From cra­dle to crèche, women are con­stantly be­ing told what to do 面对他人的指手画脚,不要再做“好好小姐”,要学会勇敢说“不”

The World of Chinese - - Ed­i­tor’s Let­ter - BY SUN JIAHUI (孙佳慧)


Al­though China has ad­vo­cated gen­der equal­ity for decades, the pa­tri­archy is still alive and well. Be­ing a woman in to­day’s so­ci­ety is tough—dur­ing each stage of a woman’s life, she will be in­structed on what de­ci­sions to make, to be a per­fectly well-be­haved “好好小姐” (Ms. Hao Hao). She is also more likely to be judged by her gen­der in­stead of her per­son­al­ity or achieve­ments.

For many, sex­ism be­gins at con­cep­tion, when par­ents try to di­vine the gen­der of the fe­tus in creative ways (doc­tors are not al­lowed to re­veal this in­for­ma­tion, to pre­vent gen­der-se­lec­tive abor­tions.) Af­ter the birth, peo­ple may be quick to of­fer opin­ions to her par­ents—even if no­body ex­plic­itly says, “I am sorry you had a girl,” their at­ti­tudes are un­mis­tak­able:

A daugh­ter will bring you less trou­ble than a son. At least you don't need to save money to buy her a mar­i­tal home in the fu­ture. Sh8ng n)'9r b@ sh8ng 9rzi sh0ngx~n, zh#sh2o n@ b%y7ng z2n­qi1n g0i t` m2i h$nf1ng le. 生女儿比生儿子省心,至少你不用攒钱给她买婚房了。

As “Lit­tle Hao Hao” be­comes a tod­dler, she be­gins to ex­plore the world, some­times mak­ing a mess in the process. Her el­ders ad­mon­ish her for not be­hav­ing like “女孩子家”( n)h1iz­ijia, girl), and con­form­ing to cer­tain stan­dards:

Why are you so mis­chievous for a girl? Y! g- n)h1iz­ijia, z0nme zh-me t1oq#? 一个女孩子家,怎么这么淘气? You're a girl, so act like a girl! N)h1iz­ijia y3o y6u n)h1i de y3ngzi! 女孩子家要有女孩的样子!

When Hao Hao is old enough to go to school, she is a good stu­dent: hard­work­ing, dis­ci­plined, and good at ex­ams. Her teach­ers seem pleased, un­til one day, she over­hears:

Fe­male stu­dents out­per­form male stu­dents now be­cause they are bet­ter at rote learn­ing. When the cour­ses be­come more dif­fi­cult, they may fall be­hind. N)sh8ng xi3nz3i b@ n1nsh8ng xu9x! h2o sh# y~nw-i t`men g-ng sh3nch1ng s@j# y#ngb-i, d0ng k-ch9ng n1nd& ji`d3 le, t`men k0n9ng ji& g8n­bush3ng le.女生现在比男生学习好是因为她们更擅长死记硬背,等课程难度加大了,她们可能就跟不上了。

The girl is up­set to hear that her achieve­ments are just a gen­der­based fluke, but in­stead of speak­ing up, she knuck­les down and works harder, pre­par­ing for her univer­sity en­trance ex­ams, or gaokao. A good score al­lows Hao Hao to at­tend a top univer­sity—but which ma­jor to choose? As usual, ev­ery­one is ready with their two cents:

Girls aren't suited for science. You're bet­ter off choos­ing from the lib­eral arts. N)sh8ng b% sh#h9 xu9 l@k8. N@ zu#h2o h1ishi xu2n g- w9nk8 zhu`ny-. 女生不适合学理科。你最好还是选个文科专业。

They also have opin­ions on which univer­sity she should at­tend:

Why does a girl need to go so far from home? Just select a lo­cal school. N)h1izi l!ji` n3me yu2n g3nm1? Xu2n y# su6 b0nsh0ng de xu9x­i3o ji& x!ng le. 女孩子离家那么远干吗?选一所本省的学校就行了。

As­sum­ing Hao Hao ac­cepts their ad­vice, goes to a nearby univer­sity, and ma­jors in a “soft” sub­ject: She makes the most of it and has a great univer­sity ex­pe­ri­ence. How­ever, af­ter she grad­u­ates, she must again make a tough de­ci­sion: Aim for higher ed­u­ca­tion or join the job mar­ket? But for the adults around her, that isn’t even a ques­tion:

Why does a girl need so much ed­u­ca­tion? N)h1izi d% n3me du4 sh$ y6u sh9nme y7ng? 女孩子读那么多书有什么用?

