Emancipation in Everyday Life: Women's Singleness and Feminism in 1920s China

Qian Zhu
During the 1920s, Chinese intellectuals affiliated with the New Culture and May Fourth Movements considered women's singleness (女子独身,nüzidushen), or the choice made by women to be unmarried (女子 不婚,nüzibuhun), a central part of discussions of marriage, family, and gender--the women's questions‖ (妇女问题, funüwenti). This paper investigates women's singleness by drawing on the work of Shen Zijiu ( 沈兹九,1898-1989), a Chinese feminist who examined the causes and consequences of this gendered social
more » ... tice through the conceptualization of everyday life. This intellectual history engaged with the social history of the gendered division of labor in the early twentieth century and the cultural history of intellectual debates during the May Fourth Movement. Deriving evidence from surveys of women professionals and workers in the 1920s, this historical inquiry into Chinese feminism in the 1920s explores the alienation of female labor, the visibility of women in China's urban industries, and the emergence of women's singleness in the wake of capitalist development in the early twentieth century. Meanwhile, the research examined the public debate over women's singleness in which Shen Zijiu participated, in connection with the reconceptualization of marriage, family, and love in the context of anti-Confucianism, liberalism, and social evolution in the 1920s. This everyday feminism is indicative of single women and gender politics in China's postsocialist situation, which, as the author argues, posits a critique on the epistemological, theoretical, and political outlook in today's China.
doi:10.15640/ijgws.v7n2p5 fatcat:kfiiykhpvvd6bhguwcd7njihne