December 14, 2004

Yellow Wall-paper: From my perspective

I did some research about Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Like the woman in "Yellow-Wallpaper", Gilman suffered from severe depression after giving birth to her only child. She hated the confines of marriage and ended up leaving her husband. She disagreed with the constraints that society placed on women at that time. At that time, women’s social status is much lower than men. Her husband suggests that writing is dangerous to her health, but it is really only dangerous for him because it may lead to her being economically independent, and he might lose his control over her.
From a non-American viewpoint, I found that there are similarities between Chinese women and American women in terms of equality. Before 1949, China was still ruled by King Dynasty. Women were not allowed to step into society. Most of women were not educated at all. They were confined to stay inside of the house before marriage. After getting marriage, they were pretty much considered functioning as a child-maker and doing the housework. Even in some loyal families, women were not allowed to join the conversation with men. Women were viewed as a slut, if they had a conversation with strange men. Some of them may be considered as “Adultery”. After “Cultural Revolution” in 1976, with the feminist movement emerging, more and more women went to school to get education. They were attaining respects and acknowledgements by the society. Nowadays, in China, a company must have certain percentage of women employees bounded by law. Not only do they have the same equality as men in the workplace, but also they tend to be economically independent in the family.
However, that are still some men think that most of women were supposed to stay at home and do the cooking, cleaning, and raising of children. I would not say it is women’s duty to do the housework. I had a conversation with some international students in the dinning hall, the other day. It is common that women do the housework all the time in some countries. We agreed that there was a tendency in many countries, that women should so the cooking, cleaning, and raising child, and let men bring the bread home. Some people believe this kind of tendency followed by a tradition. But others think it is sexism, because the world is still in male’s dominance. Gender issue is a big social issue today. In Chinese culture, a woman metaphorically means water, which stand for tenderness and weakness. The society would accept a tender woman rather than a tough one as a man. Women are born to be cared by his husband and dependent on him. Once a woman is economically independent, a man would lose his control over his wife. But my age group is more educated than our parent generation. So we have a better understanding of what equality is. It will take a long time to trim down the problem. I think it is a good sign for us, because with more influence from developed nations, such as US, more and more people will be aware of this issue. It will conduct us to its solution.

Posted by HuiLin at December 14, 2004 08:36 PM

You've done a good job opening up a line of inquiry that examines differences between our cultures. In the 1970s, there was a push to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, which would have added an amendment to the U.S. Constitution making it unconstitutional (and thereby unamerican) to discriminate on the basis of gender. This amendment did not pass, but I remember TV commercials featuring TV and movie stars urging viewers to "help pass ERA."

If the 70s was the decade of women rebelling against traditional roles, in the 80s women were encouraged to have it all -- that is, there were cultural forces that encouraged women to compete with men in the workplace, be housewives after business hours, and great lovers to their men at night. A TV commercial for some product -- probably hair dye or hair conditioner-- showed a woman in a business suit, while a female singer sang, "I can bring home the bacon..." (a phrase that means the same thing as "be a breadwinner)... then the screen split to include a woman standing at a stove, while the singer continued, "...fry it up in a pan..." and then, with the other two pictures still displayed, the screen showed a third view of the same woman, this time wearing a sexy outfit, while the singer crooned, "And never never let you forget your'e a man, 'cause I'm a woman... " At this point in the commercial, a chorus of female singers sang the name of the product, but I can't remember what it was. It sounded like "Anjali", but that wasn't it.

In the 90s, women started realizing that they couldn't have it all -- that is, embracing women's workplace rights seemed to mean that they had to let go of their power at home. Men changed, too, as a result of the women's movement, and while some men felt threatened by that change, some women also felt that changing gender roles threatened the traditional power that women can hold over men (pretending to be helpless in order to get men to change light bulbs or squish bugs for them, just as I pretend to be unable to separate whites from colors so that my wife doesn't trust me doing the kids laundry).

I have a few questions, motivated mostly by curiosity.

At the time Gilman was writing, what were conditions like for women in China?

What are today's children in China taught about the role of women in American society? I imagine that movie stars and pop singers get more attention than "soccer moms" (the suburban women who have taken time off from career or education in order to raise children, and who spend a lot of time driving SUVs to get their kids from school to soccer practice).

What are the stereotypes that the Chinese have about Americans? Has your time in American reinforced or challenged these stereotypes?

What do the Chinese have to learn from the Americans? What do the Chinese have to teach that would help make America a better nation?

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at December 15, 2004 12:02 AM

Back to the late the 19th and early of 20 century, China was still a feudalism country ruled by Qing Destiny. Because of “Close Door Policy” had last several hundred years and still running at that time, though there are a lot of foreign officers and visitors came from other west. But it didn’t bring much attention to the society. Women were living in the circle of staying inside the house and raising children, financially supported by their husbands. It is merely that some young ladies in hypocoristic families began to reach out to touch western culture brought by the foreign visitors. The common people still lived in old feudalistic style. The majority women were illiterate because they are farmers. There is old saying, “An illiterate woman has good morality and fame.” I do not know if you understand the sentence. It means that a good woman shouldn’t get educated. But there are small amount population of women in loyal families were privately taught at home. Their knowledge was mainly based on the “Confusion”.

Today’s children in China are well educated, as same as American children. Females are very well respected they are the role model of the kinds in most of the families. Most of the mothers in China have their daily job to maintain the house hold finical situation, they will use their spare time to teach and educate their children. The role of female in China are not as independent as the once in US but in most of the major cities they are very close.

Maybe our system was not good enough, but it takes time to be improved. Our generation (born after 1980) is called Y-generation in China, because we are born after “Culture Revolution” and “Open Policy” when the economic reform took place. Western modern culture has a big influence on young generations in China. However the only thing most people can see is from movies or other people’s mouth. Most of the Chinese have no idea what’s really like in US, just like most of the Americans have no idea what’s happening in China. American culture is very popular in China. We watch Hollywood movies and listen R&B. But some of them took the “meaning of freedom” from America a wrong way. The have tattoo on their shoulders, smoke drugs and pursue sex freedom. They think it is cool. Personally after I got to America I learned a lot about America culture I understand part of the real culture of America and how people in America acts. I do agree with a lot of things but I can’t forget that I am Chinese and there are things I can only deal in my own “Chinese” way.

America is a well developed country. I think it will still take years for China to catch up. The law system; how people following the law; and most of all are to raise the education level of people in China. One of the most important things for China right now is to make sure children can go to school and make sure our majority of the people are educated. Overall I think China can learn from America’s law system and education system. As I said earlier America is the most developed country however there are harms due to this reason. I think most of the Americans are not disciple enough to compare with people form other counties. As most of the Americans know their country is stronger so they have advantage over others, but the truth is if that idea keeps staying in Americans head then very soon they will be behind, kind of like UK, just let other counties look at America in their review mirror.

Posted by: Hui Lin at December 15, 2004 09:13 PM

Thanks for this reflection... it helps put things into perspective.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at December 15, 2004 10:47 PM
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