Essay: Gender equality – China

The fundamental beliefs of many modern cultures present women and men as equal with the same abilities and functions; however, gender discrimination still seems to persist in some areas of the world. China, specifically, is known for gender segregation in their culture, which stems from their controversial ‘One Child’ policy (Gray). China’s long-term pursuit for global modernization has led to past issues being re-addressed. Their country’s recent demographic, educational, and occupational modernization has forced China to rethink their previous attitudes on female equality. Over the past thirty years, China has begun to recognize the potential economic benefits to their nation when involving women in the workplace and education. From an analysis on the role of Chinese women, feminist scholars have concluded that women are associated with a positive and growing presence in their economy (Su). Presently, China is still facing threats to the well-being of their country, which, in some ways, originated from gender discrimination. While these reforms have reduced gender inequality issues in many ways, the problem is still very prevalent. China’s inequitable gender opportunities in their education and employment are reflected in discrimination toward the Chinese female population.
Religious and Historical Context
The belief in subordination of women stems from the Chinese religion, Confucianism, where men are perceived as superior to women. These traditional beliefs create a skewed picture of a woman’s role in their family, as boys are expected to provide money long-term, while girls are expected to marry outside of their immediate family. The primitive definition of the word ‘woman’ in Chinese culture ‘was derived from the word ‘submission’. It was thus obvious how for centuries Chinese women had internalized and accepted, without question, their subordination in society’ (Lee 347). Confucianism has set in place fundamental doctrines, including the ‘Three Obediences’ and ‘Four Virtues’ in an effort to make clear what women’s role in their society looked like. The ‘Three Obediences’ dictates that a woman must submit to her father before marriage, her husband following marriage, and her son when her husband dies (Lee). In addition, the ‘Four Virtues’ states that women should possess qualities including morality, proper speech, modest manner, and diligent work (Lee). The underlying problem with these principles is that women are expected to uphold these values in their roles as daughter, wife, and mother, which places them in a vulnerable position in society (Burnett). While Confucian norms have reflected a successful hierarchy, there was a fatal flaw in the system: their views of females (Bauer). Little did they know that this particular view would be debated for centuries and cause so many unanswered questions. In addition, the notion of women’s inferiority is depicted in the famous Chinese saying: ‘lack of talent is a virtue of women’ (Yuan 16), which could lead one to believe that women are not capable of achieving the same level as men. This saying brings to light the value that is placed on boys and the lack of value that is placed on females. Gender inequality is ingrained into China’s culture and seems to be present for women in every aspect of their lives.
Gender Inequality’s Influence on Female Education
Prejudice against women is not only commonly seen in the workplace but starts even before the child is employed. While opportunities for a child’s education have continually grown over the past decade, there is still a blatant lack of educational access for girls in the Chinese culture. Education is the basic framework for sex equality, as once a girl attains the proper education; she will have a greater likelihood of attaining a well-paying job. Girls who live in rural areas, in particular, experience limited educational freedom, as the government has implemented many policies that restrict them from gaining a fulfilling and proper education (Chitraker). One of these policies is a required school fee, which in turn leads to these adolescents being forced to sacrifice their education because they cannot afford these costs. The underlying reason why a girl’s education is sacrificed lies in the notion that boys are more capable than girls. This would lead the Chinese parents to believe that boys are more likely to continue their education into a well-paying job, while the decision to invest in a girl’s education is riskier and may not be worth the investment (Chitraker). Once the girls renounce their education, they do not stand a chance against their urban peers in standardized testing. As a result, most girls are exposed to an increased risk of violence, which typically means that they are sent off to work at factories for little or no pay or human-trafficking facilities. They start school later and drop out earlier, which perpetuates the poverty cycle throughout the rest of the girls’ life. Even if a girl is fortunate enough to continue onto a university, she will likely still encounter discrimination there. Currently, Chinese women only represent 40% of all the students at college universities where they have to perform exceedingly better to attain the same results as a man (Hannum). An experiment conducted by The Huffington Post concluded that, ‘women need to score a 632 while men only need a 588 to be accepted into science courses at the Chinese University of Political Science and Law’ (Blum). Ultimately, the parent’s education level and job are factors that effect whether or not a girl will have proper access to an education, which eventually influences future occupational opportunities for her as well.
