The cover of this week's Newsweek proclaims Chinese women the "power sex", and promises to reveal the secret behind their "overwhelming ambition". Apparently Chinese women are far more successful than their western counterparts, with more female top politicians and executives in China than America and more billionaires on the Forbes rich list than anywhere else in the world.
It's more than a little galling, considering I'm a Chinese woman in Britain who has just graduated into unemployment and masses of student debt. I've got enough to deal with (not least sorting out my visa) without running up against the overinflated expectations the rest of the world has of me.
A lot is made of the famous Chinese work ethic: people maintain we're hardworking by nature. (Anybody who knew me at university might be tempted to argue otherwise.) But sweeping cultural generalisations tend to trip off the tongue easier than trying to wrap one's head round the slightly more complex socio-political reasons behind China's incredible growth. Chinese women aren't exempt: we're either wilting lotus blossoms, or ferocious dragon ladies who hold the purse strings to the household. The Newsweek feature, playing on the idea of the limitless ambition of Chinese women, isn't any different.
All things considered, being told that you're meant to be ambitious and successful is a pretty complimentary stereotype. But what is galling is the idea that Chinese women have moved into an age of limitless possibility, when that's far from the case. One of Mao's more famous maxims was that women hold up half the sky. In China, it's really only a few select women who do. It's easy to forget that more than half of the 1.3 billion people in China still live in deprived rural areas. Women in these places are far from high-achieving entrepreneurs. More often than not, they're just trying to survive. Women in China are more likely to kill themselves than those in the west, and those in the countryside are two to five times more likely to resort to suicide.
Those who move to the city don't usually fare better: with rural-urban migration and job competition at an all-time high, many women find themselves forced to enter prostitution to make ends meet. Crackdowns on prostitution are excessive and degrading: police in Dongguan recently forced two suspected prostitutes to parade through the streets, handcuffed and on a leash. Sexual discrimination remains common in the job market: advertisements sometimes state that places are only open to men. Those for women may include a minimum height requirement and a certain level of attractiveness (presumably to be determined at the employer's discretion). Last year, the once male-dominated People's Liberation Army opened up recruitment to women – and included a Miss Universe-style talent segment as part of its interview process. Women sang, danced and even rapped to get a shot at their ideal job. Meanwhile, male candidates had to be content with the standard application process.
So yes, Chinese women may be ambitious – it would be strange if they weren't, given the opportunities afforded by China's expanding economy. But their achievements are mitigated by the enormous disparity between the lives of a few urban, educated women and those of poor, desperate rural peasants. There is no secret to the success of Chinese women: for some women in China, there's barely any chance for success at all.
2010-09-07 18:12 编辑：kuaileyingyu
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