Sample College-Level Essay on Gender Equality in China
Gender-related issues are trending today among academic paper topics. Moreover, in some countries, the debate isn't limited to males and females only and includes transgender, agender, non-binary, genderqueer, and other identities. This may make writing a gender equality essay quite a task. Yet, even without such nuances, crafting an essay about gender equality in some countries is challenging by itself. Take, for example, China – the country that has a bunch of problems with respecting some basic human rights. The gender equality essay sample below demonstrates how one can approach such a debatable topic when it is set in society, completely different from the American one.
Gender Equality in China
a. Representation of the Issue & Thesis Statement
Being among the most economically developed countries, China continues to experience challenges in providing men and women with equal rights and opportunities. In order to comprehend this trend, one should turn to the examination of the latest reports dedicated to the topic discussed. For instance, John Cremer's article posted in the South China Morning Post (2019) discusses the recent studies and researches that point at gender inequality in China. More specifically, he declares that data from the World Economic Forum (further abbreviated as WEF) shows that "by international standards, overall progress for women in China has not matched that seen in the rest of the world" (Cremer, 2019). Other surveys, according to the author, confirm that the republic's rapid modernization has driven to "a marked improvement in general living standards and opportunities," but "the WEF study leaves little doubt that the process has seen uneven gains between men and women" (Cremer, 2019). In such a manner, Cremer points his readers to the conclusion that the gender inequality issue in China is remarkably sharp now. Regardless of the recent constitutional developments, it continues to impact the Chinese women's lives, diminishing their importance and human dignity. Such an issue, according to Cremer, should be combatted immediately. In fact, though, the process of overcoming has to be based on historical circumstances and current tendencies to defeat the problem completely. Being triggered by longstanding cultural beliefs, gender inequality in China most distinctly manifests itself in the area of labor that requires special attention from the local government to be overcome.
b. Purpose of the Work
This paper is devoted to discussing the issue of gender inequality in China. It examines the primary triggers and outcomes, therefore, pointing to the possible working solutions. The primary objectives of this work are to define both historical circumstances and trends that led to the formation of the current situation and to propose governmental initiatives to overcome it. The principal questions this essay is meant to answer are:
- What can explain China's relative lack of gender parity today?
- What are the potential consequences if the issue is left unresolved?
- What steps might the Chinese government consider if it is to address this issue?
In order to answer these questions, the paper examines the content of six academic writings related to the topic discussed. It, therefore, represents a briefing report of the existing situation and possible suggestions for solving it. The entire content of this paper, therefore, is entirely built on the articles of reliable authors found on the Internet. It incorporates either direct and paraphrased citations that strengthen the primary claims of this essay.
a. Cultural Beliefs
The longstanding cultural beliefs are the primary triggers that caused and continue hindering the issue of gender inequality in China. Just as any country with a rich historical heritage, it has a set of specific ideas and gender-role-related prejudices that continue to impact the nation even nowadays. In order to better comprehend such a dependency, one should turn to some historical sources related to the explanation of the evolution of the Chinese's visions of femininities and masculinities. Susan Brownell's book entitled "Chinese Femininities, Chinese Masculinities: A Reader" may become a helpful source in achieving such an objective. Being entirely devoted to the exploration of historical circumstances that shaped the Chinese's expectations from male and female genders, it sheds some light on the formation of gender-related prejudices and their development over time. At the beginning of the book, the author states that the men population has always defined the role of women in Chinese society (Brownell, 2002, p. xi). One of the primary examples is the tradition of foot binding that started in the 10th century and finally became outlawed in 1911. According to the author, it was "a painful physical procedure that prepares a deformed foot to be transformed into an evocative icon of erotism and connoisseurship" (Brownell, 2002, p. 187). In fact, though, the practice had two primary objectives. The first one was related to the males' sexual preferences, and the other one helped men taking control of the female population. More specifically, the procedure of foot binding made it hard for girls to walk, naturally developing a peculiar way of walking. Over time, they acquired strong muscles in their hips, thighs, and buttocks, which were especially attractive for males of that specific eras. Due to their inability to move properly, females typically became dependent on surrounding males - either their fathers or husbands - who had almost full control over them. According to Brownell (2002), the primary idea of the foot binding is not that the feet of Chinese females were broken and bound but that the practice made people consider deformity as "an infinitely evocative image," which was incorporated into "a series of life-determining acts" (p. 187). With these words, the author states that Chinese traditions lie not so much in specific believes or psychic traumas. According to Brownell (2002), they lie in custom to preserve the stories of the past, therefore, letting them obtain new strength and power in the present days (p. 187). In such a manner, the Chinese have a strong bond with their historical past that continues to dictate contemporary gender-related tendencies.
