Creating Gendered Spaces: Women’s Choices, Strategies and Rationales in the Contemporary China

Title: 1050 | Creating Gendered Spaces: Women’s Choices, Strategies and Rationales in the Contemporary China
Area: China and Inner Asia
Stream: Gender & Sexuality
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Yuchen Han, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen, China (organizer, chair, presenter)
Hongfang Hao, University of Kyoto, Japan (presenter)
Xinrong Guo, The North Western University, China (presenter)
Li Zhang, Xiamen University, China (presenter)


China’s fast growth and social transformation over the past four decades owe greatly to its integration with Asia. Its women’s life arrangements such as becoming rural-urban migrant workers or transnational brides, are deeply embedded in the vibrant macro picture. The women's strategies and rationales in creating gendered spaces present a vivid episode of China’s story. Their femininities are constructed both by the intersectional state-capital-patriarchy power system, and by the intertwined effects of the Marxist Feminism’s heritage and the Market Feminism.

The panel presentations mainly focus on the women’s experiences when China eventually entered into the ‘New Normal’ Era. Paper one explores that against the backdrop of aftermath of financial crisis and the relocation of industries into the hinterland, how returned factory girls successfully bargain with the rural patriarchy by continuing engaging in industrial work and how they even utilize patriarchal resources to resist capitalist control. Paper two recounts the cross-boundary marital relationship patterns of Chinese wife-Japanese husband, Mainland wife-Taiwanese husband, and Vietnamese wife-Chinese husband, advocating for more social integration actions for the brides. Paper three examines Nv Boshi’s (women PhD) rationales of performing as ‘goddess’ (ideal femininity) to strategically bargain with the stigma towards the women intellectuals. Paper four delineates the reality in cyberspace that how rural women use short video app to speak bitterness in pursuing more social power and the constraints they face. By integrating studies that are cross-boundary, cross-class and cross-space in discussion, this panel hopes to address the common dilemma and common logic of bargaining for gendered spaces shared by the women in China and beyond.

Panel Abstracts:
Bargaining with the Patriarchy: Returned Dagongmei's (Factory girls) Gendered Spaces in Neoliberalizing China's Hinterland
This ethnographic study documents the gendered personal spaces created by returned dagongmei (factory girls) in contemporary rural China, against the backdrop of the 2008 financial crisis. It does so within the context of the relocation of coastal industries to rural areas, as well as local governments' reverse rent-seeking practices in China's neoliberalization. It examines two groups of returned dagongmei, exploring the impacts of their engagement in the local industrial sectors on their interaction with the rural patriarchy. One group of returned dagongmei work and reside in the nearby industrial park, set up by the local government, so as to maintain distance from home in negotiating autonomy from the familial patriarchy. They do so with multiple strategies and intersectional rationales, and its impacts are varied. The other group of entrepreneurial returned dagongmei run living-room factories in their rural communities by cooperating with patriarchal cultures in recruitment, daily management and production relationships. Their entrepreneurship shifts the traditional patriarchal patterns inherited from their own households. It also differentiates them from their hired workers, who are also returned dagongmei. Overall, I argue that by continuing their involvement in the industrial sector, returned dagongmei loosen the familial patriarchy with their market competition and entrepreneurial mindsets. Meanwhile, they also align with patriarchal resources while being disadvantaged in the capital chain.

Intimacy and Social Integration-Factors Influencing Marital Relationships in Transnational Marriages
This article focuses on the marital relationships in transnational marriages. The author takes a multi-sited ethnography approach to this issue, illustrating three case studies of a Chinese wife married to a Japanese man living in Japan, a Mainland Chinese wife married to a Taiwanese man living in Taiwan, and a Vietnamese wife married to a Chinese man living in China. Based on long-term in-depth interviews regarding their marriage experiences (including divorce and remarriage) and observation of the social systems and social relationships surrounding their marriages, this article analyzes the factors influencing their marital relationships. It was found that marital relationships in transnational marriages are strongly influenced by both marital intimacy and the degree of social integration achieved by the immigrant wife in the host society. As in non-transnational marriages, marital satisfaction in transnational marriages is highly influenced by the “quality” of the marriage, specifically the intimacy of the couple – including sexual relationships. Another important factor is the social integration of the immigrant wife – as determined by the political (the case in Taiwan), social (the case in Japan) or economic (the case in China) barriers that such wives face in their host societies that affect not only their individual life, but also their level of marital relationship satisfaction. This viewpoint goes beyond the victim-agent binary that existing studies have focused on, thus proposing a new starting point for developing research on social integration issues related to their marital relationships in transnational marriages.

From Nv Boshi to Goddess, A Negotiating-femininity or Destiny?
This paper analyzes the “negotiating femininity” of “Nv Boshi”(women holding the title of Ph.D.) through reference to the historically and culturally social stereotype on Chinese intellectual women and their practical survival experiences.Comparing with other gender-related stigmatized social groups suffering discrimination passively, the representative of Chinese intellectual women are more willing to pursue the highest modern education degree——the stigmatized title “Nv Boshi” in university especially in knowledge economy has come to be dominant in China’s fast development and transformation since late 1990s.This research explores what it means to be a contemporary Chinese highly educated women with an emphasis on the diversity of discourse from state-owned/commercial media, the internet comment, daily talk and daily routines in their lives.Strongly influenced by feminism from the west and the huge transformation of the society, the femininity as the core of women’s identity has fallen into a kind of chaos.Through more than one year’s in-depth interview and field observation of Nv Boshi with all kinds of identities in various working or academic fields, this research concludes that Nv Boshi get an advantage for themselves through knowledge and diploma as the bargaining counter, which also confront them with very much social and even inside stigmatization. To avoid to slip out off the boundary of good woman they have to take the super heavy crown“Goddess”to re-balance everything.

The Politic of Speaking-bitterness by Chinese Rural Women in the Cyberspace-A Case Study of TikTok
This article focuses on the phenomenon that more and more Chinese rural women use short video media as a platform for daily speaking-bitterness. As a way of resistance, speaking-bitterness has been extended from the Mao era. The subject and discourse of bitterness-speaking reflect the entangled gender politics in the changing era. In the new media environment, the short video platform empowers women for resistance, and provides a new way of communication lively and interactively. With a methodological frameworks of discourse analysis and content analysis, this study sorts out the content production of rural women in the Tiktok, trying to explore the motives and themes of rural women's use of cyberspace to expose their own dilemmas. From the perspective of power, this study tries to figure out what the characteristics of women’s speaking-bitterness, and what kinds of contradiction between the genders in new era. The study found that under the social structure of gender inequality, rural women use short video speaking-bitterness, is a spontaneous communication behavior seeking public opinion support, mostly the same community, rather than strategically seeking the help from the governments or any organization. The speaking-bitterness scene indicates that the resource-scrambling, fertility dilemma and violence in relationship. Through the comments interaction, the expression of personal dilemma further forms public topics of gender inequality

This panel is on Monday - Session 02 - Room 5
This panel is not available on Catch-Up

Go to Room 5