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Becoming Feminist: The Alternative Paths toward Gender Equality of China's Post-89 Generation

  • Author(s): Deng, Weiling
  • Advisor(s): Desjardins, Richard
  • Goldman, Andrea S
  • et al.
Abstract

This dissertation studies the contemporary Chinese feminist movement, as it was unfolding in multiple faceted ways from 2015 to 2018, placing it within both the deeper historical context of gender struggles in China’s long twentieth century and within the context of both Chinese and global educational systems. It focuses on Chinese feminists of the post-89 generation, who were largely born between 1985 and 1995, have had no experience of participating in significant social movements and protests that marked China’s highly controversial modernization in the last century, and grew up after 1989 in a commodified and depoliticized social-educational environment. The processes in which they become feminists are interpreted in this study as alternative educational paths.

Although the post-89 cohort of feminists claim to continue the unfinished liberation of Chinese women from the twentieth century, particularly by inheriting the historically constructed term fun�, meaning women as state subjects, they have detached themselves from what may seem to be their immediate historical precedents. It is because in their usage of fun� is no longer predominantly illustrative of class struggle, but instead is de-historicized to serve poststructuralist cultural politics. This nuanced change demands that the post-89 generation feminists and their movement be studied not through the ideas that influence them, but through the ways in which they, as politicized students, embody those ideas in everyday life. This framework puts the contemporary Chinese feminist movement in line with the student protests in twentieth-century China.

The purpose of this study is, in part, to address the underlying educational philosophy of some of the major feminist actions in China that has yet to be discussed in a systematic manner. Works on the politics of pedagogy by Jacques Ranci�re, Augusto Boal, and Gert Biesta shed light on the deeper thinking of social inequality and sex-based injustice that the post-89 generation feminists inject into their consciousness-raising activism. Another important goal, however, is to draw attention to some unexamined assumptions within this movement that may be contradictory to the philosophy of emancipatory education. The new attempts to break through this impasse have unveiled new horizon of feminist education in China.

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