Homeownership, Gender, and Intimacy in Urban China

Monday, 11 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 11 (Juridicum)
Distributed Paper
Hsiu-hua SHEN, Institute of Sociology, National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan
This paper explores gendered disputes on contemporary moralities and practices of heterosexual romantic love and marriage between young unban Chinese men and women. Dramatic rising on housing price in urban sittings has been one of the most crucial indicator signifying rapid social changes in the post-socialist Chinese society. An increasing tension between marriage and homeownership among young urban Chinese is found in popular discourse. Owning a place has become a basic criterion for Chinese men to be suitable for marriage. By analyzing popular discourses from TV dramas and Internet discussions, and in-depth interviews with young Chinese people mainly in Beijing, this paper finds moral clashes between urban Chinese women and men on the relationship of romantic intimacy and economic activities. Chinese women and men share the cultural assumptions of the importance of economic security and men as the breadwinners in the family. However, Chinese women emphasize the “economic morality of the capitalist patriarch marriage” by which I mean that Chinese women’s normative assumptions of marriage are that the institution of marriage under the capitalist economy is about increasing exploitations of women and economic security via the form of homeownership promised by men upon marriage is a necessary means for them to cope with such gender exploitations. Chinese men stress the “love morality of the economic marriage” by which I mean that Chinese men overlook how rapid social changes have shaped gender inequality and emphasize the institution of marriage as a mark of love and the foundation for them to achieve as masculine economic beings in the name of the family. This paper has implications for understanding how the transformation from a socialist to a capitalist economy has shaped people’s daily intimate and family relations in China and the seeming problematic associations between economic activities and intimate life.