Gendered Subjectivities in a Patriarchal China

  • Yang Shen
Part of the New Perspectives on Chinese Politics and Society book series (NPCPS)


Two clusters of concepts are vital to this book. The first cluster consists of agency, subjectivity, coercion, coping and resistance; the second focuses on patriarchy, filial piety, masculinity and femininity. The aim of this chapter is to provide a theoretical framework based on these concepts, which will help to explain the overarching research questions. The conceptualised framework of agency, subjectivity and coercion is fundamental to the book as a whole. The discussion of patriarchy, femininity and masculinity also serves as a theoretical pillar for the empirical chapters, especially for intimate relations, discussed in Chap.  5.


  1. Abu-Lughod, L. (1990). The romance of resistance – Tracing transformations of power through Bedouin women. American Ethnologist, 17(1), 41–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Acker, J. (1989). The problem with patriarchy. Sociology, 23, 235–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ahearn, L. M. (2001). Language and agency. Annual Review of Anthropology, 30, 109–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Attané, I., Qunlin, Z., Shuzhuo, L., Xueyan, Y., & Guilmoto, C. Z. (2013). Bachelorhood and sexuality in a context of female shortage: Evidence from a survey in rural Anhui, China. The China Quarterly, 215, 703–726.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bain, L. (2005). Women’s agency in contemporary Indonesian theatre. In L. Parker (Ed.), The agency of women in Asia (pp. 98–132). Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Academic.Google Scholar
  6. Brownell, S., & Wasserstrom, J. N. (Eds.). (2002). Chinese femininities, Chinese masculinities: A reader. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  7. Cai, A. (2013). Lun Zhaoqi dui ‘buxiao yousan, wuhou wei da’ jieshi de huangmiuxing [On the absurdity of Zhaoqi’s interpretation of ‘buxiao yousan, wuhou wei da’]. Xiandai Yuwen [Modern Chinese], 2, 54–56.Google Scholar
  8. Chen, N. N. (2002). Embodying qi and masculinities in post-Mao China. In S. Brownell & J. N. Wasserstrom (Eds.), Chinese femininities, Chinese masculinities: A reader (pp. 315–330). Berkeley: University of California Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chen, S. (1996). Social policy of the economic state and community care in Chinese culture: Aging, family, urban change, and the socialist welfare pluralism. Aldershot: Avebury.Google Scholar
  10. Choi, S. Y. P., & Peng, Y. (2016). Masculine compromise: Migration, family, and gender in China. Berkeley: University of California Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Connell, R. W. (1987). Gender and power: Society, the person, and sexual politics. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Connell, R. W. (2005). Masculinities (2nd ed.). Oakland: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  13. Connell, R. W. (2010). Raewyn Connell: Masculinities. Retrieved June 18, 2015, from
  14. Croll, E. (1981). The politics of marriage in contemporary China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Dales, L. (2005). Lifestyles of the rich and single: Reading agency in the “parasite single” issue. In L. Parker (Ed.), The agency of women in Asia (pp. 133–157). Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Academic.Google Scholar
  16. Demetriou, D. Z. (2001). Connell’s concept of hegemonic masculinity: A critique. Theory and Society, 30(3), 337–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Du. (2017). Factory boys, factory girls: Gender, family and migration of migrant workers in contemporary China (in Chinese). The Chinese University of Hong Kong.Google Scholar
  18. Ebenstein, A. Y., & Jennings, E. (2009). Bare branches, prostitution, and HIV in China: A demographic analysis. In J. Tucker & D. L. Poston Jr. (Eds.), Gender policy and HIV in China (pp. 71–94). Springer.Google Scholar
  19. Evans, H. (2007). The subject of gender: Daughters and mothers in urban China. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.Google Scholar
