by Song Shaopeng, lecturer at Renmin University’s Marxism Studies
1, The structural conflicts within women as an “individual” and a “family member” is represented externally as the tension between their roles in and outside the family. Since ordinary women have come to the Women’s Morality Club to look for help, it has become a key research concept for academic women to study women’s double burden: career and family. While modern women are striving in two spheres, in and out of the family, their biggest pain is the emotional anxiety and unresolved dissatisfaction because of the fundamentally different life principles in and outside of family. The guiding principle outside of the family is the modern gender equality concept that “both men and women are the same”; however, inside the family, the operational principal is that “men and women are different”. There is gendered division of housework, endless devotion yet lack of acknowledgment.
2, The reason behind the conflicts of these two principles is actually the modern male-centered structural system arrangement. If we can say that the gendered inequality exists discreetly in public spheres, then we can say that this kind of inequality is explicitly clear in private spheres. For example, there is unequal distribution of the responsibility of nurturing. There is also double standard in sexual orders (men’s sexual freedom and women’s sexual chastity), and even domestic violence. Facing explicit gender equality, the solution that these Women’s Morality Clubs offer is to maintain existing order with women’s submission and tolerance. The benefits to women is their happiness. No matter how ridiculous their husbands are, either cheating on them during feeding or even rape, in any case it is the wife’s mistake and they can’t divorce. They need to accept that “it is your fortune that you are not divorced by your husband”.
3, Under market economy, if the problem of creating needs can’t be solved, there will be all kinds of supply emerging. We can even predict that in the future there is going to a large number of legal existence of professional therapists and marriage counsellors. Compared to the solution offered by Women’s Morality Clubs, these kinds of seemingly modern proposal actually still attribute women’s problem to women themselves, and treat women themselves as “problems”.
4, If we temporarily ignore other functions of family, like the emotional function and the moral function, we could see in historical practices that the functional values of families, especially in the very special function of reproduction has always been maintained by the country or Capital. It is just that in reality this function is carried out by women. This is the essence and structural reason of women as a “family member”.
5, When men swimming freely through the private and public spheres without any resistance, women have to tolerate the fundamental squeeze and turmoil due to conflicts emerging from these two spheres. This is the soil for the existence of Women’s Morality Clubs. On one hand this is also the reason that the country supports the basic national policy of gender equality; while on the other hand they advocate the concepts of “kind mothers”, “filial daughters” and “submissive wives”. It is because that these two principles are useful for two spheres, the public and the private.
6, The conflicts of roles women face between being an “individual” and a “family member” is not women’s problem at all. It is rather a structural problem. The structural oppression can’t be solved by women. It also can’t be solved by demanding women’s strong resiliency or high morality or asking them to “perfectly” get used to the principal conflicts between the private and the public. This in itself is oppression. However, when we think about the structural system arrangement of society, we need to seriously consider the perspective of gender equality and fully take the social characteristics of reproduction responsibility into consideration.
7, From the perspective of personal morality, Confucius highlights on personal cultivation. It stresses the cultivation of morality in social interactions. Father (mother) be kind and son (daughter) be filial, siblings respect each other, friends loyal, couples respectful, be frugal and hardworking, and teach the younger generation with good morality, be loving towards everyone. This kind of moral values can’t be fully negated at all. It is also useful in a market economy that it is guided on the principles of selfish personal gains. However, this kind of moral values can’t be applied only on women and submit to men and the country’s interests. What’s more important is that morality can’t be the flag for oppression and exploitation.