Lin Juren, ed., Shehui xingbie de duo jiaodu toushi (Various Perspectives on Gender). Dangdai xueshu shiye congshu (Perspectives on Current Academic Research Series). Guangzhou: Yangcheng wanbao chubanshe, 2003. 239pp. ISBN 7 – 80651 – 186 – 5 (paperback).

 

This publication gives a broad overview on the historical development of gender roles and the unequal standing of women in contemporary Chinese society with a particular focus on inequality and gender-segregation in employment. It employs a combination of theoretical analysis and questionnaire-based research. The theoretical analysis parts but also the practical research parts eventuate in detailed and well-substantiated research. The volume can be recommended as an introduction into the development and contemporary status of gender roles in Chinese society. It is also valuable for its variety of tables that complement most chapters and offer detailed figures related to each chapter’s topic.

The series Dangdai xueshu shiye (Current Academic Fields of Vision Series), within which this book is published, aims at introducing current academic research topics. The book is explicitly aimed at third or fourth year undergraduate university students, high school teachers, educated business professionals, management staff in administrative departments. It is also supposed to provide university professors and scientific personnel with reference materials and new ideas.

The volume is divided into two major parts. The first one is dealing with how constructions of gender delegate women’s position in society. The second one uses information gathered from the questionnaires to analyse the differences faced by men and women in employment situations.

Part one is sub-divided into five chapters: In the first chapter the editor Lin Juren gives an overview of the development of the terms used in gender as well as the gradual evolution of the field itself both in China and the West.

The second chapter, contributed by Lin Qin, discusses various Western theories on the formation and social construction of gender roles. First, the author refers to Western models defining gender roles and explores their corresponding expectations, rights and duties. She then argues that the roles are primarily a product of socialization and education and not of innate differences between the sexes. She then introduces various Western theoretical approaches.

The third chapter contributed by Tao Chunfang deals with gender issues within marriage and family. It includes discussions of the evolution of gender structures, family formation and gender within marriage. Finally, the results of an investigation that employed a questionnaire (N=1500), done by the author in 2000, are presented. Participants between the ages twenty to eighty were asked about their opinion on the relation between men and women within marriage, e.g. equality, loyalty and respect between the marriage partners. The majority believed that today marriage partners enjoy more or less equal standing based on mutual loyalty and respect, especially since parents do not arrange marriages anymore, and both partners have input to their financial affairs.

The fourth chapter, contributed by Zhang Guangli and Lin Juren, discusses the influence of women’s education on their social standing including observations on history and contemporary Chinese society. The authors argue for the promotion of women’s education and a transformation of the traditional gender ideology that they consider hindering women’s education.

The fifth chapter, contributed by Xu Yanli, discusses the relationship between women and a so-called “social development,” that is a humane and sustainable development that considers the effects and needs of people in economic development of a society.

Part two on differences faced by men and women in employment situations is sub-divided into four chapters: The first chapter, contributed by Song Lijun and Xia Xue, deals with gender inequality in regard to employment and income. Due to patriarchy’s continuous prevalence in contemporary society women experience horizontal and vertical job segregation.

The second chapter, contributed by Xia Xue and Lin Juren, is based on the result of a questionnaire-based research about gender differences of laid off (xiagang) workers. It discusses the findings that women constitute the majority of the laid off workers as well as the reasons for this phenomenon and suggests possible solutions, e.g. protective laws and policies, heightened employment opportunities for women, promotion of the idea of equality within society.

The third chapter, contributed by Lin Juren, is also based on the result of a questionnaire-based research. It is an in-depth study of discrimination of women employed in scientific fields and thus reflects the findings of the author’s previous research on the employment situation for women in Chinese society, for example gendered job segregation, lower career chances for women, including the glass ceiling phenomenon, and women’s lack in career expectation.

The fourth chapter, contributed by Li Xiaojiang, discusses the official communist stance of equality between men and women, characterized in China as nannü pingdeng. The author dismisses this as propaganda that does not reflect the real situation in Chinese society. She discusses how in her opinion this semblance of equity is only set up for the purpose of serving the Communist Party, i.e. women are liberated only for political purposes, not for their own sake.

 

(Carola Krüger, Berlin)