negotiation between competing models of femininity. She takes advantage of the post-Mao liberalized atmosphere to redeem the revolutionary urban elite femininity that she had to suppress in the Mao era, without abandoning all the values associated with the Maoist woman: I always have short hair. …..Now I am planning to grow my hair …When I was in elementary school, our math teacher made a very deep impression on me. Two little braids. Then round them up, connect one to another, like this… Oh, I felt it was really pretty... I have always wanted to have a hairstyle like that one....Later on I think, I must at least have had that kind of hairstyle once… I don’t like the kind of bun made with one braid. I felt it seems like all the adults and kids have that style….I really don’t like it. Very poor taste. Pingqi. 26 I, I am not very good at making myself look beautiful…. but I have my own style of beauty and standards. I won’t follow what’s on the street, just like if everyone is wearing that and looking good then I will also have one….I also don’t blindly follow the trend no matter what trash is out there. (Lin 2006, part 2) 113 Figure 2 See the hairstyles of the women on the right and left. From the movie “Our Lives”27 Short hair had a symbolic connection with urban style, modernity, literacy, and the image of revolutionary women in the Mao era. A plain and un-elaborate style also exhibited a proletarian attitude towards one’s appearance, whereas long hair was considered overtly feminine and bourgeois (see discussion in Chapter 3). The two-braids-up hairstyle (see figure 2) was very fashionable in the 1950s in Chinese cities. The traditional Chinese hairstyle for women in the first half of the twentieth century was one long braid, with girls leaving it to fall down behind, and married women putting it up into a bun. These styles later evolved in the cities into girls having two braids, and more fashionable girls or married women having short or permed hair. The hairstyle Lin describes is a variation of the two braids style, suitable for both single and married women, between “traditional” and “modern”. For Lin, the1950s are associated with a happy childhood, as part of a new, privileged elite cadre group. Lin’s dream hairstyle represents an urban elite revolutionary femininity of the 1950s, before the Cultural Revolution 114 and its proletarianisation of Chinese women. The much-missed hairstyle symbolizes a lost femininity that Lin now wants to retrieve Lin emphasizes, in both her narrative and her attitude to hairstyles and clothes, that she wants something different from the fashion on the street, meaning that she is not willing simply to conform to the current nüxing image, but has her own vision of the ideal look. The direction of her bodily transformation is not simply from the image of a Mao funü to that of a post-Mao nüxing, but from that of a Maoist proletarian funü to that of a pre-Cultural Revolution urban elite revolutionary woman – rehabilitating a type of revolutionary femininity that was marginalized in the late Mao era. Lin attempts to perform her gender in a way that incorporates the post-Mao nüxing, but also attempts to differentiate herself from THEM. She seeks an image that can incorporate the past rather than erase it, one that can encompasses an “other” Maoist funü within the post -Mao nüxing. Lin’s “re-stylizing of the body” became possible in the post Mao era, as the Party’s grasp on personal life has loosened, and people have started to have more choice in creating a personal style and greater opportunities to express their individuality. Under the banner of post-Mao liberation of “humanity”, what is revived and celebrated are not only the pre-Mao bourgeois feminine woman, but also other marginalized femininities that were suppressed in the Mao era. Lin has embraced the new possibilities and found ways to express her sometimes ambivalent ideas on femininity. 115 The storytelling A specifically Chinese master-script, and going beyond the ending As discussed earlier, Lin’s resistance to the Maoist gender prescription was largely expressed through efforts to reaffirm her belonging to a certain class. The primary focus on class identity rather than being gendered is also reflected in Lin’s narrative structure, which conveyed a world centered on class difference, and interprets the relationships between protagonists in terms of class conflict. Lin starts her life story with an account of her family’s genealogy, which follows her father’s line. Her life story can be summarized as a series of three discrete periods: a childhood of being loved and spoiled by Nainai; growing up in a chaotic time, confused, angry, and scared; a struggle of resistance to becoming a peasant and a worker, and a journey to find a space where she could belong. The narrative has a turning point in 1985, when Lin was thirty years old and got married and started to work at Peking University. She then concluded her first story very quickly by giving a work résumé of the last twenty years. Over one hour and ten minutes, as she provided a mainly chronological account, Lin spent a whole hour narrating her first thirty years, and took less than ten minutes to recount the last twenty years of her life. In Lin’s life story two masterscripts are present and ultimately converge: the common happily-ever-after “success story” on one hand, and on the other a specifically Chinese story model of “speaking bitterness” (suku). 28 Following the first script, Lin, the active protagonist, is the agent of change who overcomes obstacles and hardships on her journey. The type of conflict 116 presented in this story of her life has the protagonist battling against those in control of society (the Cultural Revolution) and against a specific category of antagonists (the proletariat). In the end, the heroine overcomes obstacles and hardships, and triumphs by successfully reaching her destiny and achieving her goals: in the home of her dreams, a husband she chose because of his superior social class, and the non-manual job she wanted. She should then live “happily ever after”, as in fairy-tales and romances based on this model. Life after the happy ending is assumed to continue without conflict, and the plot is over. In this scenario the heroine is a coherent subject, and little internal conflict is revealed. The “suku” scenario emerges in parallel, sometimes with ironic effects. “Speaking bitterness” was a political tool of the party in the 1940s and 1950s during land reform campaigns (Belden 1949; Chan, Madsen, and Unger1992; Hinton 1966). It was originally a type of public performance in which party organizers mobilized and taught poor peasants to speak up about their experiences in a language of class exploitation, as part of public accusation sessions against the landed gentry (Hinton1966). It was later performed in urban factories as well. Rofel (1999) points out that speaking bitterness is a political praxis of signification that creates the new socialist subject: the subaltern as speaker. As a genre, speaking bitterness organizes disparate experiences into a plot of overcoming life's bitterness through socialist means, subsuming the individual in a collective endeavor, with the upper classes as the common enemy. After the socialist revolution, the function of the speaking bitterness story changed from mobilization to educating the next generation. The state brought out workers and peasants to tell children about their experiences of class exploitation. Its narrative structure was also revised accordingly, to yiku sitian (remembering past bitterness, and appreciating present sweetness), with “before” and 117 “after” comparisons. The suku story resembles the structure of stories of overcoming in that it provides a similar narrative closure: the workers will live “happily ever after” thanks to their Liberation. While this narrative strategy was practiced as propaganda during the land reform period, it has persisted for different reasons. It was used in “struggle sessions” during the Cultural Revolution (Anagnost 1997; Jacka 1998; Liang and Shapiro1983; Luo 1990), and appears in memoirs by