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Tara Ali Baig

By Delia Davin
Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1976, 176, 5.95

VOLUME II NUMBER 1 January-February 1977

Delia Davin's study of the rise of the working woman in China is a sober, factual, historical account giving insights of special interest to us in India of an almost identical system of social cons­traints upon women, but in a wholly different social setting. We never had bound feet to cripple a woman's useful­ness and productivity, but India and China have had the same attitudes of service and subservience in marriage, preparation of the daughter-in-law to become a new and obedient work-unit in the home under the supervision of the mother-in-law; and from the time of the revolutionary woman theorist of the Communist Party, Xiang Jingyu, who was executed in 1928, the struggle of working women intellectuals against the stranglehold of women behind the bars of domesticity, was not won wholly till 1966 after the Cultural Revolution. Unfortunately most of the otherwise excellent documentation in this book only covers the period from 1930 to 1950 and does not give a complete picture of the transformation that has taken place in China where women have now become an integral part of the work force. While the 1957 National Congress laid stress on the theme ‘Build up the country economically, manage the household thriftily’, it was then naturally assumed that housework was the ex­clusive concern of women. When I asked a middle aged woman leader of the production unit in a Canton area commune in 1973, ‘who does the cook­ing,’ the reply received from her was, ‘anyone who has the time.’ In the fifties, the Federation of women certainly laid the foundations of the present situation with their involve­ment in the practical aspects of com­munity life to begin with and enlarging this base in due course to a full-scale partnership in industry and political life. Mao Tse-tung once wrote, ‘A man in China is usually subjected to the domination of three systems of authority, (political authority, clan authority and religious authority). As for women, as well as being dominated by these three systems, they are also dominated by men (the authority of the husband).’ To begin with, emancipated women in China in the thirties, according to Xiang Jingyu, tended to look upon feminine freedom either as the right to a choice in marriage or liberation in free love; and only a few immersed themselves in the revolution. The magazine Women of China was filled with articles on love, marriage, family life, dress-making, ...

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