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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Making ‘opposite-sex’ love : discourse and discord in Linglong Women's Pictorial Magazine, 1931-1937 Wang, Gary


This thesis is a case study of Linglong Magazine, published in Shanghai from 1931 to 1937. It examines representational conflict in the construction of normative heterosexuality and marriage – a regulatory measure that contained the prospect of female autonomy during a period of flux. The study is a preliminary exercise in Michel Hockx’s formulation of “horizontal reading,” which regards journal issues as collectively authored texts and emphasizes the spatial relation of printed material. Referring to both texts and images in the magazine, I find that heteronormativity is covertly challenged at the same time that same-sex love and the rejection of marriage are stigmatized. Moreover, alternative voices and sensibilities that encompass homoeroticism are hinted at, which I seek to recover. I thus underscore how normative gender constructs are negotiated and challenged in Linglong at the same time that they are reaffirmed. In reading Linglong horizontally, I show how romanticized heterosexual love is matched by vociferous attacks on men and idealization of female bonds, which are at times valued over relations with men. In my view, what Barbara Mittler identifies in the magazine as cheeky misandrism – a “distaste for men” or “man-hating” – was a playful marketing device that also provided a channel for contributors (many of whom were readers) to covertly express what was becoming increasingly taboo to articulate overtly – namely, support for female autonomy and alternatives to compulsive heterosexuality and marriage. Drawing on Gao Yunxiang’s analysis of Linglong’s promotion of athleticism in the name of national strengthening, I suggest that the new fashion of robust beauty, in conjunction with references to Euro-American art forms that sanction depictions of the human form, legitimized the display of female bodies and expanded notions of femininity in erotically charged ways that include dimensions of homoeroticism. Pleasure and fear are thus engendered simultaneously on the pages of Linglong.

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