|10. The Interplay of Gender, Space, and Work in China's Floating Population|
|图书名称：Re-Drawing Boundaries: Work, Households, and Gender in China|
图书作者：Barbara Entwisle and Gail E. Henderson ISBN：
出版社：Berkeley: University of California Press 出版日期：2000年
China's recent economic reform has stimulated large-scale de facto ruralto-urban labor migration in the past ten years. From countryside to cities, from farming to commodity-based production and wage work, from living in a stable locale to floating in a transient market-oriented world—how have family and gender relations among rural migrants been transformed in this profound economic, spatial, and social reordering? This chapter explores the interconnections between gender relations, social space, and the value of work in the context of this mass migration. Based on my year-long anthropological study of the largest migrant settlement in Beijing (from June 1995 to September 1996), I offer an ethnographic account of the ways gender relations in various kinds of migrant households are reshaped. To demonstrate how gender politics is shaped by the interplay of socioeconomic and cultural practices, my analysis highlights the dialectical relationship between power and the construction of gendered spaces, linking it with the transformation of migrant households and value of work in the floating population.
Western studies of China's floating population have focused largely on its macrolevel economic, demographic, and political effects (Banister 1992; S. Goldstein and A. Goldstein 1985; Solinger 1993, 1995a, 1995c; for an exception, see Lee 1994). In contrast, this chapter looks at the interplay of gender, space, and work in a Chinese migrant settlement in Beijing by focusing on migrants' everyday experiences, while, at the same time, situating the local analysis in the broad context of China's rapid marketization and commodification. In China, most existing research and popular discourse tends to view migrant women as a monolithic underclass (Chen and Feng 1996) and regards the experience of working in the cities as a uniformly positive one for all migrant women, enhancing their social and domestic status. This modernist discourse presumes that women's participation in urban economic activities and urban culture through migration will lead inevitably to the emancipation of rural women from poverty and patriarchal domination (see chap. 8). My ethnographic research among the floating population suggests that the diverse lived experiences of migrant women cannot fit neatly into this linear-progressive model. More recently, as part of the trend of female scholars investigating the lived experiences of women, a group of feminist-inspired Chinese scholars (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences 1996) have begun to focus on the lives of Chinese migrant working “sisters” (dagongmei). This project aims to highlight in a descriptive manner the unique situations and problems facing various kinds of migrant women. It does not, however, provide an analytical framework for rethinking gender, power, and social reproduction in a changing socioeconomic context.
This chapter attempts to fill this gap by making two main arguments. First, the floating population is a highly stratified and diversely situated social group, and accordingly, migrant women occupy various social positions and encounter changes in gender relations in very different ways. To substantiate this claim, I describe and analyze the various ways gender relations among rural Chinese migrants change under differentiated household situations. The major body of the chapter is devoted to an ethnographic account of gender and power in three kinds of household situations within the Zhejiang migrant settlement: wealthy migrant households; middle/ lower-income migrant households; and the circumstances of young female wage-workers living in these households. Second, I argue that the increase of migrant women's participation in economic activities does not necessarily go hand in hand with their empowerment. Gender inequality cannot be probed solely from a perspective of economic determinism. Instead, a fuller understanding requires an account of how gender relations are reshaped by mutually constitutive social, cultural, and economic factors in the total process of social production. Thus, the analysis of migrant gender politics needs to be situated also in another closely related arena—the construction of and control over social spaces, from which power is partially derived. More specifically, I show that changing gender relations among Chinese rural migrants are closely linked with the reorganizations of their household and production space in the urban settlements. By focusing on space, I by no means suggest that spatial control is the causal factor in the formation of gender domination. Rather, my point is that the asymmetric control over social spaces by migrant men and women is both an effect of the structure of social domination and a condition for producing gender exploitation.
SOCIAL CONTEXT AND ETHNOGRAPHIC SETTING
I begin by providing a sketch of the social context and the ethnographic setting—the Zhejiang migrant settlement in Beijing. Beijing, as China's political and economic center, has been one of the major magnets for migration during the reform years. The burgeoning urban economy—in particular, construction projects and the service sector—requires an enormous amount of labor to perform work in low-paid, dirty, and risky jobs. At the same time, the breakdown of what Solinger (1995a) calls “the urban public goods regime” allows rural migrants access to housing, grain, and other basic foodstuffs and services in the urban market economy. According to the census conducted by the Beijing Municipal Government on 10 November 1994 (B. Liu 1995), the city contained 3.295 million unofficial residents (waidiren), making up the floating population (liudong renkou). This equals one-third of the total registered Beijing official population. Most of this floating population (82.7%) is concentrated in Beijing's near suburbs—the “urban-rural transitional zone.”
