Chinese Women Speak

Chinese Women Speak

Chinese Women Speak

Chinese Women Speak

Synopsis

When Verschuur-Basse, a French sociologist specializing in the family, was invited by the Academy of Social Sciences to Beijing in 1985, she interviewed women from three generations and a variety of professions about their lives as women, wives, mothers, and daughters-in-law. Over a five-year period she conducted in-depth, non-directed interviews with educated women who were able to analyze and interpret their lives in the context of important formative factors such as the Cultural Revolution, the one-child policy, and other social reforms. The difference between urban and rural expectations from women is particularly apparent in the life stories of the 13 women included in this book. The women voice common concerns as wives and mothers who work outside the home and comment on the prevalence of abortion and preference for male children, the increase in divorce rates, and the place of women as decision-makers in the family. Originally published in French as Paroles de Femmes Chinoises: La Famille Autrement (Harmattan, 1993), the study received critical acclaim from academy and media as a revealing portrayal of social reality in China.

Excerpt

This account of the lives of a number of women in China evokes the fate of Chinese women as a whole, for in fact, they cannot be isolated from one another.

These women talk about themselves and their families. They speak in their own voices; they are the subject and object of this work. It is their voices I am transmitting, and yet, for me, it is like a personal event I am transcribing. "As the process of writing starts, the image already appears in the mirror." It is these instantaneous images that I want to project. Although I know that mirrors distort, I feel obliged to give this view, without trying to explain the behavior of these women; accepting the image as it appeared. How do these women see their itinerary, and beyond the changes, how do they see their current family life?

My interviews centered on the world of the family, especially on its relationships. The life stories therefore have two functions: on the one hand, the woman talks about herself, and on the other hand, she is a witness to her times, her environment, and her social integration. In other words, the life stories give information about the social reality, serving as the tools for understanding the society. Some call it "life story" and "life history." Using as my main . . .

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