Most scholars tend to agree that the nascent feminist literary imaginary that had begun to animate the public cultural arena in the first half of the twentieth century languished with the advent and consolidation of Communist rule after 1949. The contradictory demands that the women of “New China” faced and the stubborn tenacity of patriarchal behaviors in the post-liberation era tended to be concealed beneath the emergent socialist iconography of muscular iron maidens (tie guniang) and happy peasant women. Dissident intellectual and creative voices offering (or who might well have offered) notions of womanhood, sexuality, or a gendered modernity that deviated from the prescribed socialist ideal were discouraged, if not altogether silenced, by the newly installed regime. Meanwhile, official state institutions (chief among them, the All-China Women’s Federation, or Fulian) charged with the mandate of representing women’s interests to some degree seem to have contributed to women’s on-going oppression by undermining their gendered awareness and agency. Li Xiaojiang, a leading figure in contemporary Mainland Chinese women’s studies circles (funü yanjiu) makes the case that party-state control of women’s issues throughout the Maoist era stunted the growth of women’s political self-consciousness and fostered a debilitating dependence on the part of women such that egalitarian policies could be (and indeed often were) easily rescinded whenever it suited the needs and interests of the state.1


Chinese Woman Chinese Communist Party Cultural Revolution Woman Writer Chinese Literary History 
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  1. 1.
    Li Xiaojiang, Nilren de chulu (The future of women) (Shenyang: Liaoning renmin chubanshe, 1989).Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    In Liu’s view, “In the emancipatory discourse of the state, which always subsumes woman under the nationalist agenda, women’s liberation means little more than equal opportunity to participate in public labor. The image of the liberated daughter and the figure of the strong female Party leader celebrated in the literature of socialist realism are invented for the purpose of abolishing the patriarchal discriminatory construction of gender, but they end up denying difference to women.” Liu, “Invention and Intervention: The Making of a Female Tradition in Modern Chinese Literature,” in Widmer and Wang, eds., From May Fourth to June Fourth: Fiction and Film in Twentieth-Century China (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993), 196.Google Scholar
  3. 9.
    For a brief biography, see Wang Zheng, Women in the Chinese Enlightenment (1999), 135–143.Google Scholar
  4. 10.
    Zhao Qingge, Changxiang yi (Shanghai: Xuelin chubanshe, 1999), 93.Google Scholar
  5. 19.
    Yang Yun, “Shen dajie jiao wo ban kanwu,” in Nüjie wenhua zhanshi Shen Zijiu (1991), 169–170.Google Scholar
  6. 24.
    See Neil Diamant, Revolutionizing the Family: Politics, Love and Divorce in Urban and Rural China, 1949–1968 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000). Most of Diamant’s research is based on court archives from that period, though the author says little about the propaganda literature issued at the time.Google Scholar
  7. 25.
    Croll, The Women’s Movement in China: A Selection of Readings (London: Anglo-Chinese Educational Institute, 1974), 110. The full text of the 1950 Marriage Law and other important documents and articles from the time are collected in this volume.Google Scholar
  8. 30.
    Ono Kazuko, Chinese Women in a Century of Revolution: 1850–1950 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1989), 183. The following analysis is based on materials held at the Beijing Library.Google Scholar
  9. 43.
    “Reinventing National History: Communist and Anti-Communist Fiction of the Mid-Twentieth Century,” in Pang-yuan Chi and David Wang, eds., Chinese Literature in the Second Half of a Modern Century, A Critical Survey (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000), 39–64.Google Scholar
  10. 48.
    For more on the Rectification Movement (1942–1944), see Ellen Judd, “Prelude to the Yan’an Talks: Problems in Transforming a Literary Intelligentsia,” Modern China 11 (July 1985).Google Scholar
  11. 49.
    See Meng Yue, “Female Images and National Myth,” in Tani Barlow, ed., Gender Politics in Modern China: Writing and Feminism (Durham: Duke University Press, 1993).Google Scholar

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© Amy D. Dooling 2005

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