  20. Fan, C. C. (2004). Out to the city and back to the village: The experiences and contributions of rural women migrating from Sichuan and Anhui. In A. M. Gaetano & T. Jacka (Eds.), On the move: Women and rural-to-urban migration in contemporary China (pp. 177–206). New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Farrer, J. (2002). Opening up: Youth sex culture and market reform in Shanghai. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  22. Farrer, J., Suo, G., Tsuchiya, H., & Sun, Z. (2012). Re-embedding sexual meanings: A qualitative comparison of the premarital sexual scripts of Chinese and Japanese young adults. Sexuality & Culture, 16(3), 263–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Fei, X. (1992). From the soil: The foundations of Chinese society. Oakland: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  24. Feng, Y. (1953). A history of Chinese philosophy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Feuchtwang, S. (2010). The anthropology of religion, charisma, and ghosts: Chinese lessons for adequate theory. Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Foucault, M. (2000). The essential works of Michel Foucault, 1954–1984. Vol. 1, Ethics: Subjectivity and truth. Penguin.Google Scholar
  27. Freedman, M. (1979). The study of Chinese society: Essays. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Gardiner, J. K. (1995). Provoking agents: Gender and agency in theory and practice. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
  29. Giddens, A. (1984). The constitution of society: Outline of the theory of structuration. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  30. Guo, Y. (2002). Zhongguo gudai zhenjie de jiegou yanbian jiqi shizhi [The structure, change and essence of chastity in ancient China]. Tianjin Shehui Kexue [Tianjin Social Sciences], (05), 132–136.Google Scholar
  31. Hamilton, G. G. (1990). Patriarchy, patrimonialism, and filial piety: A comparison of China and Western Europe. The British Journal of Sociology, 41(1), 77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Harrell, S., & Santos, G. D. (2017). Introduction. In G. Santos & S. Harrell (Eds.), Transforming patriarchy: Chinese families in the twenty-first century (pp. 3–36). Seattle: University of Washington Press.Google Scholar
  33. Hesketh, T., & Xing, Z. W. (2006). Abnormal sex ratios in human populations: Causes and consequences. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 103(36), 13271–13275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hobsbawm, E. J. (1973). Peasants and politics. The Journal of Peasant Studies, 1(1), 3–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Jacka, T. (2006). Rural women in urban China: Gender, migration, and social change. Armonk: M.E. Sharpe, Inc.Google Scholar
  36. Jankowiak, W. (2002). Proper men and proper women: Parental affection in the Chinese family. In S. Brownell & J. N. Wasserstrom (Eds.), Chinese femininities, Chinese masculinities: A reader (pp. 361–380). Berkeley: University of California Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Jiang, Q., & Sánchez-Barricarte, J. J. (2012). Bride price in China: The obstacle to “Bare Branches” seeking marriage. The History of the Family, 17(1), 2–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Jin, L. (2009). Zhongguo canyin nianjian: 2008–2009 [China restaurant yearbook: 2008–2009]. Beijing: Zhongguo Canyin Nianjian She [China Restaurant Yearbook Publishing House].Google Scholar
  39. Jin, Y. (2011). Mobile patriarchy: Changes in the mobile rural family. Social Sciences in China, 32(1), 26–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kandiyoti, D. (1988). Bargaining with patriarchy. Gender and Society, 2(3), 274–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kelly, M. G. E. (2008). Political philosophy of Michel Foucault. Florence: Routledge.Google Scholar
  42. Kim, J. (2015). From “country bumpkins” to “tough workers”: The pursuit of masculinity among male factory workers in China. Anthropological Quarterly, 88(1), 133–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Knights, D., & McCabe, D. (2000). Ain’t misbehavin’? Opportunities for resistance under new forms of quality management. Sociology, 34(3), 421–436.Google Scholar
  44. Lee, L. X. H. (1994). The virtue of Yin: Studies on Chinese women. Sydney: Wild Peony Pty Ltd.Google Scholar
  45. Lin, X. (2013). Gender, modernity and male migrant workers in China: Becoming a “modern” man. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Liu, G. (1993). Zongfa zhongguo [Patriarchal China]. Shanghai: Shanghai Sanlian Shudian Chubanshe [Shanghai Joint Publishing Press].Google Scholar
  47. Liu, H. W. (1959). The traditional Chinese clan rules. Ann Arbor: Association for Asian Studies.Google Scholar
  48. Liu, J. T. C. (1989). China turning inward: Intellectual-political changes in the early twelfth century. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  49. Louie, K. (2002). Theorising Chinese masculinity: Society and gender in China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  50. Ma, C. (2003). Shichanghua yu zhongguo nongcun jiating de xingbie guanxi [The relationship between marketization and gender relationships in rural families in China]. Doctoral dissertation, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Retrieved from
