Women In The Revolutionary Struggle
War And Revolution In China And Vietnam
Author: Schwartz, Stuart B.
Date: 1992

Document: Women In The Revolutionary Struggle

Even more than in the nationalist movements in colonized areas such as
India and Egypt, women were drawn in large numbers into violent, revolutionary
struggles in areas such as China and Vietnam. The breakdown of the political
system and social order not only weakened the legal and family restrictions
that had subordinated women and limited their career choices, but it ushered
in decades of severe crisis and brutal conflict in which the very survival of
women depended on them assuming radically new roles and actively involving
themselves in revolutionary activities. The following quotations are taken
from Vietnamese and Chinese revolutionary writings and interviews with women
involved in the revolutionary movements in each country. They express the
women's goals, their struggle to be taken seriously in the uncharacteristic
political roles they had assumed, and some of the many ways women found
self-respect and redress for their grievances as a result of the changes
wrought by the spread of the new social order.

1. Women must first of all be masters of themselves. They must strive to
become skilled workers ... and, at the same time, they must strictly observe
family planning. Another major question is the responsibility of husbands to
help their wives look after children and other housework. ...

2. We intellectuals had had little contact with the peasants and when we first
walked through the village in our Chinese gowns or skirts the people would
just stare at us and talk behind our backs. When the village head beat gongs
to call out the women to the meetings we were holding for them, only men and
old women came, but no young ones. Later we found out that the landlords and
rich peasants had spread slanders among the masses saying "They are a pack of
wild women. Their words are not for young brides to hear."

3. ... brave wives and daughters-in-law, untrammelled by the presence of their
menfolk, could voice their own bitterness ... encourage their poor sisters to
do likewise, and thus eventually bring to the village-wide gatherings the
strength of "half of China" as the more enlightened women, very much in
earnest, like to call themselves. By "speaking pains to recall pains," the
women found that they had as many if not more grievances than the men, and
that given a chance to speak in public, they were as good at it as their
fathers and husbands.

4. In Chingtsun the work team found a woman whose husband thought her ugly and
wanted to divorce her. She was very depressed until she learned that under the
Draft Law [of the Communist party] she could have her own share of land. Then
she cheered up immediately. "If he divorces me, never mind," she said. "I'll
get my share and the children will get theirs. We can live a good life without
him."

 

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