Discussion of Gender and Modernity

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 5
Words: 1315
Reading time:
5 min
Study level: Bachelor

Introduction

The modern world society is characterized by profound structural changes. There is a process of restructuring of social institutions, a change in social values and way of life. In addition, previously customary ideas about the role of women in the family have undergone a significant adjustment in the minds of representatives of most cultures and peoples. That happened despite the diversity of traditions, views, and religious preferences in different countries of the world.

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Traditional and Modern China: Gender Inequality Then and Now

Despite the fact that the opinion about the role of women is actively changing in modern times, there have been voices of women defending their rights and breaking stereotypical ideas about them at all times. The protagonist of Zhang Ailing’s story Love in a Fallen City, Bai Liusu, shares many similarities with the Chinese female heroine created by women writers of the 1920s. She is a symbol of women’s struggle for self-control and self-awareness. In addition, the figure of Bai Liusu also indirectly raises the question of the role of women in China at the time. Love in a Fallen City can actually be interpreted as a feminist history, presented with a distinct historical Chinese point of view.

The writer herself did not share the main fears of the Chinese female intellectuals of her time, showing no faith in a woman’s ability to improve her tiny ones. However, it did not necessarily mean that she could not perceive reality as harsh oppressive to Chinese women. In contrast, she did certainly analyze how women move within China. The family and society could reveal her daily struggle for survival, albeit surrounded by a halo of desolation. Love in a fallen city demonstrates the possible strategies of the female character on a mission for independence in the male-oriented world. Analyzed from a female perspective, specific strategies manifest themselves as tactics for empowering women based on the idea of conflict-consent.

Zhang Ailing approaches the question of a woman’s place in the world from a traditional point of view. She described Bai Liusu’s relationship with her family, which she ‘disgraced’ by her divorce (Zhang 112). The author reflects how the institution of the family can influence self-identification. It demonstrates the historical processes in China in the 20th century and earlier, such as the spatial and philosophical structure of patriarchal society in China has always been based on the nei / wai division (Ugoretz 31). It imposed a strict separation between males and females in terms of convenience and organization inside and outside a particular space segment. Men have permanently been endowed with the possibility of free movement in the extensive public arena, political, social and literary.

In fact, many researchers believe that China is still in the transition from a traditional to a modern understanding of gender equality. They emphasize that a lot depends on the region, since in more developed cities, although there are gender stereotypes, they are incomparable with distant areas. According to the main provisions of the theory of the gender revolution, the contribution of women to the modern workforce is increasing. Gender equality in China is finally developing in the public sphere, manifesting itself in spheres such as work and education.

At the same time, progressive characteristics of development practically do not spread within the family or spread in the last turn; that is, they are not a priority. Traditional gender roles in China have largely remained unchanged, with women still taking on most of the household chores and caring for children and other family members (Li et al. 5). Thus, China is still in the early stages of a gender revolution. Namely, there is a progressive growth in relation to gender equality in public spheres but little change in private life.

Inequality in Western Society

It is known that Eastern society, even modern, is more conservative in respect of the observance of traditions and in contrast to the contemporary Western world view. Nevertheless, many aspects overlap since they do not relate to one specific culture but relate to the whole world, all of humanity. For example, in the autobiographical novel by Marguerite Duras, The Lover, although it talks about the main character’s life, you can find many hidden meanings in it.

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There are two central plot points in the novel: crossing the river, symbolizing the transformation of a young girl into a woman, and crossing the ocean, during which the narrator learns about his true feelings for his Chinese lover. The relationship with the Chinese is an experiment: on the one hand, the narrator wants to explore the limits of her art of seduction. On the other hand, through this relationship, she wants to break up with her family and say goodbye to childhood, which only annoys her (Duras 24). The novel should also be understood as a call to life against social convention and unconditional freedom.

Her brothers and mother are already dead, so she decides to engage in an open and honest conversation. The novel is formed autobiographically: as Duras writes, this is the first text in which she no longer avoids people and things (37). Thus, the book is a kind of introspection and exploration of one’s youth. This fact demonstrates that similar problems faced by any female representative exist not only in fiction. According to the work and the author’s thoughts, the woman-family stereotype is a big mistake that has taken root in society. Alternatively, the family is a prison: the narrator escapes from it only thanks to the dream of writing and a love affair with a wealthy Chinese man.

In the novels, especially the francophone ones, a lot of attention is devoted to the looks of the white woman. She is often said to be beautiful and well dressed; blue eyes and fair hair are preferred. The more out of reach she seems, the more she is idealized. It means that women were treated more like an object rather than a person, what is changing today. In Ferdinand Oyono’s Houseboy, for instance, Toundi praises the beauty of his Madame, the wife of the French Commandant. Nevertheless, in the text, there is the definition “wanawake,” which means “women,” but with the negative connotation of having loose morals instead of the more respectable wake.

Throughout the world, gender inequality continues to dominate, even in developed countries. As seen from the situations described by the authors, the difficulty in overcoming a stereotypical society mainly comes from private life, that is, family. The difference at the present stage is only in how the community itself reacts to changes in the roles of both women and men. For example, the country has an international strategy for gender equality in France aimed at improving the quality of life of women (French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs). Thus, in contrast to modern China, in France, this process is also stimulated by politics.

Conclusion

In modern society, the process of the gender revolution is developing practically all over the world, somewhere faster and more successfully, somewhere with delays. Nevertheless, the place of women in many respects changes its perspective: women receive more and more freedom, both in matters of self-realization and in expressing public opinion. The consequences of these changes are reflected in the relationship between the sexes and the marriage and family sphere.

It led to the fact that marriage was no longer considered the only approved form of relations between a man and a woman. The introduction of gender equality in all spheres of life is a sign of modernity. The modern gender concept is still in the process of formation. Several concepts denote the stable norms of masculine and feminine: culture, system, socialization, and gender roles. Differences exist primarily in the social or cultural interpretation of the concept of gender. Sociologists focus on highlighting its social characteristics of status, positions, and cultural anthropologists focus primarily on considering its folk elements.

Works Cited

Duras, Marguerite. The Lover. Random House, Inc., 1985.

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French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs. France’s International Strategy on Gender Equality (2018–2022). France Diplomatie, 2018.

Li, Zhiyun, et al. “A Multilevel Study of the Impact of Egalitarian Attitudes toward Gender Roles on Fertility Desires in China.” Population Research and Policy Review, vol. 40, no. 4, 2020, pp. 747–769. Web.

Ugoretz, Kaitlyn. Inscribing Femininity: Representations of Women in Early Premodern Chinese Orthography. 2017. MA Thesis.

Zhang, Ailing. Love in a Fallen City. New York Review Books, 2007.