This essay will focus its attention upon the thesis of Chinese women being defined through the dichotomy of both producers and polluters. Under this guise of definition there exists a myriad of factors which attribute to both of these labels; patriarchy will be a main theme in this dissertation as well as the concept of Chinese women taking on the nubile role of being the main producer for their family unit.
Also, within this family unit their concurrent role as care giver, and their sacrifice therein will also be a large part of the discussion of this essay. The issues of their sacrifice as it pertains to Chinese women eventually parting from the natal family after marriage and their subsequent inclusion and structuring of the uterine family will also be given a segment in this essay. In Chinese women’s role as provider their dual role as polluters will be given stringent discourse.
Thus, the irony of the interchange from being both the providers and the polluters is realized. Other less prevalent but cultural ideologies as they pertain to the history of Chinese women and therefore their defining of cultural background will be discussed such as foot binding and the domination of the male hierarchy and the reactionary subordination of women under patriarchy will each become significant to the theory of this paper as they apply to feminist theory in cultural anthropology. Ling
The concept of ling hinges upon cultural identity in such a way as to once be in tandem with both culture and religion. Taiwanese identity is attributed to the ling qualities of the deity (Mazu). History in a fashion has rewritten the significance of ling. Ling is also in association with mana which in itself unifies Chinese culture and religion. Ling then may truly be defined as a magical efficacy which may be attributed to a myriad of entities such as ‘gods, ghosts ancestors’ (Sangren 2000: 56).
Through ling the fundamental Taiwanese concepts of yin and yang occur. These two concepts create a dichotomy in the natural world that is reflected in Chinese religion and society. As Sangren has stated people may in trouble of demystifying their own ideology, “One of the most perceptive and articulate people with whom I discussed the topic argued that people create ling. In order for a god’s power to be effective, he said, a worshipper must believe.
Sing people are more likely to believe in gods that are popular, popular gods are more ling” (Sangren 2000; 57). The issue of ling also gives rise to questions about authentic power between the state government and the local community and in fact ling is used to persuade the local community towards obeying the autocratic stature of the state government which in turn leads to the questions and arguments behind patriarchy in Chinese society.
Emergence of Feminism
Feminism’s nascent began with the Ch’ing dynasty (at least markedly so and in accordance to modern feminism) with the influence of Western culture and the 1898 Reform Movement. With this movement Chinese women began to withstand the pressure of certain traditions that were installed in their culture to force them into submissive postures, chief among these is foot-binding. Foot binding was a very sexual catalyst that lead to a stronger patriarchy.
The essence of foot binding has been described as making women’s feet stay small, and their male counterpart often times imagines that the woman’s turned in and deformed foot is similar to the folds of the vagina, thus eliciting sexual juxtaposition. Women whose feet were bound were given towards a willow walk, which was a reactionary walk to the fact that these women could not keep their balance.
It was so ingrained in Chinese society that it was women of high standing that could afford to be foot bound because this enabled her to remain noble since a woman with so grotesquely deformed feet could not work in any capacity. This fact further ensured the dominance of men. Thus, in 1898 women held anti-foot-binding associations, “In a period of uncertainty and change, educated women benefited from the growth of new professions and political groups, in which roles were not yet rigidly defined as they were in the exclusively male bureaucracy” (Ed. Wolf & Witke: Rankin 1975: 29).