Gender Discrimination in China’s Workplace
Inequality in the workplace is not uncharted territory for Chinese women. This has been an ongoing, widespread problem that both employed and unemployed women have endured for a long time. It also extends to the rest of the world, not just China. Grant Thornton International’s research demonstrates that while gender discrimination in the workplace has improved over the years, China still remains in the top 10 percent of countries in need of employed women (Ju). Women still only represent 45 percent of the country’s workforce, and the average salary of a working Chinese woman is only 74 percent of what the average working man makes (Burnett). They also continue to make significantly less than their male colleagues’ salaries even though they might be working the same job or sometimes even working harder. Moreover, it is likely that current statistics may be an understatement of the actual discrimination that women encounter in the workplace. One’s gender has a profound impact on their potential work status, and gender can ultimately be the deciding factor on whether or not one will be accepted for a job. Gender inequality presents itself in the employment application process for women as well. A recent study concluded that over 61 percent of women experienced discrimination when searching for jobs (Ju). Seldom does one find a woman in a high leadership position in China, which mirrors the continued preference for men in society (Bauer). Females not only have to work harder to become employed, but they also have to work purposefully to combat predetermined cultural stereotypes. Females also tend to be less educated and have less experience than men due to the lack of educational access as an adolescent. Because gender discrimination is reflected in the preference for boys among China’s employment, ‘Chinese women’are once again reminded that when it comes to work, there is a gulf between themselves and their male cohorts’ (Steinfeld). If China’s government does, in fact, decide to bring more women into the workforce, they would see a substantial growth in their GDP and per capita income.
How Gender Inequality Affects Abortion Rates
The preference of male offspring still remains a dominant and current problem, and millions of girls have died as a result. In terms of abortion, China’s government seems to neglect the root problem even though abortion has an extreme influence on the mother’s life. In relation to how women are viewed in China, it is considered an honor to give birth to a son; however, daughters are regarded as a burden with little to no importance in Chinese culture. This deeply embedded notion propelled the practice of sex-selective abortion in China in the 1980’s when ultrasounds were first introduced, as parents were given the knowledge of the gender of their child prior to delivery (Larson). This innovation, while very useful in many ways, led to a surplus of female gendercide in China. Also, China’s ‘One Child’ policy, in combination with the impact of ultrasounds, led to over 400 million forced abortions, which created a disproportional sex ratio of 121.2 boys for every 100 girls (Larson). The ‘One Child’ policy started around the same time as when the average family had as many as four children, mostly boys, which resulted in extreme food shortages and famine in China (Moore). In an effort to eliminate the lack of food, the Communist party decided to put a restriction on the growth rate of China’s population by issuing a one child per couple rule and making the use of ultrasounds illegal. A census in 2000 revealed that there were 19 million more boys than girls under the age of 15 (Cai & Lavely). In a 2002 study, over 300 of the polled 820 women had abortions with a large proportion admitting to selecting the child’s gender (Cai & Lavely). The combination of preference for boys, and the accessibility of sex-selective abortion, created a distinct imbalance in the gender ratio. According to Mao Zedong,’ ‘women hold up half the sky’, but if the world does not prevent gendercide the sky will soon come crashing down’ (Mao Zedong in Gray). This depicts the immediate need for attention to this injustice and the profound implications it will have on the country if awareness is not brought.