intellectuals and “educated youth” about their suffering during the Cultural Revolution. It is typical of a new literary genre known as “scar literature" (shanheng wenxue, literature of the wounded) composed of memoirs of the Cultural Revolution (Barme and Lee 1979; Honig 1984; Siu and Stern 1983). Rofel (1999) shows that women workers also adapted the strategy of speaking bitterness in the post-Mao era to contest public discourse about them and unsettle the universalizing vision of modernity that has displaced them. Rural women in urban China also used the speaking bitterness genre to denounce capitalist exploitation and the injustice of the rural/urban divide (Jacka, 2006: 266-270). Class is the essential building block of the speaking bitterness narrative edifice: it structures the relations between all its characters, as class conflict provides the plot and class hatred (jieji chouhen) the motive for action. All these elements are present in Lin’s life story. She is always very clear about her class preference and allegiance, and her unshakable conviction about which class she belongs to is a major motif in her story. Her narrative about her family trauma and the unjust treatment she received at school and in the countryside takes up the legacy of speaking bitterness, echoing many memoirs and other accounts of the Cultural Revolution. Lin establishes two antagonistic categories: the elite/intellectual and the proletarian 118 classes, and she casts herself as proud to belong to the former by telling her story as one of unjust victimization and survival. As a plausible outcome of the class conflict, her persistent dislike of the proletariat is established as a well-grounded motif that drives the development of the plot. The choice of a narrative genre is never a simple choice of form or style, but implies strategies to organize and interpret human experiences in a meaningful way. A certain genre enables but also limits what can be told, and how events are intended to be interpreted. By adopting the speaking bitterness narrative genre, Lin’s narration and interpretation of her life story largely operates in the framework of class, rather than any other category, such as gender, age, or ethnicity. This framework privileges the first thirty years of her life and emphasizes her class identity, while generally playing down the gendered aspects of her experiences and her identity as a woman. When the overt conflict between classes withered away in the post-Mao context, Lin could not find a narrative model that would enable her to impose a structure on the last twenty years of her life. In the interview with Lin, I employed the method discussed earlier, beginning with an initial straightforward, spontaneous and uninterrupted telling of her life story, followed later by further exploration based on open-ended questions initiated by me. The differences in the second telling provide a good example of why a feminist project that aims to understand women’s lives needs to be cautious about the adaptation of masterscripts, and the effects of “going beyond the ending”. The second part of her life story conveys important knowledge about Lin’s life as a woman, and the dialogue format provides a space for her to elaborate on her gendered experiences, adding personal information that was not included in the first telling. Many aspects 119 emerged only in the process of retelling, through interaction between the interviewee and the researcher. For instance, a story about Lin’s experience of having an abortion, and an account of her later pregnancy and the birth of her child, only came out when I asked questions about her daughter. The omission of this significant part of her life in the first part of the interview reflects a problem that often occurs when women engage in oral history. Some female-specific experiences, which are important for understanding women’s lives, often do not fit neatly into male-oriented masterscripts, including the general structure of a conventional (male) auto/biography, and thus are not considered worth telling. Some women may also feel it is either embarrassing or trivial to tell stories about the female body and its reproductive function. In her story about childbirth, Lin mentioned that she did not want to give birth at the hospital where her husband works, even though she would have received much better care and treatment, because people there knew her and it would have been too embarrassing. Such events are still seen as private and almost shameful, to be hidden from public scrutiny. The retelling of Lin’s life in the second part of the interview also reveals the complexity and conflicts of her experiences as a woman, after the apparently “happy” ending. In the second part of the interview, Lin had a chance to talk about her dissatisfaction with her marriage. Her reflections on being a wife and mother conveyed her struggle to negotiate a personalized gender project that can meet the needs of her own imagination and desire. A sub-plot emerges in the second part of the interview, based on Lin’s constant attempts to reconcile competing culturally prescribed ideals of being a Woman. The autobiographical “I” is no longer a coherent whole based primarily on class identification, but is revealed as a more complex subject with contradictions and internal conflicts, related to gender roles and 120 expectations rather than class allegiance. The plot changes from a story of anticipation and fulfillment, or class conflict and resolution, to a process-oriented one revealing how Lin constantly tries to make at least provisional sense of her world, as she formulates her own recipe for “becoming a woman”. A de-gendered narrative reality Lin’s story illustrate my earlier discussion of how the Maoist construction of funü intersected with the PRC’s class interpretation of social relations, and heterosexual labouring women from the worker and peasant classes were the only females to be acknowledged by the state as appropriate “women”. A sense of class difference and conflict was internalized by Lin, and comes out in her narrative through intense emotions of anger, hatred, and extreme distaste for workers and peasants on the one hand, and loyalty and affection for the unjustly persecuted elite class on the other hand. Even in her stories about her Nainai and her mother she uses language related to class, or political and geographical attributes, rather than references to their gender. In the table below, I coded her allusions to these two women. Other than the last line, the attributes used to describe the two women are all gender- neutral, or are often associated with masculinity in a Chinese context. There are very few references to their physical appearance, and none to their sexuality. Most of the attributes mentioned were related to political (class) or geographical (region) characteristics, rather than manifestations of gendered qualities. While children often tend to desexualize and ignore the physical appearance of their parents and grandparents, these descriptions convey a largely “gender blind” construction of these women’s lives. 121 Table 1 Lin’s description of her Nainai and her mother Category Description of Nainai Description of mother Geographical Shandong person Dongbei person Political Feudal Not seeking advancement Moral Upholding justice and loyal to friends, bold and uninhibited Cares about other people, generous, upholding justice and loyal to friends, hardworking, spirited, young at heart, Classed Rough, coarse, illiterate Hygienic Personality Frank and straightforward, tough Hustling and bustling, optimistic, fearless, resolute, competitive Gendered Jiatingfunü, bound feet Tidy, likes to dress up Furthermore, rather than exhibiting “feminine” qualities like docility or domesticity, timidity or tenderness, shyness or modesty, gentleness or refinement, both mother and grandmother are frank and outspoken, uninhibited and tough. These qualities transgress and transcend the traditional gender scripts for women in China. This does not necessarily mean that these women did not have any “feminine” characteristics, rather, it indicates that Lin chose to highlight certain attributes that she sees as desirable and positive. Many of the qualities she ascribes to these women she admires are those that were often used to describe revolutionary labour heroines. This confirms that the Maoist funü has not been completely rejected or eliminated, but survives in many ways as a model to be emulated along with newer images of femininity. 