  51. MacLeod, A. (1992). Hegemonic relations and gender resistance: The new veiling as accommodating protest in Cairo. Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 17(3), 533–557.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Madhok, S. (2013). Action, agency, coercion: Reformatting agency for oppressive contexts. In S. Madhok, A. Phillips, & K. Wilson (Eds.), Gender, agency, and coercion (pp. 102–121). London: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Madhok, S., Phillips, A., & Wilson, K. (2013a). Afterword. In S. Madhok, A. Phillips, & K. Wilson (Eds.), Gender, agency, and coercion (pp. 259–261). London: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Madhok, S., Phillips, A., & Wilson, K. (2013b). Introduction. In S. Madhok, A. Phillips, & K. Wilson (Eds.), Gender, agency, and coercion (pp. 1–13). London: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Mahmood, S. (2001). Feminist theory, embodiment, and the docile agent: Some reflections on the Egyptian Islamic revival. Cultural Anthropology, 16(2), 202–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Mahmood, S. (2011). Politics of piety: The Islamic revival and the feminist subject (2nd ed.). Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  57. Mann, M. (1986). A crisis in stratification theory. In R. Crompton & M. Mann (Eds.), Gender and stratification (pp. 40–56). Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  58. McDowell, L. (2009). Working bodies: Interactive service employment and workplace identities. Chichester and Malden: Wiley-Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. McNay, L. (2000). Gender and agency: Reconfiguring the subject in feminist and social theory. Cambridge and Malden: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  60. Moghadam, V. M. (1992). Patriarchy and the politics of gender in modernizing societies – Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. International Sociology, 7(1), 35–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. NBS & ACWF. (2011, October 21). Xinwenban jieshao disanqi zhongguo funv shehui diwei diaocha deng qingkuang [Information office introduces data of the third survey of Chinese women’s social status]. Retrieved from
  62. Ong, A. (1999). Flexible citizenship: The cultural logics of transnationality. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  63. Ortner, S. B. (1989). Gender hegemonies. Cultural Critique, (14), 35–80.Google Scholar
  64. Ortner, S. B. (2001). Specifying agency: The comaroffs and their critics. Interventions, 3(1), 76–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Osburg, J. (2013). Anxious wealth: Money and morality among China’s new rich. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  66. Parish, W. L., & Whyte, M. K. (1978). Village and family in contemporary China. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  67. Parker, L. (2005a). Introduction. In L. Parker (Ed.), The agency of women in Asia (pp. 1–25). Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Academic.Google Scholar
  68. Parker, L. (2005b). Resisting resistance and finding agency: Women and medicalized birth in Bali. In L. Parker (Ed.), The agency of women in Asia (pp. 62–97). Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Academic.Google Scholar
  69. Parker, L. (2005c). Conclusion. In L. Parker (Ed.), The agency of women in Asia (pp. 217–229). Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Academic.Google Scholar
  70. Parpart, B. J. (2011). Choosing silence: Rethinking voice, agency and women’s empowerment. In Annual Meeting of the Theory vs. Policy? Connecting Scholars and Practitioners. New Orleans Hilton Riverside Hotel, The Loews New Orleans Hotel, New Orleans, LA.Google Scholar
  71. Pollert, A. (1996). Gender and class revisited; Or, the poverty of “patriarchy”. Sociology, 30(4), 639–659.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Pun, N. (2005). Made in China: Women factory workers in a global workplace. Durham and London: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  73. Scott, J. C. (1985). Weapons of the weak: Everyday forms of peasant resistance. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  74. Seymour, S. (2006). Resistance. Anthropological Theory, 6(3), 303–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Stacey, J. (1983). Patriarchy and socialist revolution in China. Oakland: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  76. Tang, C., Ma, C., & Jin, S. (2009). Nver shanyang de lunli yu gongping – Zhedong nongcun jiating daiji guanxi de xingbie kaocha [Ethic and fairness of daughters’ supporting to their natal families – A study on intergenerational family relationship in rural areas of eastern Zhejiang province from a gender perspective]. Shehuixue Yanjiu [Sociological Studies], 6, 18–36.Google Scholar