Zhejiang Village (Zhejiangcun), with over 100,000 rural migrants from several provinces, is the largest spontaneous migrant settlement in Beijing. The majority of its residents come from the rural Wenzhou region of Zhejiang province, after which this migrant settlement was named. (For a description of the reasons for interprovincial migration from Zhejiang province, see chap. 11). The remainder are wage-earning migrant workers and small business owners from Hubei, Anhui, Sichuan, Henan, Shandong, Hebei, and other provinces. Originally coined by local Beijing residents, the term Zhejiangcun has been gradually adopted by Wenzhou migrants themselves to construct their own community based on their common place of origin.
The development of Zhejiangcun took its course over ten years with the gradual opening-up of state economic policies and the Beijing commercial reform (S. J. Wang 1995; Xiang Biao 1993). The influx of migrants into this area began with spontaneous, small migrant groups, and then evolved into long-term, large-scale chain migrations based on kinship and native-place networks. In late 1995, however, the social and economic life in Zhejiangcun was seriously set back by a political campaign initiated by the central state and the Beijing municipal government. During the event, 48 privately owned large migrant residential compounds were demolished because the growing localized power and social autonomy in this enclave were viewed as a potential danger to the socialist state. But three months later, the majority of Wenzhou migrants who had been forced out of Beijing returned to this area to rebuild their community and businesses.
Given the Chinese residential registration system (hukou) and the history of the structural separation between urban and rural socioeconomic life, Wenzhou migrants can be regarded as sojourners or de facto temporary migrants because regardless of how long they have been in the receiving area, they normally can not obtain a permanent Beijing hukou, and hence, “should” ultimately return to their rural homes in the future. Wenzhou migrants in Zhejiangcun are different from other Chinese rural migrants in at least three ways. First, they tend to migrate with a significant amount of initial capital to develop their own family-based garment production and market networks. A complex social stratification based on economic status, occupation, and fame has formed within the community. Second, their household-based garment businesses have developed to such a degree that they can afford to hire wage workers (from provinces other than Zhejiang in most cases). Hence, a new class distinction between Wenzhou private business owners and other wage workers has emerged along the line of native places. Third, most Wenzhou migrants moved with family members and are concentrated in a common place for living, commercial production, and trading in the city. These three features all have significant influences on how gender relations are reshaped in this migrant settlement.
HOUSEHOLD AS A SOCIAL FIELD
In conceiving of different forms of gender dynamics in the floating population, I choose household (hu) as a basic social site for analysis while simultaneously looking at how other social spaces are constructed and made meaningful in relation to the household. I treat household not as a bounded coresidence with prefixed social functions, but as a multiforced, microsocial space in which agents are situated (cf. Bourdieu 1977; Giddens 1979). Its dimensions include not only socioeconomic aspects but also cultural and symbolic aspects. Particularly because the majority of Wenzhou migrants' economic activities take place in and around private households rather than collective communes or state units, an individual's status is generally identified by his/her household's socioeconomic position.
Far from being a natural, uniformly defined entity, the household is a particular kind of social space whose boundaries shift and whose meanings are contested and transform over time and across places. In post-Mao China, during rapid economic, social, and spatial changes, it has become even less meaningful to talk about “the Chinese family” or “the Chinese household” in an undifferentiated way. What constitutes a household in China and what its relationship is to other social spaces need to be reexamined and reimagined in specific social and historical contexts (see chap. 1). In Chinese semantics, the two native terms jia and hu — often translated in English as two juxtaposed concepts: family and household—contain very similar meanings. Both can simultaneously refer to family, household, abode, and home. Their specific meanings are contingent upon the context of speech and referential background. The very distinction between household as a coresidential group and family as kin group, as summarized by Rapp (1979, 176) in her critique of family history in Western discourse, is simply a Western theoretical construct that is not quite applicable to the Chinese case. In this chapter, I use “household,” not to juxtapose it with “family” as Davis does in chapter 14, but to stress the undetermined, flexible nature of what is called the domestic realm, whose members, boundaries, and meanings are contingent upon specific contexts.
In comparison with the majority of existing forms of Chinese households, three distinct features in the Wenzhou migrant households are worth noting. First, the majority of Wenzhou migrant households, in which three generations used to coreside prior to migration, are now not necessarily located at a single geographic place. Instead, they are bilocal or even trilocal across the geographic space between their rural villages and the urban settlements. Members at the two or three locations frequently come back and forth and fulfill kin obligations at more than one site. These multiple locations are not viewed by my informants as separate households. They constitute the same household, but dispersed at different places. When I asked Wenzhou migrants where their jia (family) is, they often replied: “Do you mean the part in Beijing or the part in my hometown?” I answered: “The one that you consider as your jia.” They usually told me that the two jia located in Wenzhou and Beijing are both their jia, but the one in Wenzhou is a permanent one even if no one or only grandparents live at home, while the one in Beijing is temporary even if that is where the majority of the family members reside. Although the meanings and weights of these two jia are different, they are all considered inseparable parts of a large dispersed household. In demographic surveys by local governments at their rural origins, household members who migrated out are also considered as members of the rural household (see chap. 11).