122 Conclusion The presence of the jiatingfunü grandmothers in Lin and other women’s stories reveals how the Maoist funü is envisioned against the backdrop of “other” women, those rendered invisible when funü was made the norm, in fact the only type of woman who was acknowledged. These jiatingfunü were not only essential substitutes assuring the Maoist funü’s caregiver functions, but their different ways of being a woman disrupted the gender model the Maoist funü represented. The gender models that informed Lin’s personal gender project come from various ideological sources, revealing a complex landscape where many “other” gender discourses persisted. For instance, during the Mao era, when proletarian revolutionary femininity officially occupied a hegemonic position, an urban elite revolutionary type of femininity still existed, as well as the traditional jiatingfunü representing the old Confucian gender system. Through Lin’s narrative about her Nainai, her mother, and herself, we can observe the continuity and disruption, negotiation and contestation, between multiple gender discourses. Lin consciously or unconsciously absorbs or rejects, carries on or abandons, denies or affirms all these models in the formulation of her individual gender project. In theorizing gender as performative, Butler (1990) points out that “gendering-as-doing” means that it cannot simply be imposed on a passive, lifeless body from outside, but needs the performers’ participation and cooperation. Her theory of gender performativity thus assigns the opportunity for cultural transformation of gender to individuals (or a collective of individuals), as dominant gender scripts are challenged, revised, and stretched in the process of their individual enactment. Furthermore, individual variations in performing gender scripts mean that the performance is never the true copy of an existing original but always an approximation or parody 123 of a model that no one really embodies. How gender is played out is subject to negotiation, struggle and resistance. As Lin’s story demonstrates, the process of constructing a personal gender project draws cultural resources not only from the dominant cultural script, but also from marginalized and “illegitimate” ones. What cultural resources are available depends on the specific cultural environment as well as individual circumstances, and each gender project is often the result of the innovative synthesizing of various models. As for how subversive an individual project can be, that partly depends on the level of consciousness or reflectivity of the individual. Lin’s personal project of performing a revised post-Mao nüxing demonstrates how an individual gender project that seems to conform to one model may actually revises and subverts it by incorporating other supposedly rejected earlier models, including the Maoist funü. Therefore even an unconscious gender project may pose challenges in its own way to hegemonic models and contribute to the diversification and democratization of gender performance in individual lives. 1 See Davin (forthcoming). 2 In 1942 Ding Ling published an essay, “Thoughts on March Eighth”, criticizing the persistent patriarchal attitudes towards women in Yan’an. She was accused of being a “narrow feminist”, lost her post, and was forced to engage in self-criticism. For a discussion of this incident, see Barlow 1989. 3 See Davin (forthcoming). 4 In December 1949, the new government of P.R. China announced March 8th as Women’s Day. On this day, women have half a day off from their work, so they can participate in various celebrations. This regulation was further elaborated in 1954 in the State Council issued “Notice on holiday salary payment for International Women’s Day”, and reiterated in the 1999 “Regulations on National Holidays and Memorial Days”. See Chapter 3 for further discussion of Women’s Day. 124 5 This is a quotation from Mao which was popular during the Cultural Revolution period. The full version is: “Revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, of temperate kind… revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.” 6 Roberts’ research (2004a; 2004b) on the Yangbanxi (Revolutionary Model Work) demonstrates that rather than erasing gender and sexuality from public discourse, the Yangbanxi reassigned gender on a class basis, with the revolutionary masses assuming masculinized gender roles and the “counter-revolutionaries” being assigned a range of feminized gender roles. 7 For instance, Dorothy Ko (1994) distinguished between the “official ideology” of the Song neo-Confucian canon, the “applied ideology” of instruction literature, the “ideology in practice” of literati and officials, and the gap between ideology and lived reality. 8 For example, Rofel (1999) and Zhong at al (2001) showed women’s diverse relationships to the Maoist concept of women’s liberation. 9 See Barlow (2004:257-264) for a discussion of these debates. 10 Since 1958 notions of “absolute egalitarianism” have been abandoned. Even the most radical Chinese leaders have recognized the need for unequal rewards during a prolonged period of socialism. The inequality under socialism was understood as a transitory inequality which would wither away and transform itself into true equality (see Kraus 1981:145). 11 Although this does not necessarily coincide with the prestige accorded by public opinion, which I will discuss later. 12 This outline is based on a 2.5-hour life story interview with Lin conducted in Beijing in 2006. The interview was in Mandarin Chinese (Lin’s mother tongue) and digitally recorded. The oral narrative has gone through various layers of interpretation in the process of transcription and translation into English. To preserve the nature of Lin’s speech, I retained some obvious grammatical inconsistencies in my transcription and translation, such as pronoun shifts, and other rhetorical glitches. Please note that this is my reconstruction of her life story according to the information I selected and sorted from the interview. I apologize for converting her vivid, rich and interesting life story into a more boring outline. The structure and the amount of detail of certain events, as reflected in my analysis, do not necessarily convey the way they were organized and appeared in her narrative. 13 This has been a common strategy for many families. For instance, Jacka (1997:117-19) describes the importance of grandmothers in caring for young children in rural China. See also the discussion of Shanghai’s households in Davis (2000: 254) and Unger (1993:42-3). In some families, husbands and other male family members also helped, but they were not usually the default major caregivers. 14 “Little Red Guard” (hongxiaobing) was a children’s organization for honour student during the Cultural Revolution, a counterpart of the “Red Guard”, which was for teenagers. 15 Secondary education was five years during the Cultural Revolution period, divided into two parts: three years of middle school (chuzong), and two years of high school (gaozhong). In this narrative, “grade two” means grade two of middle school. 16 It is not clear whether they were all male. The term dashou is not gendered in Chinese. 125 17 Cultural production was stopped for a period when the Cultural Revolution started and resumed under strict Party censorship. There were very few cultural products and most of the works were produced collectively, under Party guidance, especially that of Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing, who took charge of the arts and cultural sector during the Cultural Revolution period. The major cultural product during this period was the eight (some say nine) revolutionary model operas produced under her supervision. These eight dramas became almost the only cultural works available, and the same stories were adopted in various genres and forms. See Roberts 2004a, 2004b, 2009. 