BAI BING AND HIS MOM


BAI BING AND HIS MOM

Shengliver comments on Chinese women.

 

A RECAP OF THE STORY

 

Bai Bing is a teenage boy in one of my new classes this semester. Last semester he was in another class. For his academic excellence he was placed in a special class at the beginning of the term.

 

For the first few weeks he had trouble adapting to the new learning environment. The pace of life in his new class is faster and therefore he found it was hard to cope. He wrote in his journal that he had been late in the morning for several consecutive days. His head teacher had told him off for his tardiness. He was sleepy in class and he could hardly keep himself awake. Every day the mountains of homework overwhelmed him. His dorm leader complained that he did not go to bed on time and that he did not make his bed when he got up.

 

It was a hard beginning for Mr. Bai. Well, he is coping better this week. I wish he could switch as soon as possible to his new way of life.

 

In this week’s journal entry, Mr. Bai focused on his mom. This is a synopsis of what he writes.

 

My mom is my role model. She was a top student from primary school all through university. When she was studying at Danjiangkou High School, she won a lot of prizes and scholarships. When she was a student at HUST (Huazhong University of Science and Technology), the scholarships she won were a big income for her family. Upon graduation, she could not choose where she wished to work. In those years, Chinese university graduates could not decide for themselves where to work. The state assigned them to various posts around the country. My mom was sent back to her hometown, Danjiangkou, and, since then, she has been working in the city.

 

She got married and had me. I enjoy chatting with her at home. Conversations with her teach me a lot. I am told she has missed lots of opportunities to go abroad and study further. Many of her former classmates pursued their further studies in western countries when China started opening up. But she is proud of our family. I think my mom is a great Chinese woman. She is successful. I am determined to follow in her footsteps and work hard. I will be as great as my mom.

 

CHINESE WOMEN’S SOCIAL STATUS

 

Mr. Bai’s entry about his mom provoked my thoughts on Chinese women. And yesterday it was March 8, Women’s Day. My female colleagues got 100 RMB yuan from the school as special benefit for the occasion. And yesterday afternoon, they were granted a half-day holiday. Sports and fun activities were organised at a community fitness centre for them.

 

Do Chinese women enjoy high status in Chinese society? The answer is a BIG yes.

 

The high status Chinese women boast in today’s China is attributed to the groundbreaking work done by the founding fathers of the People’s Republic of China. In 1949 the regime under Kuomintang was overthrown and new China was founded. Of course in the process we Chinese lost too much of our heritage. But positive changes were plenty. One such positive change is the change of Chinese women’s status in society. The leadership under Chairman Mao liberated the Chinese women, proclaiming, “Women can support half the sky.” It was written in the new Chinese constitution that men and women are equal in society and that gender discrimination is unlawful.

 

Before 1949, most girls were denied access to schooling. After 1949, girls and boys enjoyed equal access to education.

 

Before 1949, most women had no right to choose their spouse. Marriages were arranged by the family elders and matchmakers. Today, go and ask a young Chinese woman, “Will you marry a man your family asks you to if you don’t like him?” The answer is NO.

 

Before 1949, women did not hold important positions at various levels of society. Today, Chinese women make it to all levels of positions in the Chinese social hierarchy. We have not got a female president yet, but there are top female state leaders.

 

Before 1949, women did not have much say in family affairs. Either the husband or the parents-in-law made key decisions for the family. Now, ha-ha, I daresay, in a lot of Chinese families, especially urban ones, the mother is the boss.

 

Before 1949, women had to give up their family name and adopt the husband’s family name upon marriage. Mr. Zhang’s wife was of course Mrs. Zhang then. Now, married women still carry her maiden name all along. That’s why, in today’s China, English teachers have trouble teaching the concept of Mrs. Zhang.

 

Before 1949, women could be sold and bought as commodities. A rich and powerful man could have more than one wife. How about today? Dare you buy and sell a Chinese woman? Dare you, as a man, have more than one wife?

 

… …

 

Well, the list of changes could go on and on. In a nutshell, Chinese women enjoy very high social status. In western countries, women have been struggling for equal rights and equal treatment for decades. In some aspects, Chinese women enjoy higher status than their western counterparts in their respective societies. Funny? It is true.

 

CHINESE WOMEN’S STRENGTHS

 

It is always hard to generalise, but Chinese women, as a social group, share some good characteristics.

 

·        A STRONG FAMILY CONCEPT

 

An absolute majority of Chinese women have a strong family concept. Whether a married woman has her career or not, her family is her biggest concern.

 

·        SACRIFICE

 

A Chinese woman sacrifices her time and energy for her family. The mother of a family does more of the household chores than any other member—cooking, washing and keeping a tidy home. In very traditional Chinese families, the husband does next to none of the housework. This is true especially in rural areas. Family duties take up a lot of the woman’s spare time. A mother could give up her job to go and accompany her child for school, cooking for him and looking after his daily life.

