‘(While interviewing a University girl:) When men have been drinking they come out with a set of definitions for women. Lovers are “swordfish”, tasty but with sharp bones. “Personal secretaries” are “carp”, the longer you stew them, the more flavour they have. Other men’s wives are “Japanese puffer fish”, trying a mouthful could be the end of you, but risking death is a source of pride. And for their own wives, they are salt cod, because it keeps for a long time and when there in no other food, salt cod is cheap and convenient’
Xinran: The Good Women of China
As adjudged by the above text from Xinran’s revealing and far-reaching book, Chinese women’s social status was very low in the past in China. Women would have no legal rights, no choice on education or career pathway and little of a societal role.
This is an issue that fluctuated in the 20th century, pre1949, women were either wives or concubines. This led to the horrific, I mean horrific practice of food binding, that was deemed as beautiful as women appeared as an almost mythical lotus-like creature that would walk with her dainty footsteps across the Chinese courtyards.
Modernisation came late to China and the role of the women has significantly changed. Mao to his credit emphatically said that women held up half the sky and removed the food binding and other prostitution practices. The opening of the market in the 1980’s and the one child policy reversed this trend as women found themselves a desirable sex. Women head leading-companies, lead delegations and have much more of a voice across the whole of society.
For me, the women rights movement is more visible in Beijing than in any other city I’ve lived in, probably because there is still such a need for it. Its hard to judge on how this has changed policy at government or corporate or high level, but there is a spreading awareness for women’s issues.
Below are five initiatives I’ve come across since being here:
Beijing Women’s Network
Starting in 2015, this group has grown from an initial 12 sitting around a table to encompass a group of 1200. The Founders Kristen Carusos, Samantha Kwok and Jessie Wang, have engaged this audience by providing fortnightly Spotlight Dinners and monthly business and personal development events. (The latter is open to all members of the public). As a regular visitor to their sessions I
One of the first companies I came across in the hunt to find new Host Companies was Women’s Watch. Li Xia is a retired lawyer who has set up an NGO practice to defend the rights of women in rural areas. Societies outside of the city still persist with age-old traditional views of women that cause them to be mistreated.
Set up by Wen Li. Who for want of a better word is pretty direct and has good ideals. She openly criticised the BWN for not achieving alot. She aims with this entrepreneurial platform to incubate young talents. The proof is in the pudding, but with her apparent Government connections and her convinced nature I’m sure something will come of
Interviewing Wen Li in December
Great institution that helps women on the streets to achieve a more meaningful life. The charity openly offers women positions at their office in Wangjing to be educated and to make jewellery that gets sold in the U.S.
Host an annual Beijing Womens Film Festival that gets international coverage and attracts film producers to come to Beijing to show their work. On a day-to-day basis they raise human equality issues to consulates as well as hosting weekly events.
For a country to be fully modernised and developed it has to readily accept all different societal groups. Women’s involvement is readily coercive, interdependent with others and in my mind they are the most effective/practical people of getting things done properlhy and efficiently.