Women, Gender, and Sexuality in China
This class will survey the status, roles, and images of women from the beginning of Chinese Civilization to the early Twentieth century. We will trace historical developments in women roles, as we identify, along transformation and the emergence of new roles, cultural themes that had persisted throughout history. We will look at the actual lives of Chinese women, women who were defined – like Chinese men – by the relations that had shaped them: their intimate relationships, their family, and the society in which they lived. Side by side with observing the realities of women lives, we will examine the ways in which these women were portrayed in a variety of literary sources, that described models of appropriate womanly behavior. We will study changes in the power and privileges of Chinese women – women in different stages of their lives, in different historical periods and in a variety of cultural, social, and political contexts – that complicate attempts to reach a unified definition of “the traditional Chinese woman,” and we will meet aspects of their lives which were characterized by oppression and powerlessness. Due to the distinctiveness of our topic of inquiry, and because a study that places women at its center is still a controversial matter, we will strive to create in the classroom an atmosphere of both theoretical depth and personal involvement, as we explore the range of motives and ideological biases that Western researchers bring to contemporary work on women, gender and sexuality in China.