Last month, a story published by China's state media boldly claimed that the sexism and harassment that is seemingly plaguing Western women right now does not exist in China because of the country’s embedded respect for the fairer sex. In a bid to find out more, we took a look at how men and women are portrayed, treated and stereotyped in both China and the West.
Chinese sexism begins with the traditionally embedded favoritism for males over females, known as 重男轻女 (zhòng nán qīng nǚ - literally: ‘heavy boy light girl’). As the industry in rural areas is largely agricultural, males were traditionally seen as the bread-winners thanks to their ability to do heavy work and therefore financially support their parents as they get older.
Women have also long been seen as the weaker sex in the West and the so-called “glass ceiling” is far from shattered. But in modern times parents have few reasons to favor a son over a daughter.
China’s long-standing favoritism of males and the country’s only recently abolished One Child Policy has led to a well-documented gender imbalance, especially in rural China where female infanticide was common. This has given rise to a generation of potentially lifelong bachelors, as men now outnumber women by about 120 to 100. It has been suggested that by 2020 there will be over 20 million more men than women in China, scuppering hopes of marriage and parenthood for many.
In the US, the population is split almost 50/50 between women and men, according to the latest census.
In China, daughters are often less favored by parents because they typically marry into their husband’s family and then prioritize caring for their children and in-laws over their own parents. The newly wedded couple in China usually lives together with the husband’s parents, who help look after the children in return for being looked after themselves at the end.
Can you imagine the outcry in the West if newly wedded couples had to live with their in-laws? Marriage would be extinct! Western parents usually support themselves through their savings or the country’s welfare system – or are sent straight to the nearest retirement home.
The whole concept of marriage in China is also starkly different to the West. Women have long been encouraged to marry and have children early in the former. In 2007, the government even coinied the phrase “Leftover Women” to describe spinsters over the age of 27. In China, the family will gladly take the initiative to introduce their sons and daughters to whom they see as suitable partners and put pressure on their offspring to date. There are even ‘marriage markets” where desperate parents parade with photos and a list of their child’s assets in the hope of finding a match.
In Western society, however, most people choose their own partners based on love and attraction (and/or money and power).
Men and Money
China’s welfare system and the lack of pensions for the elderly has further fueled the nation’s preference for sons, as parents are largely dependent on their children. As men typically earn more than women in China, sons are viewed as a viable pension plan for some parents. Many Chinese women are still expected to bear the brunt of household work, look after the children and care for the elderly. Holding down a job therefore is an impossibility.
While many women in the West can still state “housewife” as their job title, it’s becoming increasingly common for women to go back to work after they’ve had children. However, men still earn approximately 20% more than women in the United States, proving gender equality is far from a reality.
Times are changing in China and so too are opinions. Technology has created machinery that cultivates land, making traditional male labor less important. Urbanization has also played an important role as youngsters can move to the cities to escape family pressure and constant interference in their love lives. Meanwhile, more companies and factories in China are keen to hire women as they are seen as careful and reliable, allowing women to make a greater economic contribution to their family and live more independent lives.
Couples in China are also increasingly placing less importance on having a boy. Some will even now favor a girl, as it’s tradition for parents in China to buy their son a house. As the One Child Policy has now been lifted, parents need worry less about who will look after them when they’re old.
In addition, as more and more women in China obtain higher education and forge careers, they are increasingly moving away from the home, supporting themselves and contributing to the country’s economy. There has been backlash against the “Leftover Women” concept, with millennial women rejecting the idea that they must marry and have children early. Indeed, given the gender disparity in China, many will have no choice but to go it alone.
The West may seem like lightyears ahead of China in terms of gender equality, but is there really that much more to celebrate? The US is still to elect its first female president, opting instead for a undeniable chauvinist with a documented history of disparaging women and an alleged history of assaulting them. Let’s not pat ourselves on the back just yet.
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Keywords: gender China China gender stereotypes America
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This must be some kind joke. I can't believe this was even written: suggesting women's rights in China are a lot closer to the Western world than the West thinks. The level of oppression can't even be compared and that goes for Human rights- let alone Women's rights. This author actually has the nerve to claim that women are more independent because factories are more likely to hire them. Dude! A good majority of the workers at these factories aren't employees but SLAVES. Can't even imagine the working conditions or sexual/physical abuse that goes on. No one knows the numbers of abuse to women in China because they can't speak out about such things; never mind the fact that it is pretty much culturally accepted to do such things.And this isn't even getting into the sex slave department. Or how about the accepted practice of polygamy (second wife)? This article is a slap in the face to all the women going through oppression in China. Even with China giving a little more room for a more independent woman from a certain class, the West IS still light years ahead.
Nov 18, 2017 09:50 Report Abuse
STFU KelGee, research your info before you post. Polygamy has nothing to do with China, you dumb f***k. Get off the internet, you triggered B***ch. If you are that triggered, then don't post, especially if you are triggered towards a race/ethnicity. Oh, and reasearch your info, stupid.
Nov 25, 2017 11:41 Report Abuse