18 Rather Die than Surrender (Horizonte te Hapura) was first screened in China in 1969. The story was set in a city in Albania during the Second World War; a female student, Mina, helped a female member of the Communist guerillas to escape the enemy’s search. They were later given up by a traitor and arrested by the Fascists. They withstood torture and promises of gain, and never surrendered. At the end, they sang “The Guerillas’ Song” on their way to execution. 19 During the Cultural Revolution, cultural production was heavily censored, and political propaganda dominated the cultural landscape. As one of the few socialist countries friendly with China, Albania’s movies were among the very few foreign films the Chinese could watch (North Korean and Vietnamese were the only others). 20 There were works of literature and films about female intellectuals converting to become revolutionaries, such as “Red Bean” by Zhong Pu, and “Song of Youth” by Yang Mo (for a discussion of the female intellectual archetype in the literature, see Meng 1993). Both Yang Mo and Zhong Pu were labeled as rightists in the 1957 Anti-rightist campaign and denounced during the Cultural Revolution. Their works were banned. 21 Deng Xiaoping, speaking at the National Science Conference in 1978, maintained that intellectuals (which included most cadres) “have become a part of the working class itself. The difference between them and the physical workers is only a difference of division of labour in society” (Kraus, 1981:175). It was then believed that in order for China to achieve the “four modernizations” (modernization of agriculture, industry, national defense, and science and technology), science and knowledge were the keys. 22 “Not being jiaoqi” is an attitude to femininity that reappears in both Lin’s Nainai’s Confucianist teaching and Maoist gender discourses, which both devalue and trivialize women’s biological needs and reproductive tasks. Lin received direct teaching of this attitude towards women’s reproductive role by witnessing the ways Nainai treated her mother when she was pregnant. 23 Lin has in fact been the one that has brought the most money into the family, since she has been working in business for years. Her husband, as an office manager in the hospital, earns a fixed salary and his income alone cannot support the family’s needs. 24 The popularity of Taiwanese female writer Qiong Yao’s romance novels and soap operas adapted from them provided an escapist fantasy of passionate indulgence for Mainland Chinese audiences. 25 Confucianism is still one of the ruling ideologies in Korean society, where many women choose to become stay- at-home housewives after marriage. 26 The single-braid hair bun Lin hates became fashionable in the 1980s, along with the nostalgic sentiment that emerged in Chinese popular culture. This hairstyle and the silk qipao (Chinese gown) became the signature look of “the traditional Chinese woman”, and are used as a uniform for young girls working in restaurants, hotels, and tourist sites, to satisfy Chinese who are nostalgic for an imaginary “Chinese past” and foreigners who come to consume the stereotypical exotic “Chinese culture”. 126 27 Photo source: http://cache.tianya.cn/publicforum/content/no11/1/591429.shtml. 28 I thank Timothy Cheek for pointing out this connection to me. 127 Chapter 3 Desire and Shame: Dong’s Life Story The analysis of Lin’s life story in Chapter 2 demonstrated that the Maoist construction of funü was highly classed, introducing a revolutionary ideal of “femininity” that reversed previous models. It designated a certain group of women as the embodiment of the image of funü, namely female workers and peasants – members of the proletarian (peasant or worker) classes, as defined by the CCP. The Maoist state created and presented funü as a political category, valorizing women as socialist labourers. With the end of the Mao era, a reversal occurred and the previously glorified Maoist funü were stigmatized as ridiculous, “unnatural”, overly politicized, and sexless. The construction of an attractive, “feminine” post-Mao nüxing as a “modern”, educated, younger woman, from the emerging middle-class, is based on the abjection of those who now became the “other”, namely the proletarian Maoist funü. For rural or working- class women who were supposedly the “original” funü, the social pressure for conformity to a different model and the required self-transformation involved a denial of who they were and the model they embodied. Their social location still makes them a constant reminder of Maoist history, and their very existence recalls an embarrassing past that many are eager to leave behind. This chapter examines the experience of one such woman. The life story told by Dong is that of a rural immigrant worker now living in Beijing. As she grew up in the post-Mao era, her experiences took place in a context where shifting official 128 and unofficial discourses of femininity were naturalizing the new hegemonic gender ideal of the nüxing, partly by repudiating the previous model of the funü in various ways. Dong’s life story conveys her personal and affective experience of shame and stigmatization as the living manifestation of the Maoist legacy in the post-Mao period of desire for new images. Her account demonstrates that both Maoist and post-Mao constructions of gender involve not only the reconfiguration of gender roles in terms of the types of work and domestic tasks expected from women, but also the re-mapping along class lines of femininity itself in relation to masculinity, and of the affects and self-esteem associated with these attributes. My analysis of Dong’s story focuses particularly on changing notions of femininity in relation to the value attributed to women’s appearance, as reflected in relatively expensive clothing, and the shame associated with failure to become or appear physically attractive by new standards that entail a change of class allegiance. The use of a regional dialect in Dong’s story is highlighted, as it provides a means for her to convey both desire and shame, revealing the exercise of personal agency in constructing her own gender project, one that both follows and resists the new model proposed. To situate Dong’s story in its historical context and social structure, it is useful to recall some background to the ongoing rural/urban divide in China, especially the ways in which shame has been associated with both. 129 Context Shame and social relations The concept and experience of shame have been approached from various perspectives in different disciplines. Biology, neuroscience, and psychology tend to focus on how shame is felt and expressed in the human brain and body, or the “affect” system, though cognitively oriented psychologists and learning theories do acknowledge the importance of social context. The humanities and social sciences are more interested in the social imposition, expression, and interpretation of shame. For instance, research in anthropology and sociology has addressed the cultural meaning and function of shame in different social and historical contexts. There are also studies that break disciplinary boundaries and try to understand shame in terms of both its bodily aspects and cultural context, like those of American psychologist Silvan Tomkins, whose clinical work inspired queer theorist Eve Sedgwick (1995) to examine shame in a context of transgressive sexual orientations. Many researchers have investigated various aspects of shame from different perspectives, and consequently their definitions of shame and its causes vary. Nonetheless, it is commonly recognized that shame is one of the most profound and widespread social and reflective emotions. In this chapter, I understand shame as a socially oriented affect that involves the internalization of the authority of the other. My discussion of the role of clothing in constructing gender identity and producing shame in the Mao period and in post-Mao China makes reference to 130 