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Subject: The Role of Men in the Rise of the Chinese Women's Movement and Its Enlightenment
Category: 国内
Author: Fan Hongxia
Time: Sep. 30, 2016
Source: Women's Studies Institute of China, ACWF
Keyword: women's movement, men, enlightenment
Full text:
Although the concept of "men's participation" was first formally proposed at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, in the past more than 100 years the Chinese women's movement has witnessed men's involvement. Some early male thinkers and social elites in particular advocated feminist thoughts and equality between men and women, and promoted the women's movement. They played an important role in the Chinese women's movement in history, setting up the model of male participation in the international women's movement.

Women's Rights and Gender Equality

After the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895 (launched by Japanese imperialists to annex Korea and invade China), Kang Youwei, Liang Qichao, Tan Sitong, Sun Zhongshan and other male thinkers and politicians took the idea of women’s liberation into their own political program, put forward the human rights of women and the idea of equality between men and women, and initiated the ideological enlightenment liberation.

Male thinkers took the lead in putting forward the basic human rights of women, such as the right to education, the right to freedom of marriage, the right of personal liberty, of professional power and of political power. Kang Youwei proposed that men and women were born to share human rights. They advocated feminism and stated that it was the common duty of men and women to achieve women's rights. Ma Junwu introduced western feminism theory through translating books such as "Women's Rights" and "Woman Suppression Theory". Many advanced concepts were introduced including "attitudes towards women are the measure of a national civilization's progress; to achieve women's rights one must first overthrow the autocracy". Equality between men and women was the core idea of male elites in the rising stage of the Chinese women's movement. Tan Sitong, Liang Qichao, Sun Zhongshan, Liu Yazi, Cai Yuanpei and others elaborated on equality between men and women from different perspectives.

Participation in the Women's Movement

These elites advocated for gender equality and women's liberation through various channels. They publicized their support for women's liberation in newspapers and periodicals with vast social influence such as "Xiang", "Current Affairs", "International Bulletin" and "Women's World". The newspaper "Xiang" had an all-male team publicize the harm caused by foot binding from the founder to contributors. It reported the women's movement's anti-foot binding stance and mobilized people to actively participate in the movement. Advanced men showed great resistance to such binding, which was seriously harming women's bodies. They founded anti-foot binding organizations and developed female education, which hugely promoted the development of the women's movement.

They also encouraged women to join the revolution and women's liberation movement. They supported women in founding China's first women's newspaper, the "Journal of Women", as well as the first women's female society. Many women were relatives of these reformists, including Kang Youwei's daughter, Liang Qichao's wife, Tan Sitong's wife, Kang Guanren's wife, Jing Yuanshan's wife etc. Sun Zhongshan's encouragement and support for women also had huge influence. He led 60 women including He XIangning, Qiu Jin and Lin Zongsu into the United League of China. In order to promote the development of women, Sun gave financial support to women's schools.

Enlightenment

In the rising stage of the Chinese women's movement, men were leading and cooperating with women. Although it has its historical limitations, it has a very important positive significance. As women awakened, the male elite carried the banner for women's liberation calling for equality between men and women, awakened women's independent consciousness, and promoted the development of the women's movement in China. It is certain that the rise of the Chinese women's movement would have been greatly delayed, and the liberation of women prolonged, had there been no ideological enlightenment, advocacy or promotion from men.

The experience China's women's movement tells us that the mainstream of gender equality does not rely only on women but also on men. In many countries, men and male decision makers are still the key to promote gender equality. Men have made many efforts to optimize the development environment for women, fight against domestic violence, ensure family planning and reproductive health, as well as promote gender equality in many other fields. So, we do believe that men can do better in many aspects, including the policy of promoting gender equality, integration of gender equality consciousness into law making, construction of gender culture, and family responsibility. We are looking forward to building an equal, harmonious, inclusive, and sharing gender relation respecting the differences between men and women in spite of their physiological and social differences.
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