Gender and Power in Affluent Asia

Gender and Power in Affluent Asia

Gender and Power in Affluent Asia

Gender and Power in Affluent Asia

Synopsis

Gender and Power in Affluent Asia is the first major study to provide analysis of the relationships between gender and power that have accompanied the rise of Asian affluence. Prompting a series of questions about the links between gender, modernity and globalization in the region, the contributors pursue two major themes: the centrality of gender relations to the making of the middle classes and modernity in the region; and the centrality of representations of gender in the contests about meanings and identities accompanying these processes. This is an innovative work that provides coverage of a complex topic that has often been neglected. It gives more than just an analysis of Asian women, demonstrating the central importance of gender in the modernizing and globalizing of Asia.

Excerpt

This book was conceived in 1994—in a period when the Asian Dragons, Tigers and NICs were growing faster than ever. the phenomenal rise of East and Southeast Asian economic power was frequently presented as the panacea for the ills of the West and East alike. But the picture always appeared a little cloudier to those of us who saw the process as a gendered one and who did not want to forget that citizens everywhere—even in a period of 9 per cent growth—remain divided by class and sex.

We were therefore always cautious about Asia’s enthusiastic embrace of capitalist modernity. For sure, modernisations and globalisations had opened up certain kinds of options for women in many of the nations we were looking at—more designer and ‘high-street’ middle-class clothes and cosmetics, more well-paid jobs and more language within which to lay claims for women’s rights. But the same clothes and cosmetics that liberated the Chinese woman’s body from the drab communist uniform also reshaped that body as an object of display, selling everything from calendars to computers. the business opportunities that have allowed the Vietnamese woman to earn more than her husband are the other face of the policies undermining free health care, child care and access to education. the vocabulary of gender equality mobilised by Thai and Indonesian women also reinvented class contradictions between middle-class urban women and their working-class and rural sisters.

These ambivalences, which run through the volume, do not, however, align us with the nationalist discourses espoused by Asian political leaders: these discourses construct women as the repository of national-traditional values, underscore ‘Asian’ women’s domesticity and asexuality and ultimately privilege the male as the national subject. Indeed, we have seen this posing of an opposition between tradition and modernity as both pervasive and problematic. On the one hand, we find ‘traditions’ fabricated within national discourses as an antidote to the

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