Second, Wenzhou migrant households are not solely a place of residence and consumption, but also the primary site for economic production. The two conceptually separated realms—household and work place—are now combined in a shared physical space. For clothing traders, their small trading stalls and counters in a public marketplace, although physically separate from the living space, are also conceived of as an extension of the household. The traditional boundaries between workplace, market, and home have been blurred in the process of rapid economic changes. The domestic realm now assumes new business functions, while other public spaces, like privately owned clothing stalls, are domesticated.
Third, hired young workers who are non-kin but share the same domestic space can practically be counted as household members, while grandparents, parents, and children, who are normally considered as the core members of a rural Wenzhou household, no longer necessarily live under the same roof as a result of migration. The relationship between wage workers and the Wenzhou migrant households for whom they work is particularly ambiguous because workers have no blood or conjugal ties with the boss's kin group; but at the same time they work, eat, and sleep with the owner's family members, in the same space. They are regarded as family members of that household in everyday rhetoric and for government demographic survey purposes.
In sum, although I still employ the term “household” and take it as a primary social field in my analysis, it conveys different meanings: it is a flexible, power-laden, conflict-charged space whose meaning and boundary are to be drawn and re-drawn by social groups in specific contexts. As a dual work/living space, the household among Wenzhou migrants is a primary social field in which gender relations are reshaped and negotiated. In the following sections, I discuss gender inequality in relation to the reorganization of work and space in very wealthy households (dahu), in middle/ lower-income households (zhong-xiao hu), and among wage-earning young workers in Wenzhou migrant households. Based on ethnographic description, I explore how such changes occur under the multiple, interrelated social forces across different spaces, and what household means to different migrants.
WOMEN IN DAHU
The very wealthy households in Zhejiangcun are called dahu (big households). The head of this kind of household, known as “big boss” (da laoban), is normally a male figure. “Big” here does not refer to the size of the household but to its economic and social status. “Big households” were not big at the beginning but have evolved over time to arrive at their current positions. Members of dahu generally migrated to Beijing in the early 1980s, about ten years earlier than many other Wenzhou migrants. This timing is crucial for capital accumulation and the consolidation of economic power because economic competition was less intense then. Many started their businesses from small-scale cottage production and clothing retail sales, and later developed into real-estate-oriented multi-businesses. In the early stages of life in Beijing, dahu women were the primary producers in the family economy. They not only operated the sewing machines themselves and supervised production by hired workers, but also went out with their husbands to sell the products on the street. As Mei, a wife of a “big boss,” recalled, “We produced clothes all night long and then went out to sell them in the morning. We did not have money to take taxis, so we rode the bus with a big bag of clothing products—very embarrassing.” Those days were difficult and tiring, but working wives felt closer to their husbands. Their family-based production took place virtually in the same space as sleeping and eating. Hence, a household at that time included two inseparable parts —production site and residence.
With growing economic and social status, some important changes regarding the space of jia took place. Many now-nouveau-riche Wenzhou migrants gradually dropped labor-intensive garment production by turning to the development of clothing market facilities and migrant housing in Zhejiangcun. Formerly combined production and domestic spaces began to separate. Women in dahu were gradually pushed out of what is perceived as the productive realm and confined to activities defined as domestic and nonproductive. Capital accumulated through their previous hard work was transferred to the control of the husband. Meanwhile, because wealthy Wenzhou migrant men usually do not set up a separate office space from their family-based industry, business-related activities generally occur at two kinds of places. First, the household began to serve as a place for “talking business” (tan shengyi), from which women are generally excluded. This private domestic space, once occupied both by male and female family members, was gradually turned into “inside” and “outside,” “feminine” and “masculine,” “proper” and “improper” zones for men and women as a result of their new economic practices in the city (see chap. 1).
Consider the spatial division of Lin's home, for example. Lin's husband was a widely recognized de facto community leader whose home I visited frequently. There were six rooms in the house, including a living room, two bedrooms, a dining room, a children's piano room, and a kitchen/bathroom. Every time I visited Lin's family, the husband and his wealthy migrant entrepreneur friends, dressed up in Western suits and ties, were gathered in the living room to smoke and chat. The living room is regarded as an “outside” space for business matters; therefore it is not a proper place for women. Male guests normally did not bring their wives. If they did, or if female visitors came, the women tended to gather in the dining room or the kitchen. When women did stay in the living room, they took a seat in the corner, keeping quiet all through the male-dominated conversations. Only when there was no men's gathering would women occupy the living room to chat. In this way, wealthy migrant women's space inside a household recedes to the back rooms when men are present.
