During Chinas long revolutionary years the state both promoted and negated new roles for women. The most severe reaction against female activism was the Guomindangs counter revolution, called the White Terror (1927 - 1928), when female activists were accused of being instigators of societal chaos. During Chiang Kai-sheks relentless hunt for Communists, thousand of women were murdered and raped, including those who had simply bobbed their hair. The Communists, for their part, turned away from what they saw as bourgeois feminist reforms to attack the socioeconomic conditions they perceived as the source of all female oppressions. The idea was that once gender difference was erased, women would be freed to help spearhead the new society. Mao Zedong coined the phrase Women Hold Up Half the Sky, and set in motion a campaign to get women out of the home and into the work force. Selections from oral histories collected during the period illustrate his attempts to mobilize the lowest in society, the female peasant, so she could confront feudal fathers, husbands or landlords.
It’s crowded. It looks like one of those parties in a Woody Allen film. Customers banter and bump into each other; Art Tatum plays on the radio. There is lots of tweed and Burberry plaid. I thought I’d feel festive coming to the ribbon-cutting; instead, I feel small in my dingy down jacket. I wish I’d dressed up. I liked the “preparing” part better. I liked getting in on the ground floor, when the shop was a secret, a magic portal, and I was Lucy finding Narnia. Now it’s been taken over by people who smell of brandy instead of sawdust.