psychological, philosophical, sociological, and feminist research on shame, placing shame in its social, historical and cultural context, which brings out the intersections of class and gender. Among various types of shame, such as shame related to sexuality, body, and transgression etc., my focus here is on clothing-related shame, and the intersection between gender and class in the experience of shame, along with the changing notion of femininity. In the Western world, a widely accepted definition of shame, from William James (1890, 1950),1 understands it as the displeasure which a person experiences upon realizing that she does not measure up to the values which she embraces. Shame generally involves both the self and the other: the consciousness of self from the point of view of the other. On the one hand, as Mario Jacoby explained from a psychological perspective, we all have a partially conscious image of a self we want to be seen as—the so-called “ego-ideal” (1993: 3). People subscribe to a socially sanctioned “ideal” due to a longing for social recognition and self-esteem, and shame occurs when we internalize moral and social codes and ideals but are not able to meet them. However, being seen and judged by an Other is crucial in provoking public shame. As Sedgwick (1993) notes, “shame on you” acquires its illocutionary force (the conferral of shame) by the interpellation of an imagined witness (1993: 4). “To shame” means to actively confer or project shame on another person. In her philosophical discussion of emotions related to self-assessment and self-esteem, Gabriele Taylor (1985) points out that shame is only experienced when one identifies with the critical audience, perceiving their degrading judgment as valid judgment. This raises the question of what makes one subscribe to other’s judgment. Sociologist Theodore Kemper (1978) analyzes shame in terms of power relationships in human interactions, and argues that how a 131 person perceives the other in relationship to the self constitutes the essential structure of shame. For instance, when the other’s status is perceived as insufficient, shame will not occur even when there is an apparent transgression. In other words, as Jacoby states, those who are superior define the standards and are the authoritative judges. Those in a state of inferiority internalize the other’s judgment and experience a shame nominally conferred by those who are perceived as superior (Jacoby 1993:61-62). The values that one embraces, but is unable to live up to, thus cause shame. People experience shame over a variety of things: accent, physical features, parental background, clothes, type of work, and so on. In a society organized into various hierarchies, membership in a certain gender, race, or class evokes a sense of inferiority. In this case, shame “does not attach to what one does, but to what one is” (Sedgwick 1993: 12), and is an inextricable part of one’s being. Jacoby explains that since one’s sense of self-worth and dignity is often linked to social standing, shame is often a result of “the manner in which my entire being or self is valued—or more precisely, devalued, not only by others but by myself.” (1993: 2). In Faithful Change, James Fowler examines Jesus’ responses to personal and social shame. He presents shame as a spectrum with five types or degrees of shame (2000:113). The third type, “shame due to enforced minority status” (2000:118), refers to the “ascribed shame” that is transmitted from parent and family to their children, in a social environment that dis- values qualities over which people have no control. Among the sources of ascribed shame, most potent “are the distortions due to socio-economic class, race, ethnic background, sometimes religion, and – most commonly — gender (2000:119)”. Situating shame in the social location and social systems that produce it highlights the 132 links between the shame socially disadvantaged groups experience and the central role shame plays in the construction of race, class, gender, and other social relations. Shame in a Chinese context The English term “shame” can be translated into various terms in Chinese: 1) chi . (being shamed/feeling ashamed), xiu / (feeling shy), or ru 0 (experiencing disgrace); 2) diulian 123loss of face); 3) guofen de shiqing 456783stepping out of line, inappropriate behaviour). In addition, there are also Chinese terms that express the combination of shame and other emotions, such as anger-shame (/9), humiliation-shame 3.:, guilt- shame 3;< or =;), and “buhaoyisi” (>?@A) which combines gratitude, apology, avoidance, shame, and embarrassment. Traditionally in China the Confucian concept of li (propriety) governs all relationships, and shame is the consequence of straying from li. Even though shame is undoubtedly implemented as a major technique of social control, in Confucian philosophy it is more than merely a cognitive response to external sanctions since it is also seen as having an important moral effect in the personal cultivation of Confucian values. As Confucius stated, “lead them with virtue and regulate them by the rules of propriety (li), and they will have a sense of shame and, moreover, set themselves aright” (Confucius 2006:9). Shame is thus seen as an important positive force that pressures individuals to meet expectations in social exchanges. Similar in function to Freud’s super-ego (or internalized “conscience”), it encourages li (propriety), motivating a conformity that helps to maintain social order. For Confucius and his followers, a society guided by li should foster a sense of shame among its members. This is what Jane 133 Geaney calls ‘‘boundary shame" (2004), referring to a contact-driven effect when people or things are perceived as transgressing the accepted line of appropriateness. She argues that, rather than the present general Western understanding of shame as often either visual or sexual in nature (an aspect which will be discussed below), early Confucian texts reveal a concept of shame as a response to disconcertingly blurred boundaries. In the middle of the twentieth century, there was a trend in anthropology that distinguished between “shame cultures” and “guilt cultures”. Following Mead (1937, ), anthropologist Ruth Benedict (1946) argues that countries such as Japan have a 'shame' culture which depends primarily on external sanction and how one's moral conduct appears to outsiders, whereas most Christian societies have a guilt culture that depends on internal sanction and emphasizes the individual's internal conscience. As Takeo Doi (1981, ) points out, this distinction implies that the shame culture is inferior to the guilt culture, and tends to identify Western European and American cultures as conforming to a model reflects internal self- regulation rather than external pressure. Gerhart Piers, a psychologist, and Milton Singer, an anthropologist, reject the prejudiced use of the terms ‘‘internal’’ and ‘‘external’’ as exclusively descriptive of guilt and shame, and posit a notion of internalized shame (Piers and Singer 1953). Their study also shows that the difference lies more in the degree to which shame/guilt is acknowledged in each culture rather than in the distinct kind of emotion experienced. According to Gershen Kaufman (1985) and Donald Nathanson (1988), shame is a universal affect that occurs across cultures, but is experienced and reacted to differently in different cultural traditions. The social mores of the “ego-ideal” differ across cultures and historical contexts; consequently the meaning and experience of shame are different, as cross- 134 cultural research studies demonstrate. For example, Heider’s (1991) study in three countries shows finely differentiated aspects of shame in Indonesian language that do not seem to exist in English-speaking cultures. Other research found that certain types of shame were more prevalent in Japan and Indonesia, when compared to Western cultures (Crystal et al 2001; Kitayama et al 1995; Lebra 1976) and showed that when compared with European-Americans’, Asian- Americans’ experiences of shame were both more frequent and prevalent. In Many Faces of Shame (1988), Nathanson observes that Jewish and Chinese people experience shame in distinct ways not shared by most Americans. As Sedgwick (1993) notes, the structuration of shame not only varies across cultures, periods, and political ideologies, but also differs from one person to another within a given context. Any individual’s sense of shame is connected with a particular personal history and current cultural context, and informed by a specific social location in terms of gender, class, age, ability, and often physical appearance. Deeply rooted in historical and cultural context and central to the social structure of a society, the source and meaning of shame shift along with societal changes. The cause and experience of shame for a young woman in contemporary China may be expected to differ significantly from that of a woman in traditional Confucian China or in the Mao era. A woman living in the country would also have experienced different expectations from one living in a city, throughout most of Chinese history. To situate Dong’s story in its historical context and the social structure in which she lives, I will provide some background information on the rural/urban divide in P. R. China. 