"State Feminism"? Gender and Socialist State Formation in Maoist China

  • Citation: Zheng, Wang. "" State feminism"? Gender and socialist state formation in Maoist China." Feminist studies 31.3 (2005): 519-551.
    • Topics:
    • IR Theories
    • Keywords:
    • East Asia
    • ‘state feminism
    • ’ urban China
    • Shanghai Women’s Federation (SWF)

Altjough the compound phrase “state feminism” has a relatively short history, it has acquired various meanings in its transnational usage. Evolving from an early usage of “state feminists,” referring to feminists employed as bureaucrats in positions of power or women politicians who promoted gender equality policies in Scandinavia, “state feminism” has been conceptualized to enable scholarly examinations of the institutionalization of feminism in state agencies in a variety of political and economic systems.’ The term has also been adopted in scholarly discussions of the Chinese socialist state’s gender policies but with a significant twist.2 When applied to China it often portrays a paradoxical image of a state patriarch championing women’s liberation, although with vacillation and inconsistency. The conceptual chasm deserves a close examination. Does the chasm reflect fundamentally different sets of relationship of gender and the state between socialist state and capitalist state? Or could it be as much a function of intellectual parameters of feminist scholars as that of politi cal realities under investigation? This empirical study on gender and Chinese socialist state formation attempts to shed some light on this curi ous phenomenon.3

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