 

·        RESPECT FOR THE OLD

 

Most Chinese women respect the family elderly. It is well known that a daughter is close to her parents. And a married daughter still is closely related to her parents. A Chinese woman gets on fairly well with her parents-in-law unless there is some serious dispute between them.

 

·        LOVE OF THE YOUNG

 

A woman’s baby can be her whole world in China. A mother takes care of her young in ways that western culture cannot imagine. A mother and her child share the same bed until the child is fairly old. A mother oversees her child’s eating of the meals wholeheartedly. A typical scene at table is that the mother puts this food and that into the child’s bowl despite the child’s strong protest against her practice. Probably the Chinese mother is afraid that her child goes hungry every day or that failing to take in one dish will lead to her child’s abnormal growth and development.

 

·        TALENTED

 

Chinese women are a huge source of talents yet to be tapped. In various fields, outstanding females are found. Men and women perceive the world in their own ways and a female perspective on the world will enrich human knowledge and exploration of our existence and sciences.

 

CHINESE WOMEN’S WEAKNESSES

 

The following might sound unpleasant to a female ear, but I still desire to air my views. Should I cause any offence to anybody, I am sorry.

 

Ø  IGNORANCE

 

Ignorance is a big problem among a lot of Chinese women. This has something to do with the age-old Chinese tradition of encouraging women to stay ignorant (女子无才便是德). However, China has gone through tremendous changes. This ancient Chinese concept is weak but it is still there. In rural China, this problem is still serious.

 

Ø  FALLING INTO STEREOTYPICAL ROLES

 

A lot of Chinese women are not independent enough. They unconsciously fall into roles they are supposed to play. Some women sacrifice their career for their family. Some women try to be as sexy as possible. Does every Chinese woman have to be sexy the same way? Some women sacrifice their family for their career, for they will be “successful and powerful”. I hold no prejudice against a woman doing a particular job as long as it is her own free choice. The trouble is that many women are doing what others expect them to do. It is not their own choice. Think on your own, women, and follow your heart.

 

Ø  FASHION VICTIMS

 

A large number of Chinese women fall victim to what is trendy. To go with the flow, they suffer. They wear what is currently in. They try to be cool and feign style and elegance. But the exterior matches poorly the interior. Women, why should you follow others? Why should you be the same as others? Why should you resort to cosmetic surgery because all the others around are doing it? Why should you wear those low-waist jeans though they are not suitable for your body?

 

Ø  POLARISED ATTITUDES TOWARD SEX

 

Sex was a taboo topic in China. It no longer is. Feudalism has cultured Chinese people towards regarding sex as kind of shameful or dirty. Even today, in rural China, people avoid this topic. And Chinese women have suffered from this mindset. Serious science findings reported low sex satisfaction level among Chinese women. Things are getting better as this society is opening and becoming more tolerant. However, this unhealthy attitude towards sex still affects a large percentage of Chinese women.

 

The other attitude goes opposite. Among certain groups of Chinese females, there is a tendency to go too far. Of course educated Chinese today mostly hold the opinion that sex is a pleasure rather than a shame. But there is some bottom line to follow. Most still stick to the one-partner principle. This is something the nation should be proud of. AIDS is still not a big issue here largely thanks to this inherent principle that the Chinese population hold onto.

 

However, with prostitution re-emerging and getting out of hand, sex has become a source of income for some females. Prostitution is a complex social issue. Westerners say it is the oldest profession in human society. This development is worrying. How to tackle it is probably a headache for the government. It is there, but it is not legal. When it is not legal, some issues relating to the rights of the concerned parties are hard to deal with.

 

When we come to this issue, a number of questions cross my mind. Do they choose this way of life? Are they forced to do so? Who is the boss? And why does their business prosper?

 

Ø  FAMILY DEMOCRACY

 

Some married women are bossy. The result is a lack of democracy in the family. Orders are given to the members. There is no family conference. Children are not given their say. Without family democracy, there is no harmony between the members.

 

NEW CHINESE WOMEN

 

I have preached to my pupils that China needs a generation of new Chinese women. I think a new Chinese woman should have the following qualities.

 

ü  WELL-EDUCATED

 

A good education is a must. Better educated women perform better in career and family and thus are more independent.

 

ü  A STRONG FAMILY IDEA

 

Biologically and sociologically, women have an irreplaceable role to play in their family. That is why a Chinese woman earns my respect. She works extra hard compared with a man to be “successful”. Human society does not function without women.

 

ü  PURSUIT OF HER DREAM

 

A new Chinese woman has her dream and has the guts to pursue it. She should not be inhibited by stereotypes. She should know where she is heading.

 

ü  TOLERANCE

 

A new Chinese woman has a big heart. She is tolerant of others and those who are different from her. She is not opinionated. Her tolerance will bring on her child’s attitude. In a sense, a new Chinese woman influences China’s future.

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