The foot binding tradition of the past centuries established a set of gender-related prejudices and expectations that remain relevant nowadays. These are the images of feminity and masculinity formulated at the onset of the practice's emergence. As was mentioned before, the foot-binding tradition made females socially and physically bounded to males - either their fathers or husbands - who had almost full control over them. The women, therefore, had no other choice but to stay at their homes. Typically, their activity was restricted to the so-called 'domestic' function, which implies watching over kids, preparing food, and keeping the house clean. In society, they were viewed as property of men, passive, soft, and yielding. Males, in contrast, obtained the role of masters of their households with matching characteristics. More specifically, they were viewed as strong, hard, and unyielding who had full control over their lives. According to Brownell (2002), "masculine Chinese identity" has been built through "using Chinese feminity as its complementary but subordinate opposite" (p. 145). In such a manner, Chinese feminity and masculinity have a close interlinkage, intensifying the images of each other. In fact, though, masculine identity is rather more dependent on feminine one as it was entirely built on the helplessness and powerlessness of females.
b. De-Feminization & Subaltern Masculinity
The changes in politics of the early twentieth century emancipated women, therefore, diminishing the importance of males. These were the dictum of Mao Zedong, who claimed that women hold up half the sky and, therefore, deserve to be treated accordingly. With such a statement, he initiated a set of social and political changes intended to provide females with equal rights and opportunities. Their feet were not bound anymore - they could obtain proper education, enjoy the benefits of equitable arranged marriage and lawful management of the family property. The following changes opened even more opportunities for women. Due to the efforts of the Chinese feminism movement, their interests became protected by law. The women, therefore, started to undertake traditionally male roles, which affected feminity and masculinity. According to Jeanne L. Shea's report entitled "Older Women, Marital Relationships, and Sexuality in China" (2011), the females of that period (the onset of the 1990s) became significantly more confident in their lives (pp. 374 - 375). Such a tendency manifests itself in the increased interest in "practices surrounding sexual interaction" and older Chinese women's views on sex in general (Shea, 2011, p. 361). These findings vividly point at females' liberation from the sexual obligation that poisoned their lives in previous centuries. Another report conducted by Susanne Y. P. Choi (2016) shares similar outcomes concerning women's transformation. According to the author, the intensive migration tendency may appear to be "a transformative process to change gender and masculinity" (Choi, 2016, p. 565). More specifically, Choi's research shows "how male migrant workers have gradually accepted their wives' decision to migrate to the city for work" and the way how their acceptance contributed to the development of subaltern manhood (Choi, 2016, p. 578). The author concludes her considerations with the conclusion that such a tendency may suggest "flexibility and permeability of the feminine gender boundary in contemporary China" (Choi, 2016, p. 578). In such a manner, the feminist movement of the twentieth century has appeared to have opposite effects on gender roles in China. In just a few decades, it liberated women, therefore, diminishing the importance of the male role at the same time.
c. Gender-Based Discrimination on Workplace
The developments of the previous century, however, did not make Chinese women actually equal to men. Factually, they opened various opportunities but moved them away from the prospects promised by the constitution. The primary explanation for this tendency is the existence of strong gender-related beliefs and prejudices restricting females' activity. In order to better comprehend the situation in China, one should first turn to the examination of some basic concepts related to the division of labor. For instance, Amy S. Wharton (2012) states that the sexual division of labor is "one of the most fundamental ways that sex distinctions are expressed in social institutions" (p. 98). Consequently, discrimination at work has a direct relation to discrimination in a society that follows longstanding gender-related prejudices and ideals. According to Jamie Burnett (2010), the situation in China arose from a cultural believes that women are less capable physically and mentally than men and that men need a greater amount of income because they are the primary providers of the family unit (p. 290). Consequently, there is no wonder why numerous international reforms became ineffective in Chinese society. According to Burnett (2010), their efficacy is "limited by societal norms, which in many ways remained unchanged - and still remain unchanged today" (p. 294). Nowadays, therefore, the women of China still continue fighting against discrimination at work grounded in gender-related cultural beliefs. The only way to overcome them is to impose stronger regulation systems to diminish the impact of biases.
