Personal Voices: Chinese Women in the 1980's

By Emily Honig; Gail Hershatter | Go to book overview

8
Violence Against Women

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN in 1980's China was a deeply disturbing fact of life. At every stage of her life, a Chinese woman was vulnerable to violence precisely because she was a woman. She could be killed at birth by parents who wanted a son; raped by assailants who were strangers, suitors, neighbors, or relatives; abused by her parents for asserting her right to marry a man of her own choosing; kidnapped and sold into marriage far from her native place; or battered by her husband and members of his family for a variety of offenses, real or imagined.

Violence against women elicited a great deal of attention in the 1980's press in China. Many authorities felt it had been on the rise since the breakdown of social and political order during the Cultural Revolution. Though the statistical evidence that might support this argument was not made available, it seems plausible that certain types of violence, such as female infanticide, rape, and kidnapping, were in fact increasing. Others, such as wife-battering, were taken for granted in many quarters as part of normal marital behavior. This widely shared social assumption was just beginning to be called into question.

In many areas discussed in this book, such as adornment or marital choice, the boundaries between the public and private realms shifted in the 1980's in such a way that the private sphere grew larger and the intervention of the state receded. Domestic violence, and violence against women in general, was an exception. Here the state began to assert itself to regulate activity previously regarded as people's own private affair. This was not the first attempt of the communist government to eliminate domestic violence. As early as the 1930's, CCP revolutionaries in the base areas began to regulate family relations when they forbade husbands to beat their wives. But enforcement of such measures waned after the early 1950's and was further attenuated with the weakening of the legal system during the Cultural Revolution. In the 1980's, in the name of reasserting the rule of law--though not always specifically in the name of women's rights--state authorities began once again to push back the boundaries of private domestic behavior. In the process, a rejuvenated Women's Fed

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Personal Voices: Chinese Women in the 1980's
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments v
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1- Growing Up Female 13
  • 2- The Pleasures of Adornment And The Dangers of Sexuality 41
  • 3- Making a Friend: Changing Patterns of Courtship 81
  • 4- Marriage 137
  • 5- Family Relations 167
  • 6- Divorce 206
  • 7- Women and Work 243
  • 8- Violence Against Women 273
  • 9- Feminist Voices 308
  • Conclusion 335
  • Notes 343
  • Bibliography 363
  • Index 381
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