By: Yunmei Li Lizzie, In-Country Consultant, China
When I went back home this year for Chinese Spring Festival, I paid much attention on the patriarchal culture which discriminates girls generally. Even though the customs and situations differ from one another in China, undeniably, girls are still at a disadvantage in traditional view.
Earlier days I did a research on feminism’s development and girls living situation in China. I am happy to see we have come a long way and achieved a lot, but also worried about the unbalanced development between regions. While we are appealing to the female leadership training in big cities, there are still girls suffering from family and conservative concept in rural places. We have abandoned some rigorous customs, but still cannot ignore those existing rooted view that men are superior to women
The following are three typical cases during Chinese Spring Festival.
- No seat for girl at meals
Every year during Chinese Spring Festival, there are a number of online articles and posts complaining about girls have no seat at table but have to eat in the kitchen or outside the house when having meals, even though they make all the dishes and food. In 2016, a famous article titled “Freaking awesome daughter-in-law went back to her husband hometown and overturned the table of dishes and food she made when told there was no seat for her” even caused a hot discussion online. In my hometown, it is often to see the picture in which men sit around the table, talking loudly and drinking alcohol, while women are busy in the kitchen, or eat at somewhere else with her bowl and chopsticks.
- Not allowed to go out
There are particular customs to pay a New Year’s visit or call during Chinese Spring Festival. In my hometown, the first day in lunar year is often viewed as a prediction of the whole year. I was told not to go out on the first day since childhood, but I didn’t realize it is an outcome of gender discrimination until this year – girls are seen as bad luck. If a family have a girl guest come visit, they will be angry and disappointed. However, if the guest is a boy, they will host him with happiness warm heart, because they believe the boy will bring them good luck for the whole year.
- Not allowed to come back home at New Year’s Eve when married
Before the One-child Policy, Chinese generally believe that raising a daughter is just raising a kid for others – girls cannot carry on the family name, cannot be written in clan pedigree, cannot support parents if she has brothers, cannot bury her parents, even cannot be forgiven if her parents pass away in her house. As a saying goes ‘Married daughter is like spilled water’: married daughter is not a family member anymore. Therefore, in New Year’s Eve, a day that supposed to be a family reunion, girls are not allowed to come back home, but have to go to her husband’s family.
These kinds of phenomenon mostly appear at blocked rural areas as a part of the truth of Chinese girls’ lives. But the good news is, girls themselves are protesting and fighting against gender discriminations, and the phenomenon is getting increasing attention from the society and media.