In the context of the existing situation in China, the local government is recommended to pay special attention to the regulation of domestic treaties and informing society of women's essential rights. As was mentioned before, the Chinese community remains severely impacted by the longstanding cultural beliefs that prevent females from obtaining equal labor opportunities with men. While the international reforms laid the foundation for changes, they did not actually do much in overcoming the current situation. According to Burnett (2010), the primary limitations that slow down progress are the application of the stereotypes that "reinforce traditional notions of gender inequality," "providing insufficient enforcement mechanisms," "creating disincentives for employers to hire women," "requiring excessive time and expense in order to litigate," and "not specifying great enough sanctions for violators" (p. 303). Because of these tendencies, the author states, the country is not able to fight gender-based discrimination. They keep preventing women from truly advancing labor rights and employment opportunities (Burnett, 2010, p. 303). Keeping these restrictions in mind, one may assume that the Chinese government should put considerable effort in overcoming the existing tendencies by regulation of domestic treaties and informing society of women's essential rights. As for the first recommendation, the violation of females' rights typically occurs due to the "treaties set domestically" that lack governmental control (Burnett, 2010, p. 302). The second one, in turn, emerges from the tendency that Chinese women lack law education (Burnett, 2010, p. 309). Being unaware of their rights, females remain unprotected by the government and discriminated against in local society. The spread of legal knowledge and regulation of domestic treaties, therefore, are two steps to start addressing the gender inequality in China.
Consequently, the above discussions lead to the conclusion that the issue of gender inequality in China most distinctly manifests itself in the area of labor that requires special attention from the local government to be overcome. During analyzing the sources' content, it was discovered that the longstanding cultural beliefs are the primary triggers that caused and continue hindering the problem. As the Chinese have a strong bond with their historical past, the feminist movement of the twentieth century has appeared to have opposite effects on gender roles in China. In just a few decades, it liberated women, therefore, diminishing the importance of the male role at the same time. The numerous constitutional reforms and international initiatives, however, did not make Chinese women actually equal to men. Factually, they opened various opportunities but moved them away from the prospects promised by the constitution. In order to overcome the existing situation, it is recommended to put special attention to the regulation of domestic treaties and informing society of women's essential rights. Being triggered by longstanding cultural beliefs, the issue of gender inequality in China has to be eradicated gradually while being entirely based on historical context. The spread of legal knowledge and regulation of domestic treaties, therefore, may become the two steps to start addressing the problem.
- Choi, S. Y. P. (2016) "Gendered Pragmatism and Subaltern Masculinity in China: Peasant Men's Responses to Their Wives' Labor Migration", American Behavioral Scientist, 60(5–6), pp. 565–582.
- Cremer, J. (2019). "True gender equality still a challenge." South China Morning Post, https://www.scmp.com/presented/news/china/topics/china-conference/article/2180956/true-gender-equality-still-challenge.
- Brownell, S., n.d. (2002). "Chinese Femininities, Chinese Masculinities." Berkeley: University of California Press, https://books.google.com/books?id=0WLLugOABZsC&lpg=PR1&dq=Brownell%2C%20S.%2C%20n.d.%20Chinese%20Femininities%2C%20Chinese%20Masculinities&hl=ru&pg=PR4#v=onepage&q&f=false.
- Burnett, J. (2010). "Women's Employment Rights in China: Creating Harmony for Women in the Workforce." Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies, Vol. 17, No. 2, pp. 289-318, Published by Indiana University Press.
- Shea, J.L. (2011). "Older Women, Marital Relationships, and Sexuality in China." Ageing Int 36, 361, https://doi-org.ezproxy.nottingham.ac.uk/10.1007/s12126-011-9114-3.
- Wharton, A., (2012). "The Sociology Of Gender." Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, https://books.google.com/books?id=1rgOJs37j3kC&lpg=PR4&dq=Wharton%2C%20A.%2C%202012.%20The%20Sociology%20Of%20Gender&hl=ru&pg=PR4#v=onepage&q=Wharton,%20A.,%202012.%20The%20Sociology%20Of%20Gender&f=false.
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