At the recently concluded “Two Sessions”, a female National People’s Congress representative by the name of Zhang Xiaomei made the shocking proposal for women to leave the workforce and return home. Notable feminist-sociologist Li Yinhe took to her blog to explain why Zhang’s proposal is a bad idea, and to lament the overall lack of the awareness of gender equality among female NPC delegates. Below is our translation of her post, entitled, “It’s time for our female NPC representatives to rethink their positions!”
The equality of men and women is one of our national foundations, but the proposals submitted by some of our NPC representatives have gone way below this foundation. Take for instance the proposal of Zhang Xiaomei, which left me very surprised. Several years ago, a few male sociologists called for women to return home. It was as if they stirred up a hornet’s nest — furious feminists made their voices heard and they had to retreat immediately. Now, we actually have a female NPC rep proposing that women go back home! The main problem with this proposal is that it seeks to kill everything that the female emancipation movement has sought to accomplish, and that is to allow women to step out of their home and join the workforce.
For a few thousand years, men were outside the home while women were kept inside, and this was how the labour of division was accomplished. It was also the reason why women were kept in a backward and subservient role in society. Beginning from the 1950s, the role of Chinese women in society began to change as they began to join the workforce instead of remaining at home. Today, women have grown to account for 44% of the labour force. Any call for people to leave the workforce and return home, whatever the circumstances may be, should be gender neutral and the call should not be targeted at just women. If people want to go back home, that is their right, and in fact, many people have already made that choice. However, for us to call any one gender to return home is gender discrimination. The law in China forbids that, and so do laws in many other countries that believe in gender equality. It’s also against the spirit of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Any debate following such a call will lead to a slide in the status of women. This would not only be a huge setback to the great strides we have made in women’s rights, but also a huge letdown to the many great feminists (like Qiu Jin) who have fought the tough battle for gender equality for over a hundred years. How then can we have a female NPC representative raise a proposal that does such a great harm to women’s rights?
This reminds me of another female NPC rep several years back who expressed the view that the greatest gift a women could give to the family of her husband was her virginity. This sort of backward view leads me to think that our female NPC reps lack the most basic education in gender equality. It has reached the point where some of them would have made great spokespeople for pre-Revolution days. It’s high time they rethought their position.