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FEATURES Christina Keiley Gilmartin. Engendering the Chinese Revolution: Radical Women, CommunistPolitics, and Mass Movements in the 1920s. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University ofCalifornia Press, 1995. xiii, 303 pp. Hardcover, isbn 0-520-08981-2. Paperback, isbn 0-520-20346-1. In Engendering the Chinese Revolution, Christina Keiley Gilmartin explores the experiences ofradical Chinese women in revolutionarymovements in Shanghai in the 1920s, as well as the role ofgender in revolutionary politics. She argues that the revolutionary activity in the 1920s was the most comprehensive effort to alter gender relations and create women's emancipation in twentieth-century China. In fact, Gilmartin suggests, women's issues became more divisive than debates over political ideology in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) at this time. This decade saw the development ofsome ofthe essential features that would mark the relationship ofwomen to the CCP in later years. Unlike the somewhat antagonistic relations that developed between socialist and feminist movements in the West, in China there developed an alliance between Marxism and feminism . In part this resulted because the CCP was founded during a time ofgreat social and political ferment, which included the growth offeminism. Male Chinese revolutionaries, influenced by the 1911 Revolution and the May Fourth Movement, began to see women's emancipation as an integral part of the struggle to remake China into a modern nation-state. Arranged marriages, footbinding, and the lack ofeducational opportunities for women were not simply symbols of the oppression ofwomen, but evidence ofthe corrupt nature of traditional Chinese values as embodied in Confucian philosophy. China could not emerge as a strong modern state without eliminating Confucianism, and this included granting women a greater role within the society. At the same time, many ofthe ideas about women's emancipation that developed in the 1920s came from a distinctly male perspective. And while a number of male Chinese communist revolutionaries criticized the plight ofwomen, not all saw the position of Chinese women as a problem. Indeed, there was a clear division among the male communists about the proper role ofwomen in the revolution asĀ© 1997 by University well as about the appropriate relationship between the CCP and independent ofHawai'i Presswomen's organizations. For example, Chen Duxiu supported women's participation in the revolution, seeing women's rights and suffrage groups as natural allies of the CCP. On the other hand, Mao Dun was quite outspoken in his condemna- 2 China Review International: Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring 1997 tion ofthe efforts ofthe All-Zhejiang Federation ofWomen's Circles to gain suffrage and other civil rights for women. He saw certain aspects of Chinese feminist thought as being antagonistic to Marxism. In addition, there were significant divisions between men and women communists on issues such as birth control and the nature ofarranged marriages. When the male writer Shen Zemin published an article in Women's Critic magazine in 1922 in which he suggested that married women were essentially prostitutes, the angry response that came from women readers made clear that gaps existed between how male and female communists saw women's lives. Moreover, many men revealed through their personal and public lives a tension between the theories they proclaimed and the values they practiced. Some discouraged their wives from taking an active role in politics, while others took concubines or mistresses. Further, while early CCP leaders sometimes took radical stances on the need for women to gain freedom from old customs and values, the Party itselfincorporated patriarchal structures and practices that effectively kept women out ofpositions ofpower. Men dominated the authority structure. They formulated the ideology about women's issues in the early years, and they set the terms ofthe debate. Initially there was no clear policy allowing women to join the Party, and often such admission depended upon whether or not the woman had a male member to informally "sponsor" her. And it was not until 1922 that a Women's Bureau was created to deal specifically with the problems women faced. Moreover, women's departments and projects often were supported in theory, but received little or no funding. Once women did join the Party, the principal means for them to gain positions ofpower was through marriage to an...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 1-4
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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