Reflection on the book “Some of Us – Chinese Women Growing up in the Mao Era”

The article, “Some of Us-Chinese Women Growing up in the Mao Era” is a collection of experiences and memories in the cultural revolution of the Mao era. Of much interest are women’s issues in China and other gender matters. The Mao era has been viewed as a dark age in the West, particularly in the US, where narratives charge the era with persecution and violence. The article precisely explores the complex dimensions of issues debated and a necessary intervention that kicks off with a set of dilemmas such as the meaning of having grown up as a woman or a girl in the Mao era, how to understand the seemingly mundane and less clear-cut daily existence of early lives, and how to interpret this era. The introduction part clearly sets a pace for the arguments for the values of gender experiences and significantly reflective social changes whose assumptions still await more exploration (xiv).

In the introduction of the article, the authors realize that men’s experiences and women’s were so diverse. The participants of the discussion suggest that the memories would help strengthen a simplistic view of recent and modern Chinese history, and are also significant to note that during the Mao era, majority of Chinese women in urban areas lived their lives further than the dichotomy of being victims of several vices (xvii). In order to prove their claims right, the authors collectively decided to organize a group of Chinese women who were studying and working in the US but grew up in the Mao era, to include them in an online discussion in finding out if they had shared experiences.

Wang Zheng wrote an essay, “Call Me “Qingnian” But Not “Funu” to reflect on the place of a Chinese woman in the Mao era. Zheng recalls her friend’s reactions when they were offered tickets to a movie, which was free to all students, female faculty, and the staff (27).To her friend, it sounded terrible to be counted as a woman; they were amused but agreed that they opposed being referred to like women because, in China, the term “funu” carried with it a bad image of a desperate housewife. They prefer to be called qingnians or female youth, rather than being reminded of the Mao era when men dominated over women and lowered their status. The author is against the idea of categorizing her mother in the negative attributes associated with the term given to family women and instead acknowledges the self-sacrifice and hard work she saw in her. She recalls times when she instigated her mother not to be afraid of her father by telling her that they were both equal, but she simply smiled at her. This illustrates the much power and authority that men possessed over women and how women felt so inferior in the eyes of men during the Mao era (31).
While in the fourth grade, Zheng and her classmates were assigned to writing an essay on what they aspired to be in the future. She writes that whatever occupation she would take; she would be a socialist constructor, which was a genuine thought. Her teacher disappointed her by reading it aloud as a poor essay without a theme, and the author remembers this as the worst humiliation of her life (50). She links this with the place of a girl in the Dark Age but she was not influenced by whatever her category meant; she was determined to achieve her goal.

The article, in general, gives a well-laid illustration of the memories and history of the Mao regime. It is clear that the essay focuses on the gender implications of the Maoist period. Women, though oppressed by men, did not raise an alarm yet the regime did not spare the elites and agents of change. Indeed, the Mao era is a complex one, worth of extra research prior to its assessment.

 

Work Cited
Zhong Xueping, Zheng Wang and Bai, Di. Some of Us: Chinese Women Growing Up in the Mao Era. New York: Rutgers University Press, 2001. Print.

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