Feminist Praxis in People’s Republic of China

Friday, 20 July 2018: 09:30
Oral Presentation
Ping-Chun HSIUNG, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
One of the perennial challenges in transnational women’s movements is adequately analyzing and theorizing local feminist praxis. This paper examines how a woman’s NGO in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) simultaneously de- and reconstructs the discourse of women’s liberation in order to increase women’s participation in rural governance. It analyzes the logic, mechanisms, and underlying principles of local feminist praxis. Through analyses of policies, training materials, women’s narratives, and related documents, this paper demonstrates that the NGO takes a dialectic approach. On the one hand, it challenges and deconstructs the official claim that Chinese women have already been liberated under the PRC. On the other hand, it articulates an alternative discourse of women’s liberation in order to restructure the fabric of women’s political participation. The paper identifies de- and reconstruction strategies in policy-making, both among women and amongst the masses.

To adequately theorize local feminist praxis, this paper takes a bottom-up, rather than top-down, approach. It argues that such an inductive approach must recognize women’s political participation in rural governance as a primary site of feminist struggle in the Chinese context. It further argues that it is imperative to analyze both the macro forces and micro processes that have shaped women’s political participation. At the macro level, this paper identifies forces such as the feminization of agricultural labor, increasing inequality between rural and urban sectors, and the invisibility of women’s presence in electoral politics. At the micro level, it demonstrates that efforts to advance rural women’s political participation must challenge and transform local norms and practices that continues to perpetuate gender inequality in public and private spheres. This paper contributes to global dialogues on transnational women’s movements by discussing the accomplishments, challenges, and sustainability of a community-based feminist praxis.