Women suf­fer un­der yoke of dual re­spon­si­bil­ity

Global Times - Weekend - - OPINION - By Sun Xiaobo The au­thor is a re­porter with the Global Times. sunx­i­aobo@glob­al­times.com.cn

How does it feel to be a woman, es­pe­cially a mother, in China? The re­cent sur­prise hit Chi­nese movie Lost, Found, which tells the dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances three Chi­nese women find them­selves in, shows this may not be an easy job for most.

In the movie, the three women are shown pass­ing through life’s pangs and are un­happy de­spite their so­cial sta­tus. Li Jie, an elite fe­male lawyer, di­vorces her hus­band – a mummy’s boy – and works ar­du­ously to se­cure a de­cent life for her daugh­ter. She has to hire Sun Fang, a dull and weak ru­ral woman who suf­fered do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, as the nanny to help take care of the lit­tle girl. There is also Zhu Min, a welle­d­u­cated house­wife whose hus­band cheats on her. She can­not get her child’s cus­tody due to eco­nomic de­pen­dence. Li had con­de­scend­ingly at­trib­uted the mis­er­able life of the other two women to their own weak­ness. But in her des­per­ate search for her daugh­ter who was taken away by the nanny for re­venge, Li dis­cov­ers the hard­ships and predica­ment they have gone through and re­al­izes what a dis­ad­van­taged sit­u­a­tion most women are in de­spite their var­ied back­grounds.

That’s just the re­al­ity. To­day, the con­di­tions a woman faces are tougher than she used to in yesteryears. In ad­di­tion to look­ing af­ter chil­dren and the home as they are deemed to be a woman’s tra­di­tional re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, she is ex­pected to do well at the work­place to be eco­nom­i­cally in­de­pen­dent so as to have a say in the fam­ily. Yes, in the same 24 hours a woman has more re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to shoul­der than a man. If she works full time with­out de­vot­ing enough at­ten­tion to the fam­ily, she feels guilty. If she chooses to be a house­wife, she has to take the risk of los­ing her­self and her hus­band. In most cases, women ex­haust them­selves try­ing to man­age their ca­reer am­bi­tions and the fam­ily with more time and en­ergy spent, not to men­tion the dis­crim­i­na­tion and glass ceil­ing they face at the work­place. Af­ter all, as Sh­eryl Sand­berg, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of Face­book, said, “There’s no such thing as work-life bal­ance. There’s work, and there’s life, and there’s no bal­ance.” And what’s ex­pected of a man in mod­ern so­ci­ety? Gen­er­ally a man is con­sid­ered ful­fill­ing his re­spon­si­bil­ity if he has a good ca­reer to sup­port the fam­ily, which doesn’t dif­fer much from the past decades or even hun­dreds of years ago. He would be con­sid­ered bril­liant if in ad­di­tion he can have a lit­tle em­pa­thy for his wife and be more than per­fect if he babysits and shares the house­work. Un­for­tu­nately, com­plaints by women ev­ery­where on so­cial me­dia sug­gest a ma­jor­ity of men still fail on this count. Sta­tis­tics don’t lie. The study by the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum re­leased in Novem­ber found that women spent about 44.6 per­cent of their non-work­ing hours on un­paid work like tak­ing care of fam­ily, while the fig­ure was only 18.9 per­cent for men, ac­cord­ing to AFP. In the study, China has fallen for a ninth con­sec­u­tive year in terms of gen­der equal­ity, rank­ing 100 among 144 coun­tries. “Why do women have to pre­tend to be some­thing that they’re not?” Mrs Maisel, the hero­ine of Amer­i­can TV se­ries The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel set in the 1950s, asked on stage as a stand-up co­me­dian af­ter she was cheated by her hus­band and re­solved to be­come what she wants to be. It’s still hard to an­swer the ques­tion to­day. Per­haps for a long time, women will still have to fight with work, fam­ily, tra­di­tion and pub­lic aware­ness. Changes are com­ing, but they are frus­trat­ingly slow.

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