In a recent New York Times opinion piece, one journalist said that a movement that was responsible for killing nearly 45 million people in four years said it was well worth it because it progressed feminism in the end.
Helen Gao is a social policy analyst at a research company and a contributing opinion writer for the NYT and she wrote about her grandmother who was a journalist during China’s communist revolution.
Gao wrote of her grandmother “talking with joyous peasants” and about how she helped turn “an anonymous candy salesman into a national labor hero.”
While speaking to her grandmother further it sounds more like she may have been a state propagandist than a reporter.
Gao’s grandmother told her of Mao’s rise to fame with China’s countryside and how a very common summary of the revolution was how horrible it was for most, but sure did help women in China.
“’The Communists did many terrible things,’ my grandmother always says at the end of her reminiscences. ‘But they made women’s lives much better,’ reports Gao.”
According to Gao, school children in China are taught that “the Communists rescued peasant daughters from urban brothels and ushered cloistered wives into factories, liberating them from the oppression of Confucian patriarchy and imperialist threat.”
Gao goes on to say that it is a testament to the Communists Party’s campaign strategy that through their propaganda techniques they were able to show that women were being empowered by displaying them as equal to men in the workforce, while also paying them less and women not even noticing.
The propaganda her grandmother probably helped with made women be able to describe their experiences in exclusively official campaign rhetoric.
“And by inundating society with rhetoric blithely celebrating its achievements, the revolution deprived women of the private language with which they might understand and articulate their personal experiences,’ said Gao.”
This led to the women of China being brainwashed into believing their life was better than it actually was.
“For women in the workplace to adhere to this narrowly defined acceptable female image meant to see, understand and speak about their life not as it was, but as what it ought to be according to the party ideal.”
To this day, older women in China who went through the revolution still uphold Mao’s famous pronouncement on gender equality which was “Women hold up half the sky.” Gao says that her grandmother still talks about this slogan while also mentioning Mao’s downfalls in the same sentence.
Gao also manages to gloss over most of the genocide and human rights abuses that also apparently marked the liberation of women in China too.
While Gao mentions all of the terrible and contradictory things women had to face in Mao’s China, she decides for some reason to end her piece by stating that “For all its flaws, the Communist revolution taught Chinese women to dream big.”
Gao discounts her whole point of women in China being brainwashed by her last paragraph when she essentially says at least some women were allowed to work in factories (more like labor camps) instead of the farms.
What a gain for women!
For all its flaws, the Communist revolution taught Chinese women to dream big https://t.co/Fci82iAPxM
— NYT Opinion (@nytopinion) September 26, 2017