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ART & LEISURE: The Role She Played
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BT 201703 ART 02

By Nadia N.


March is not only the official ending of the windy and freezing northern Chinese winter when we are finally able to enjoy walks outside instead of rushing from one warm shelter to another, but it is also a great opportunity to congratulate women with their official holiday - Women's Day. Despite the common belief that Women's Day, just like pink hearted St. Valentine's Day, was created by postcard and flower selling companies to make man feel obliged to indulge their girlfriends with their production, this day might be a great occasion to think about the role of women in our lives.


Obviously, with the flow of history, roles of women in society have changed significantly. The most essential ones of course haven't - a mother, a wife, a companion - and in China, like in majority of other cultures, women were questioned as regards their right to have a voice and opinion. As time has passed, this tendency disappeared.

In China, like in many other countries, past models of beauty for women were quite bizarre. We all know and remember lead painted faces and tight corsets for women in European culture - dangerous but required attributes of beauty required women to be accepted in higher society. Well, long before that in China during the Han Dynasty people practiced the well-known practice of foot-binding: a procedure that allowed women have smaller feet and therefore become more attractive. The procedure of binding feet tightly, so they can deform into exaggerated high curves, was rather painful and made women who passed through it, unable to stand and, of course, take part in any labour. Every family in China during that time, wanted to have a daughter with pretty "lotus feet" - a sign that they were wealthy enough to allow their daughter not to work in a field. Therefore, daughters in early Dynasties of China were certain indicators of the family's status, while sons could actually fulfill the hopes of parents and bring the family a better tomorrow.


During the Qing and earlier Dynasties, the role of woman in China was subordinate to that of a man. Its unfair to state that women didn't possess any power and couldn't express their point of view, however most affairs that women could handle concerned household and family issues. Undoubtedly, even now society still requires a woman in China to dominate at home and take the lead when it comes to children's upbringing and take responsibility for budgeting of the family, men are much more focused on the "outside of the family" affairs.

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Back at the time of Qing Dynasty, widely known Confucian ideology had a great influence on the institution of Chinese family, and was totally man-centric, therefore one of the major issues was an absence of health care for women. Of course, due to the lack of medical and maternal care, women in general suffered from a variety of diseases. Beneficially for women in China, in the mid 20th century with the change of political system, old Confucianism and strong sense of "strong and independent women" lingered and women in China finally started to gain a respected place in the society. With the change of government, many improvements in the area of gender equality were successfully made - outlawing polygamy, opportunity to receive education, mandatory health examinations and treatment are only some of the many changes that were accepted during that era in China.


Right now, of course, with booming economic growth and rapid development of China and, consequently, rather wide exposure of Chinese society to outside world, gender imbalance becomes less and less sensible. Surely, like in many developing countries, women's leadership in employment can be graphed as a pyramid where less and less women can be found at the top. Still, China has achieved great heights in the field of promoting women rights and encouraging gender equality.


Today, women all over China can enjoy all the benefits society can offer - modern China gave us successful and strong women like Wu Yi (Former Vice Premier of China) or Mei Yan (Viacom China CEO) who proved that there are endless opportunities for women in China and it is a reality to reach them. In China, like everywhere else in the world, the 8th of March, Woman's Day, is an opportunity to celebrate women for their strength, patience and unlimited opportunities!


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