  77. Tian, X., & Deng, Y. (2017). Organizational hierarchy, deprived masculinity, and confrontational practices: Men doing women’s jobs in a global factory. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 46(4), 464–489.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Tucker, J. D., Henderson, G. E., Wang, T. F., Huang, Y. Y., Parish, W., Pan, S. M., … Cohen, M. S. (2005). Surplus men, sex work, and the spread of HIV in China. AIDS, 19(6), 539–547.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Walby, S. (1986). Patriarchy at work: Patriarchal and capitalist relations in employment. Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
  80. Walby, S. (1990). Theorising patriarchy. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  81. Wang, C. W., Chan, C. L. W., & Yip, P. S. F. (2014). Suicide rates in China from 2002 to 2011: An update. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 49(6), 929–941.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Wang, D. (2004). Ritualistic coresidence and the weakening of filial practice in rural China. In C. Ikels (Ed.), Filial piety: Practice and discourse in contemporary East Asia (pp. 16–33). Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  83. Wang, F., & Mason, A. (2006). Zhongguo jingji zhuanxing guochengzhong de renkou yinsu [The impact of population under the economic transformation in China]. In Y. Zeng, L. Li, B. Gu, & Y. Lin (Eds.), 21 shiji zhongguo renkou yu jingji fazhan [Population and economic development in the 21st century] (pp. 159–191). Beijing: Shehui Kexue Wenxian Chubanshe [Social Sciences Academic Press].Google Scholar
  84. Wang, X., & Ho, S. Y. (2011). “Female virginity complex” untied: Young Chinese women’s experience of virginity loss and sexual coercion. Smith College Studies in Social Work, 81(2–3), 184–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Watson, R. S. (1986). The named and the nameless: Gender and person in Chinese society. American Ethnologist, 13(4), 619–631.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. White, C. P. (1986). Everyday resistance, socialist revolution and rural development – The Vietnamese case. Journal of Peasant Studies, 13(2), 49–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Whyte, M. K. (2004). Filial obligations in Chinese families: Paradoxes of modernization. In C. Ikels (Ed.), Filial piety: Practice and discourse in contemporary East Asia (pp. 106–127). Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  88. Wilson, K. (2007). Agency. In The impact of feminism on political concepts and debates (pp. 126–145). Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  89. Xu, X., & Ji, J. (1999). Supports for the aged in China: A rural-urban comparison. Journal of Asian and African Studies, 34(3), 257–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Yan, Y. (1996). The flow of gifts: Reciprocity and social networks in a Chinese village. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  91. Yan, Y. (2003). Private life under socialism: Love, intimacy, and family change in a Chinese village 1949–1999. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  92. Zhan, H. J., & Montgomery, R. J. V. (2003). Gender and elder care in China: The influence of filial piety and structural constraints. Gender and Society, 17(2), 209–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Zhang, E. (2001). Goudui and the state: Constructing entrepreneurial masculinity in two cosmopolitan areas of post-socialist China. London: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  94. Zheng, T. (2006). Cool masculinity: Male clients’ sex consumption and business alliance in urban China’s sex industry. Journal of Contemporary China, 15(46), 161–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Zhong, Q., & Gui, H. (2011). Nongmin zishachao de fasheng jizhi – dui e’dongnan sancun nongmin zisha wenti de diaocha (1970–2009) [The occurrence of farmer’s suicides mechanism – A survey based on three villages in Southeast hubei (1970–2009)]. Zhanlue Yu Guanli [Strategy and Management], 4, 22–39.Google Scholar
  96. Zhou, X. (1989). Virginity and premarital sex in contemporary China. Feminist Studies, 15(2), 279–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yang Shen
    • 1
  1. 1.Shanghai Jiao Tong UniversityShanghaiChina

Personalised recommendations