Lu, C. (2022). Manufacturing Gender Equality in the People’s Republic of China, 1949-1984. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.14418/wes01.1.2551
This thesis studies the feminist ideas produced by the state in the People’s Republic of China from 1949 to 1984. With most contemporary scholars of women’s and gender history emphasizing women’s subjective experiences, my inquiry is a necessary contribution to the history of Chinese state-women relationship by providing a theoretical understanding of Chinese state feminism. Utilizing a variety of evidence sourced from the state, I focus on women’s labor for its vital significance in explicating gender equality under the socialist framework. Tracing “worker’s family,” “Iron Girls,” and women workers in the state discourse, I argue that whenever a new economic campaign took place and shifted the production model, the state manufactured new ideas about gender equality as it redefined women’s labor in accordance with its latest economic plan. During the period of socialist construction (1949-1957), the state grappled with the value of domestic labor through politics of recognition and acknowledged domestic labor as honorable and productive in 1957; when the revolutionary zeal stormed the country (1958-1976), radical Party members questioned the previous institutional support for women workers’ reproductive health and reconceptualized an absolutist gender equality that deemed women and men were the same by disregarding women’s physiological differences; as the revolution ended in 1976, the state sought to restore social stability and implemented maternalist policies to protect women’s labor and reproductive health, which eventually disadvantaged women workers in the era of economic reform, as work units manipulated the maternalist rhetoric to justify their gender discrimination. By examining the past, this thesis excavates a repository of politically permissible language that can inspire and inform the continuous fight for gender equality today.