135 The Rural-urban divide in China Despite the CCP’s rural origins and peasant orientation, P. R. China’s socialist industrialization achieved its first accumulation of capital by sacrificing rural development and exploiting the peasantry. From 1955 to the early 1980s, the Chinese government imposed a state monopoly over the purchase and marketing of agricultural products, and transferred much of the agrarian surplus to the finance industry and other investment priorities (Zhang 1999; Lin Chun 2006). The household registration (hukou) system set up in 1955 classified all citizens into either agricultural or nonagricultural residents, according to their place of residence (Cheng and Selden 1997; Wang, Fei-Ling 2005). Hukou is inherited, and it was and still is extremely difficult to transfer from agricultural to nonagricultural status. Mobility from rural to urban areas was strictly controlled. Even though there was basic collective welfare in the countryside, such as schools and public health services, rural residents did not have the same access to many benefits as city dwellers and state-sector workers, from employment with a pension, to subsidized food and housing or guaranteed schooling and health care (Selden 1988:210). The hukou system institutionalized the hierarchical urban-rural dichotomy and created a rigid quasi-caste division in which peasants were second-class citizens, “in a subaltern position on the land” (Cheng and Seldon 1997). This led to structural inequality and rural impoverishment. There were virtually two Chinas: the rural, and the urban, with the city prioritized over the countryside (Cheng and Seldon 1994: 645). In recent years rural living standards have remained low, and rural/urban inequalities have been perpetuated and even accentuated. All traces of the Maoist discourse glorifying the simple country life and claims to superiority for peasants have disappeared. 136 The rural reforms of the early 1980s raised prices for farm products, relaxed restrictions on domestic migration, and stimulated rural markets and rural industrialization. The average household income increased and living standards rose in both rural and urban areas (data in Kelliher 1992; Lu 2001). However, from the late 1980s on, incomes in rural areas stagnated, and income inequalities both within rural and between rural and urban areas increased, undermining the initial gains from the early reform era (Nee 1989, 1991; Nee and Liedka 1997). Rural areas then experienced shortages of arable land, lack of local employment opportunities, falling prices for agricultural products, and rising taxes. Meanwhile the urban economy witnessed an unprecedented expansion under the neo-liberal policies of deregulation. China’s entry into the global economy, the expansion of urban infrastructure projects, and large-scale foreign investment created a huge demand for unskilled and low-cost labour in construction, manufacturing, and service industries. Whether their aim was to improve their material life through employment in the city, or to take advantage of the new freedom to move around to see more of the world, or to escape oppression or familial conflict (especially gender oppression or violence), a huge “floating population” of rural laborers, male and female, migrated to live and work in the cities. Though they live in the cities, these migrants retain their rural hukou status and are treated as outsiders and discriminated against by both the state and urban residents who look down on them with disdain (see studies on rural migrants by Ching-Kwan Lee 1998, Pun Ngai 2005, Dorothy Solinger 1999, Jacka Tamara 2004, 2006, and Li Zhang 2001). Dong, whose story is conveyed in this chapter, belongs to this urban-peasant category. As Rofel argues, capitalism is a world-transforming project that reaches both the body and heart by producing and fostering a wide range of desires, and China’s transformation from 137 Maoist socialism to post-socialist neoliberal capitalism has produced new forms of desire among newly constructed, consumer-oriented, post-socialist “desiring subjects” (Rofel 2007:3), including newly urbanized peasants. China has seen the emergence of many new categories of consumers, from the fashion-conscious nüxing to cosmopolitan globetrotters (see Chapter 5), to a Chinese transnational queer culture (as will be discussed in Chapter 4). Older women from urban elite families, like Lin whose story was told in Chapter 2, can now say goodbye (if they wish) to the Maoist funü image to which they were previously required to pay lip service, even though many could never conform to or identify with it. Many of them have the material and cultural resources to participate in the post-Mao gender project of constructing an attractive feminine nüxing image, or to negotiate an individualized gender project of their own. Displaced rural women, like Dong, who now live in the city, may also long to become post-Mao nüxing. However, the class-based nature of the nüxing category, which implies a certain frivolity, fragility or decorativeness previously denied to rural women, combined with the ongoing hierarchy based on identification of one’s origins with the city or the countryside, tends to lead to their social exclusion and humiliation. Their desire to become “feminine”, fostered in the urban context by the development of China’s neo-liberal capitalism and market economy, is often thwarted, resulting in multiple layers of shame. Unable to attain the ideal subject position of nüxing, they are regarded by “successful” urban citizens, who successfully espouse the hyperfemininity promoted by the post-Mao gender revision, as non- women, or less-than-women. They become invisible or are seen as an eye-sore. For instance, in Lei Guang’s (2003) discussion of popular and political discourses on rural migrants and urban- rural difference, the author mentioned a news report in a popular Shanghai newspaper that 138 bashes the bad fashion taste of migrant women in Shanghai, and their vain efforts to imitate urban fashions. Highly visible aspects of public culture, such as fashion, are among the major sites where desire is produced and the success of performing conformity assessed. The stories of gendered and classed desire and shame presented here are mediated through clothes, which appear as a synecdoche (a part representing the whole) of the post-Mao nüxing: having the right wardrobe may be expected to bring with it access to other attributes, such as self-esteem and respect for oneself as a “feminine” woman. Dong’s life story Outline Figure 3 Dong at the restaurant where she works. Photo by Xin Huang, 2006, reproduced here with permission. Dong, who was born in 1977 in a village near Chongqing, in Sichuan province in Southwest China, was twenty-nine years old at the time of the interview. Her father was a local- level cadre working in another village, and her family was poor compared to other villagers and