Approaches to Combat the Issue of Gender Discrimination
In order to fully and successfully combat the prominent issue of gender inequality, one must approach the issue from an unbiased standpoint and address many views. The Chinese government needs to recognize women’s potential as a whole and enact new laws to protect them. China has already taken preliminary steps to reduce the education gender gap by establishing the Compulsory Education Law of the People Republic of China, which established a required education of nine years for all children (Harrall). The underlying problem with this law is that the expense of school fees is still restraining families from allowing their adolescent to go to school (Harrall). If China, in fact, wanted to fully solve this problem, they would eliminate all required school fees, which would ensure that all children, including girls, have access to free education. If the government would take these steps, they would see major renewal in their occupational opportunities as well, which would have positive effects on their economy. Hilary Clinton made the point that, ‘by increasing women’s participation in the economy and enhancing their efficiency and productivity, we can have a dramatic impact on the competitiveness and growth of our economies’ (Sharma & Keefe). The barriers to women’s economic participation not only hinder women from representing jobs at the top of the global economy, but also interfere entirely with China’s economic growth. This exemplifies the need for recognition of women’s potential in the society. Investments in women’s advocate organizations would also significantly decrease the problem. While finance does play a big part in the reduction of this problem, genuine equality surpasses any money that can be made. This can only be permanently attained through justice for more opportunities and a full recognition of a woman’s potential. Acknowledging a woman’s capabilities and achieving job equality would help China build a successful economy, which may reduce societies’ preference for men.
Biblical Perspective
The Bible conveys that there should be no gender gap between men and women because they were created equally (New International Version, Genesis 1.26-27). Adam and Eve engaged in a unique relationship with God in Eden, in which equality was present. The Bible states that, ‘for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God’ (1 Corinthians 11.12). In Galatians 3:28, it states that there is no longer male or female, and we are all one in Christ. Therefore as Christians, there is no preferential treatment for men over women. In addition, in 1 Corinthians 11:11, Paul states, ‘women are not independent of men, and men are not independent of women.’ These verses offer hope to a society in need of insight and direction on these issues. While there are physical differences between men and women, Chinese women should still not have to encounter discrimination. The distant uniqueness between each gender is often lost due to a corrupt society that places women at a disadvantage in an oppressive manner. If society would follow the narrative that God has set in place, then women and men would be considered equal. In this world, women and men would share an equal voice and collaborate with each other. There would be no disparity between genders`. The belief that women are inferior to men simply distorts what women were created to be in regards to the Bible. Any ignorance of women’s role in the world, including China, contributes to the ongoing issue of gender discrimination and restricts women from reaching their full potential in the image of God. While new laws may have some impact on China’s view of women, the most important needed reform is a change in the preconceived opinions towards the preference for men. By raising awareness on this issue, there would be more advocates to combat the lack of girls’ rights. It comes down to the judgment of the international community to decide whether or not female equality is an important enough cause to take a stand.
While China has ongoing issues with gender inequality based on long-standing cultural norms, they are starting to recognize that allowing women more opportunities boosts their economy and world standing. The idea that men belong at work and women belong at home remains problematic and needs to be addressed. Even though gender discrimination is still present, there has been an emergence of women’s right movements in China during the 20th century (Cai & Lavely). Over the past decade, there is evidence of a shift in equitable gender attitudes, which hopefully will lead to positive growth and advancement. The failure, however, to continue with these advances will likely have a substantial negative impact on the country. Gender disparity needs to be ‘more than a mantra. It must become a lived reality for women, men, boys, and girls in all countries’ (Sharma). The most difficult part of cultivating gender equity is translating this knowledge into reality. A woman’s status in society not only has negative impacts on women, but has societal consequences as well. This suggests a call for global action to stand up for these girls who have faced discrimination because of their gender. While the decision to abolish gender inequality may take years to achieve, it will be well worth it in the end. Women and men need to be on the same page regarding this issue in order for any reform to happen. Similar to many modern societies, a women’s public role is often associated with little importance; however, the global community is progressively trying to combat this view. While women may not be as physically capable as men, this does not mean they are weaker in other aspects of their lives. Gender equality should be a deserved human right, not a right that women have to earn. This discrimination restricts women from reaching their full potential as individuals, which does not grant them their natural equal rights, but rather reinforces inequality.

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