Don't tell me you want to be a fe­male PHD. You'll never be able to get mar­ried. Bi9 g3osu w6 n@ ji`ngl1i xi2ng d% ch9ng n)b5sh#. N3 n@ g`i ji3 bu ch$qu le. 别告诉我你将来想读成女博士,那你该嫁不出去了。

So, rather than risk her mar­riage el­i­gi­bil­ity by get­ting “over-ed­u­cated,” Hao Hao looks for a job in­stead. There are plenty of op­tions: some are chal­leng­ing and stress­ful, but well-paid; oth­ers are sta­ble and easy, but with lit­tle room for ca­reer ad­vance­ment. She’s urged to choose the lat­ter:

Girls don't need to push them­selves too hard. A sta­ble job is good enough. N)h2izi m9i b#y3o t3i p~n, g4ngzu7 w0nd#ng ji& h2o. 女孩子没必要太拼,工作稳定就好。

Still, she finds a job she likes and ex­cels in it. She isn’t im­mune, though, from judg­ment in the work­place. If she ac­com­plishes any­thing, sex is the rea­son:

She was pro­moted in such a short time. I'm sure she used the cast­ing couch. T` zh-me ku3i ji& sh8ngzh! le, w6 g2n k0nd#ng t` sh# b-i “qi1ngu~z9” le. 她这么快就升职了,我敢肯定她是被“潜规则”了。

If she makes a mis­take, gen­der is the cause:

This task shouldn't have been as­signed to her. Women are “long of hair, short of brains.”

Zh-ge g4ngzu7 ji& b&g`i ji`og0i t`. N)r9n d3od@ sh# “t5­ufa ch1ng ji3n­shi du2n”.


If she gets into a dis­agree­ment with a col­league, it’s be­cause she’s a woman:

Wher­ever there are women, there is drama.

N)r9n du4 de d#fang sh#r ji& du4.


Mean­while, Hao Hao’s fam­ily and friends are pres­sur­ing her to get mar­ried:

“A man at 30 is a flower; a woman at 30 is tofu dregs.” If you don't get mar­ried soon, you'll end up a spin­ster. “

N1n­r9n s`n sh! y# zh~ hu`, n)r9n s`n sh! d7u­fuzh`.” N@ z3i b& ji9h$n ji& ch9ng l2og$ni­ang le.


So she duly gets mar­ried be­fore turn­ing 30, and soon, her hus­band sug­gests that she spends more time at home:

Since an­cient times, it has been “men out­side, women in­side.” Z#g^ y@l1i ji&sh# “n1n zh^ w3i, n) zh^ n-i” ma.


For women, fam­ily should come first.

N)r9n h1ishi y3o y@ ji`t!ng w9i zh7ng.


Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, the me­dia tells her:

A woman is sup­posed to be a vir­tu­ous wife and a good mother.

N)r9n y~ngg`i zu7 ge xi1nq~ li1ngm^.


But even if Hao Hao gives in and be­comes a full-time housewife, it’s dif­fi­cult to live up to so­ci­ety’s ex­pec­ta­tions:

A good woman should be grace­ful in the draw­ing room and skill­ful in the kitchen.

H2on)r9n y~ngg`i sh3ng de t~ngt1ng, xi3 de ch%f1ng”.


And the nag­ging doesn’t stop there. Soon ev­ery­one is ex­pect­ing the pat­ter of tiny feet:

You have been mar­ried for so long. It's time to have a baby, or you will get too old.

N@ d4u ji9h$n zh-me ji^ le, g`i y3o h1izi le. Z3i b&

sh8ng n@ ji& l2o le.


A woman is in­com­plete if she doesn't be­come a mother.

M9i d`ng­guo m`ma de n)r9n sh# b&

w1nzh0ng de.


This once high-achiev­ing stu­dent and suc­cess­ful em­ployee is now preg­nant— con­grat­u­la­tions! Un­for­tu­nately, it’s a girl. At the hospi­tal, peo­ple of­fer glib words of com­fort: “A daugh­ter is not so bad…” Only now does Hao Hao think of the come­backs she should have used years ago:

A daugh­ter is as good as a son.

Sh8ng 9r sh8ng n) d4u y!y3ng.


Girls can also be play­ful and mis­chievous.

N)h1i y0 hu# t`nw1nr, y0 hu# w1np!.


Girls, like boys, can be creative and log­i­cal.

N)sh8ng h9 n1nsh8ng y!y3ng y6u chu3ngz3ol# h9

lu5ji s~w9i.


Girls can go any­where in the world.

N)sh8ng y0 n9ng z6un1n chu2ng­b0i.


Girls also have the right to seek higher ed­u­ca­tion.

N)sh8ng y0 y6u qu1nl# ji8sh7u g`od0ng ji3oy&.


Women should care about their ca­reers too, and seek out chal­lenges.

N)r9n y0 y6u sh#y-x~n, y0 n9ng sh-ngr-n y6u

ti2ozh3nx#ng de g4ngzu7.

女人也有事业心, 也能胜任有挑战性的工作。

Women have the right to de­cide when, or whether, to get mar­ried.

N)r9n y6uqu1n ju9d#ng z#j@ sh9nme sh!hou ji9h$n,

hu7zh0 ji9 bu ji9h$n.


Women can also be bread­win­ners.

N)r9n y0 k0y@ zhu3n­qi1n y2ngji`.


A woman is more than just a wife and mother.

N)r9n b& zh@sh# q~zi h9 m^q~n.


Women and men are equal.

N)r9n h9 n1n­r9n sh# p!ngd0ng de.



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