most of her schoolmates. A matchmaker had introduced Dong’s parents, leading to their marriage. Her mother worked in the commune in addition to her responsibility for taking care of 139 her children and the household work, which included cooking for the whole in-law family of six siblings. Dong’s mother was ill-treated by her mother-in-law because she did not give birth to a son in the first ten years of her marriage. After graduating from junior high school, Dong left to work away from home, and a neighbor helped to find her a job in a Sichuanese restaurant in Beijing. Since then Dong has worked in various restaurants in Beijing over the last ten years, occupying various positions; she climbed the ladder from bussing tables, to receptionist, to waitress taking orders, to VIP room waitress to manager of a restaurant. She married a co- worker, who was a dishwasher and is now a chef in the same restaurant. They have a daughter who lives with her grandparents in Dong’s hometown, but Dong does not want to go back there herself. She bought an apartment in a small city near Beijing, with a loan offered by her current boss, and plans to open her own restaurant in the future. At the time of my interview with Dong, she was working as the supervisor of a restaurant in Beijing. The interview was conducted in Sichuan dialect (which I also speak). When I started the interview with Dong, she told me that she did not know where to begin, so I used prepared questions which follow a chronological order from birth to current status. She quickly responded to this structure, and the telling of her life story flowed smoothly with few pauses. Her narration became increasingly confident and articulate, so that I did not need to ask many further guiding questions after a while. After she finished her life story, I invited her to reflect on her life and make some concluding comments. Since the structure of Dong’s life story was influenced by my initial questions, which established a pattern (unlike the interviews with many other research participants), there was no clear division between her first telling and the retelling of her life story. However, the use of Dong’s hometown dialect in the interview did impact on what I was 140 told, and brought out some unexpected elements which I will discuss in the last section of this chapter. “Women’s Day” and the funü When Dong went to Beijing in 1997, she encountered and benefited from a Maoist funü legacy: The day I arrived was March 8th…That was the year I turned 17. Which year?...Anyway, it was March 8th, I arrived…I just got off the train after a two-day ride; they didn’t say have a rest or anything, just gave me a uniform and told me to get working. So I started working. I worked the whole day… In the evening, when we finished working, I got 50 yuan. “What is this 50 yuan about?2 And then they told me that it was to celebrate “Women’s Day”. They gave us 50 yuan for “Women’s Day”. For the first time, I learned about that. (Dong 2006) As discussed in Chapter 2, the celebration of Women’s Day was one means to draw attention to the Maoist funü in the symbolic domain, and to establish her status as representing the mass of women in China. Since December 1949, when the new government of P.R. China declared March 8th as Women’s Day, women have been given half a day off from their work, so that they can participate in various celebrations.3 This rule works in conjunction with the 1995 paper entitled “Opinions on several issues regarding the implementation of the Labour Law of P.R. China”, issued by the Ministry of Labour, which stipulated that employees must receive triple overtime pay for working on statutory holidays.4 The celebration of Women’s Day and related compensation policy therefore aimed to reinforce the value accorded to the category of funü through both symbolic celebration and material recompense. Dong does not remember exactly which year she arrived in Beijing, but she clearly recalls that it was March 8th. On that day, for the first time in her life, she officially became a 141 funü and enjoyed the material benefit of being recognized as a valued contributor to the state, as a “working woman” (laodong funü). However, Dong’s story about the 50 yuan she received also reveals the actual exclusion of many rural women labourers, who were clearly in the category of funü but received no recognition, even on March 8th. Her clear, joyful memory of that unexpected 50 yuan reveals that in her village no-one had even heard of extra compensation for working on Women’s Day. In fact, although the day is officially called “March 8th International Working Women’s Day” (sanba guoji laodong funü jie), it is generally only a holiday for women with formal employment who earn a regular monthly salary. Since rural women’s remuneration was calculated in daily work points (gongfen, evaluated according to a scale of 1-10),5 if they did no work on a certain day, they received no pay. Women’s Day is therefore not a holiday for rural women working on the gongfen system, or for women who stay at home taking care of the family, or urban women working for hourly wages or as casual labours. Even though the Maoist construction of funü designated female workers and peasants as the origin and representatives of funü, the regulations related to Women’s Day reveal that, ironically, many of those who were represented symbolically as typical funü, especially rural women, were and still are actually excluded from the official, recognized category of “working women” and denied the (small) material benefit associated once a year with that status. This story further demonstrates that for many women, the funü category that Women’s Day aims to honour, and that the fulian, ACWF claims to represent, remains an empty signifier, meaningful only for the state as a means of governance, rather than as an inclusive category representing “Chinese women”. While many rural women, like those in Dong’s village and jiatingfunü like Lin’s grandmother (Chapter 2), were not entitled to any reward on Women’s 142 Day, other women from urban elite backgrounds did not wish or seek to be identified as funü. In Some of Us, Wang Zheng (2001) talks about some young women’s non-identification with the term funü even during the Mao era. In her story, some female students refused to take the free movie tickets handed out for International Women’s Day, because they identified themselves as “youth” (qingnian) rather than as funü (women); the latter term had negative connotations for them of being matronly housewives, or older, uneducated, married women.6 The debate over the renaming of Women’s Day (mentioned in the Introduction) exemplifies the rejection of funü as a category of identification for individual women. With the post-Mao denunciation of the reversed Maoist class hierarchy and its egalitarian ideas, the groups previously glorified as the agents of history, the leading classes of workers, soldiers, and peasants with whom all former bourgeois or aristocrats were supposed or forced to identify, once more became relegated to the role of “others”. The espousing of the class-based post-Mao “feminized” nüxing is also accompanied by the abjection of the Maoist proletariat funü. While the abjection of the Maoist funü is regarded as one of the means for many to resist the state-defined meaning of being women and express individual agency, rural women are now stigmatized in the post-Mao construction of nüxing, as the embodiment of the Maoist funü. The following story of Dong’s experience with army-style attire tells us about the shifting ground of pride and shame, and the symbolic violence enacted upon some rural women in the process of articulating a new version of themselves as post-Mao nüxing. From pride to shame: the significance of PLA sneakers 143 Since I was little, I’d been wearing rubber shoes (jiaoxie). I’d always been wearing rubber shoes. I hated the rubber shoes so much, that whenever I saw them, I hated them…..The kind … they wear in the army. Yeah, that kind of rubber PLA sneakers… I longed so much for a pair of white tennis sneakers (bai wanxie)….So I wanted to buy a pair of boots….But my request was never approved. (Dong 2006) Figure 4 (left) PLA sneakers Figure 5 (right) White tennis sneaker As Emily Honig (2002) notes, the militarization of civilian life influenced the popularity of an image of female militancy even before the Cultural Revolution, with the publication of Mao’s poem “Militia Women,” (1972: 98-99) 7 and stories such as “The Red Detachment of Women”, and state-sponsored militia training for men and women (White 1989). Beginning in 1964, a nationwide campaign urged people to learn from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and be like the model male soldier, Lei Feng, in order to acquire the “most progressive” status associated with the PLA. During the Cultural Revolution, the PLA uniform symbolized the most “revolutionary”, pure, trustworthy socialist commitment. Both Mao and Jiang Qing, Mao’s wife, often appeared in military uniforms during that period. Army uniform became a widespread national fashion (Finnane 2008), and even police uniforms were changed to be identical to the PLA uniforms of the mid-1960s (Hua 2008). 