DAUGHTERS OF CHINA

A grandmother, who grew up during the Japanese occupation (1931-1941), says she has never had any dreams of her own. A mother, who was assigned a job as a saleswoman during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), wishes she had been a soldier. A daughter who is a post-80s only child, a ‘leftover woman’ (by Chinese standards) and a proud burlesque performer.

Three generations of Chinese women talk of childhood, marriage, work and dreams, describing how life has dramatically changed for Chinese women over the course of a century.   

Lu Ye, 31 "I love being on stage,  I love the spotlight. I dream about an international career as a performer."

Lu Ye, 31

"I love being on stage,  I love the spotlight. I dream about an international career as a performer."

Dai Hongfen, 80 "All my dreams were for my children. I never had a dream of my own."

Dai Hongfen, 80

"All my dreams were for my children. I never had a dream of my own."

Xu Xiaoping, 57 "The Cultural Revolution destroyed my dreams. I wish I had had another child."

Xu Xiaoping, 57

"The Cultural Revolution destroyed my dreams. I wish I had had another child."

Obedient daughters, wives, mothers. Concubines and factory workers, migrants and millionaires, students and career women. China has an army of women that have long been silenced or sidelined, if they survived infanticide to tell their tales. But they have broken free from their bound feet to enjoy the new opportunities of globalisation in a country of booming economy.

But are Chinese women truly equal to their male counterparts? Are they engaged in rising up against centuries of a pervasive culture of physical and social female oppression? Experts and activists claim that the gender imbalance is actually widening up and the consequences of sex selection are still evident. Despite endemic discrimination against women pervading all corners of life in China, the answer is no. 

Only a small clique of feminist activists, acting from different sides of the country, seem to be struggling against the female plight. Who are China’s feminists? Where are they? Why are they away from frontlines, fighting for a more equal society? Why aren’t more Chinese women feminists? Why isn’t modern China becoming more feminist? And what are men doing in the meantime?