Gender Roles Of Men And Women In Ancient China

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As a whole, ancient Chinese society was a patriarchy. Whilst patriarchal systems are particularly detrimental to women, they ensnare men and women alike. Thus, both men and women of ancient China developed methods of social advancement within the confines of their assigned gender roles to try to ensure a stable future. These methods of upward mobility were the exam system and footbinding respectively. Men had the expectation of familial honor thrust upon them, and women were handed the card of objectification on the marriage market. In a modern Western standpoint, the methods of mobility utilized by women are considered barbaric, but during this time in Chinese history, it was the only option to achieve success. And although footbinding …show more content…
Men would become members of the literati, and women would marry and serve their husbands and sons. But men had control over how well they did on the exams, for they could study and work hard to ensure a good future. Women however, did not have the luxury of choosing their own husband. Sometime around the early thirteenth century, footbinding emerged as a solution. Dorothy Ko explains, “...footbinding was an entirely reasonable course of action for a woman who lived in a Confucian culture that placed highest moral value on domesticity, motherhood, and handwork… The binding of feet created a woman who fit these ideals”. Origins of the practice remain unclear, but it is undeniable that one way or another, small feet became a conventional female beauty standard of ancient China. The process no doubt led to a great deal of pain, and it is easy to understand why Westerners with no cultural context condemned footbinding. Ko describes footbinding from the Western gaze as “... a perfect target for feminist critique: photographs of crushed bones are so grotesque that they provoke a visceral reaction, stories of women being reduced by pain to hobbling on their knees produce moral outrage.” However horrific, within Chinese society, footbinding was viewed as the only way to secure a good future for women. As competitors on the marriage market, women …show more content…
But closer study reveals the nuances of the interconnected inner and outer quarters of Chinese society and the role of footbinding in lessening the extent of female oppression. Under no circumstance is the ideal of footbinding morally ethical or intrinsically liberating, but within Chinese culture, it was the only act of agency women could perform in order to advance their status in society. Just as men and boys studied for the future, women and girls could bind their feet. Both the inner and outer quarters of ancient China relied on one another, but the Confucian ideals of society enforced a strict patriarchal hierarchy. Whilst patriarchy harms men and women alike by instituting rigid gender norms, male achievements were held in high esteem, whilst all aspects of femininity were degraded. Therefore, within this patriarchal system, footbinding was one small step towards female agency in a society of female

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