144 Many young women also embraced this new fashion. In many women’s memoirs about the Cultural Revolution, they describe the pride they felt when dressed in an army uniform (James and Tyson, 1995:193; Thurston, 1987:160; Rae, 1997: 135, cited in Honig 2002, also Yang 1997: 122). For female Red Guards, wearing military uniform symbolized a rejection of the bourgeois lifestyle and conveyed their revolutionary attitude of challenging figures of authority (Honig 2002: 257, 264). Figure 6 (left) the PLA uniform fashion 8 Figure 7 (right) the PLA uniform fashion 9 In rural areas, green army-style uniforms that marked identity and difference between the “sent-down” youth from urban areas, veterans, and the local peasants, became a symbol of status.10 For rural residents, military-style clothing was associated with the PLA, the Red Guards, and big cities. It symbolized revolution and progress. Army-style clothes were the most produced garments during the Cultural Revolution period, and because mass production and state subsidies allowed reasonable prices, they became the most widespread fashion. 145 The end of the Cultural Revolution saw the disappearance of the “daughter of China with a marvelous will”, as described in Mao’s poem about female militia members mentioned earlier (see endnote 6), who preferred military style (wuzhuang) to girly style (hongzhuang). The educated urban youth who had been “sent down” left the countryside and returned to the cities. A fashion industry started to revive in the 1980s (Finnane 2008). Followers of the Iron Girl model and former female Red Guards now permed their hair and put on skirts and high heels. The wuzhuang (military) style was definitely out, and hongzhuang (feminine style) was in. As a conscious reaction against the compulsory austerity of the Mao period, public messages about the appropriate adornment for women have changed radically since the 1980s. Dressing up became regarded as a liberating act and an indication of the success of economic reforms and the rising standard of living (Honig 1988, Finnane 2008). Young women were encouraged to “love beauty” (aimei). Instructions on how to dress well, choose a hairstyle, wear make-up, and build an attractive, slim body proliferated in popular magazines and books. Cultivating a feminine appearance became a social obligation for women. Images of strong, active women engaged in physical work or traditionally male occupations were replaced by those of sexy, glamorous ladies working at clean “white-collar” office jobs, exemplifying a radically different way of fashioning femininity and stylizing the female body (Luo and Hao 2006).11 The loud voice, aggressive manner, and cruder body language associated with the “unisex” revolutionary comrade, and the plain, faded, and patched clothes symbolizing a proletarian aesthetic (Chen 2003a, 2003b), now become signs of the ridiculous, “unnatural”, over-politicized and sexless women of the Mao era. Those who still carry these signs now often feel the social 146 stigma attached to a sense of defeat (of the old regime they still represent) and bear a sense of shame or resentment for former sacrifices now deemed worthless. Figure 8, Rural migrant workers in 2008 Figure 9, Dulong women (!!") in 2006 Since the 1990s, PLA and police uniforms have been changed; the once popular and fashionable old-style army uniforms are still produced, but they are sold mostly in rural areas (and the caps as souvenirs for tourists). While army-style green clothes are mostly now worn only by rural men, other items such as the long quilted green army coat, and especially PLA sneakers, are still considered unisex.12 Cheap army sneakers with waterproof rubber-coated edges are still widely worn in rural areas, where most of the roads are unpaved and muddy. Army sneakers became almost the universal shoes for rural people, old or young, men or women, Han majority or ethnic minorities.13 Once a symbol of status and pride, the old PLA army style now brings shame for being associated with a rustic life style and a forgotten ideology, and army sneakers in particular symbolize peasantry and poverty, the Maoist past, and China’s 147 backwardness. The era that obscured gender difference became frowned on, and wearing PLA sneakers made Dong a living manifestation of the repudiated Maoist history as well as drawing attention to the now embarrassing poverty of her family and her rural origins. For her, the sneakers were a source of shame. The change in the symbolic meaning of the PLA uniform reflects the broader change of dress codes and their meaning in China’s transition from the Mao to post-Mao era. The shifting convention of what are appropriate and desirable clothes for women is closely connected with which class and class-encoded femininity is the norm and represents the ideal of ‘Chinese women” on the one hand, and the changing construction of the “feminine” as a source of pride or shame on the other hand. As discussed above, shame is an important instrument for social regulation, moral control, and the policing of culturally programmed, internalized, prescribed performances of socially constructed selves, including roles associated with gender, race/ethnicity, class, and age. Gendered socialization in a patriarchal society also makes women more prone to emotions of guilt and shame (Ferguson and Eyre 2000: 256; Bartky, 1990). The evolution of the status of the PLA uniform from a source of pride and marker of gender equality in the Mao era to an indicator of rural poverty and backwardness at the present time, clearly illustrates not only changing ideas about femininity, sexuality, and militancy, but also how public opinion and attitudes are changed through both official and unofficial discourses and policies. Both obvious and subtle means serve to produce individual and collective feelings of pride and shame that regulate and modify gender and class hierarchies. 148 Clothes that bring shame and pride In many studies the experience of shame is associated with visibility and sexuality, with revealing what should be kept hidden. Keon Wurmser (1981: 29) linked the modern English word “shame” with the Indo-Germanic root kam/kem meaning “to cover, to veil, to hide”; the prefix “s” (s-kam) adds a reflexive meaning – “to cover oneself.” He notes that the notion of hiding is intrinsic to and inseparable from the concept of shame in the West. Following Wurmser, Mario Jocoby (1991: 1) suggests that the idea of covering oneself with a garment has been implicit in the concept of shame. In an article entitled “Cloth wounds, or when queers are martyred to clothes: the value of clothing’s complex debasement”, Kathryn Bond Stockton (2002) argues that whereas we are told that clothes are designed to cover, protect or adorn the body, they can also reveal, wound or debase the body that they pretend to cover. Clothes can be both a shield and an agent for suff
UBC Theses and Dissertations
The legacy of the Maoist gender project in contemporary China Huang, Xin 2010
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