Globalization affected women’s rights and the gender hierarchy in China, in aspects of domestic life such as marriage and primogeniture, as well as in the workplace. These changes altered the quality of life and the availability of opportunities to women at different junctures throughout the modern globalization process.
From the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 CE) until the modern period (1840–1919), scholars and rulers developed a male-dominated patriarchal society in China.
Confucianism was at the root of the development of the patriarchal society in China, and emphasized the distinctions between the sexes and the roles they have within the family.
During the Song Dynasty (960-1297), Confucian scholars further developed the patriarchal tradition with more restrictions for females, including foot binding for girls at a very young age.
Western scholarship has historically used ideas of subordinance and victimization to characterize traditional Chinese womanhood. These beliefs were largely constructed on the basis of ideological and political agendas, and were widely accepted despite their ethnocentrism. Early European writings pertaining to Chinese women were produced by missionaries and ethnologists at the conclusion of the 19th century.
The traditional Chinese marriage system benefited men more than women. This effect could be seen in monogamy, concubinage, divorce, and the heritage of lineage and property through males.
People placed a strong emphasis on food preparation in Ancient China. Cooking was one of the most time-consuming tasks for wives because of traditional rituals and high expectations for the taste and appeal of food.
The “New Culture” movement began in China around 1916 following the unsuccessful activities of the 1911 Revolution to establish a republican government, and continued through the 1920s. The May Fourth Movement, which took place on May 4, 1919, was a demonstration led by students at the National Peking University against the government, in which they protested the abolition of Confucianism and changes in the traditional value system. Many believed that the solution to China’s problems would be to adopt Western notions of equality and democracy. Since the movement stressed group efforts and propaganda, women were involved in numerous collective tasks such as publication, drama production, and fund raising, which helped them gain more social contact with men and win respect.
As a result of Communist rule in China, the social status of women improved greatly. But women in rural areas remain largely uneducated.
As the Communist regime changed the structure of Chinese society through economic reform, the structure of the Chinese family was altered.”The Four Olds” (sijiu) – old ideas, old habits, old customs, old cultures – were discouraged and were replaced by Communist ideology.
In the 1970s, as the feminist movements were forming, they began to affect the literature surrounding women in China. Studies on Chinese women from this period were concerned with women’s liberation, and were sympathetic to the feminist movement.
In 1979, the Communist regime in China regulated birth control, called the one-child policy.In 2015, China allowed all couples to have two children, abolishing its decades-long one-child policy for urban families.
China’s economic policies laid the basis of the industrialization drive in export-oriented development, and its reliance on low-wage manufacturing to produce consumer goods for the world market. Young migrant women left their homes in rural settings to work in urban industrial areas.
In rural areas, women traditionally work alongside their family to produce crops like tea and rice. In urban areas, women work in factories, living away from home. Most of these factory workers are young girls who send their income to their families.
Women factory workers are known as “dagongmei” (working girls). They are traditionally young women migrants who experience a segmented labor market in informal and low-wage employment sectors.
In the Nanshan district of Shenzhen, females comprised 80% of the workforce and had an average age of 23. Young female workers are preferred over older females or males for several reasons. First, as married women are less mobile, female migrant workers are younger and more likely to be single than their male counterparts. Young rural women are preferred for these jobs primarily because they are less likely to get pregnant, and are able and willing to withstand longer working hours.
Hiring single young women serve needs of management. The employment of young females allow management to exhibit maximum control and authority over the labor force. Compared to older women and male workers, young single women are susceptible to the authority and demands of management.
Without the right to form unions, migrant women workers find it hard to effectively gain suitable rights and treatment from the factory management.
The new system allowed rural residents to migrate, it did not allow them to change their residence or accept any benefits in the cities.This resulted in a growing population of migrant laborers without the minimal benefits of residency including medical care, housing, or education. Many migrant women do not trust the government to protect their rights. Today, up to 90% of migrants work without contracts, in violation of the Chinese labour law.
By staff editor