Second, a new kind of consuming place—karaoke bars, restaurants, and hotels—began to assume a salient function in the lives of wealthy Wenzhou entrepreneurs. These places, traditionally viewed as for entertainment and consumption only, now serve as popular sites for business negotiation and the consumption of sex. I call this phenomenon the “bar culture of doing business.” Wealthy migrant entrepreneurs spend less and less time at home, simply telling their wives “I have business to take care of outside.” This “outside” is primarily singing and dancing bars. It is true that business negotiations among Wenzhou migrants are often reached at these sites, but the nature of their activities, often involving sex traffic, is ambiguous and troubling to their wives. In Zhejiangcun, newly emergent urban spaces like bars and hotels bear a double meaning: they represent modernity, social status, and economic power of the male consumers, but they are also associated with hedonism, prostitution, and other “ills of capitalism.” In local culture, bars and hotels are marked as a space exclusively for men. If women are present in those places, especially if alone, they are immediately condemned as “bad women.” Wives of dahu can go out only to domestic consumption sites: food markets, department stores, and homes of kin and close friends. It is very unlikely that intimate interactions with male strangers can occur at these places. This form of control over women's spatial mobility is both a function of sexual control and a way of limiting women's engagements in social activities.
The relative shrinkage of social spaces for women and the expansion of men's activities into other wider spaces have a direct influence on the configuration of gender relations. Women are becoming more and more dependent on their husbands financially and socially, leaving them little leverage to make claims and demands in the household. More importantly, diminishing access to public spaces makes it even harder for women to develop their own business and social skills, or to obtain potential social support from a wide range of social networks. One wealthy “big boss” told me that he just cannot bring his wife out with him to business-related banquets and ceremonies because “she does not know how to act and what to say.” Other people confirmed this attitude by relating an episode that occurred at the opening ceremony of a rich man's “entertainment city.” He and his brother both showed up in their red Mercedes-Benz not with their wives, but with two pretty Beijing girls. One of them was a college student, majoring in music, whose karaoke singing won an abundance of applause and thus a great deal of “face” (mianzi) for him. Thus, wives' failure to keep up with their husbands' social expectations (if true)—which is a consequence of excluding them from socially constructed public spaces in the first place—now is used as a seemingly sensible excuse to further keep them out of these areas.
Although the power balance in dahu is becoming more and more tilted toward men, women are not passive. As social agents, they make pragmatic choices and employ diverse strategies to achieve different ends given their specific social circumstances. By focusing on gender strategies, we can better understand that the so-called social norms and rules are in fact unstable and are constantly reinterpreted and contested in practice (see Moore 1978). In the remaining part of this section on dahu, I present different strategies commonly adopted by dahu women and discuss the effectiveness and costs of such actions.
“Control the Throat of Fate”
“Control the throat of fate” (zhuazhu mingyun de yanhou) is a Chinese expression for taking initiative to control one's own life path instead of being a passive victim. This expression describes a strategy employed by some dahu women: engaging in relatively open and direct struggles for power to control their own lives and personal development. This form of resistance to gender oppression is more likely to occur among women with cultural capital—higher education levels, better rhetoric skills, and richer business experiences. These women, dissatisfied with being housewives, try to participate in the male-dominated business and political sphere. If they cannot hold a formal, independent position in business, they frequently express their opinions in informal business negotiations at home and provide suggestions to their husbands privately.
The responses from their husbands are contradictory. On one hand, because of their strong social skills and perceptiveness, which greatly help business negotiations through the “back door,” these women have largely influenced the formation of the household's economic direction, although the final decision is usually made by men. Over a period of time, the husbands have also become accustomed to, if not dependent on, their wives' semi-formal participation. But in public, when a good deal is made, it is the husband who is credited, never the wife, even if she has played a significant role. A dahu wife told me: “Without me, he would not be able to make any money. He always loses money in his deals. Other people do not know this and think he is so capable. But I am actually in charge of all the counters and transactions and make most of the money in our family. But outside, people only give credit to him just because he is a man and I am a woman.” Despite the unfair ascription of value and renown, some strong-willed dahu women take every opportunity to gain more control over the household economy and push their way into a male-dominated business world.
This strategy is well illustrated by Lin's case. Lin and her husband Zhen came to Beijing together in 1985. She graduated from high school, but he barely finished elementary school. When they first arrived in Beijing, they did not have much money. Borrowing cash from relatives, they rented four small counters to sell clothing in Wangfujing, Beijing's busiest commercial district. At that time, renting counters from Beijing state stores was highly competitive and needed not only the right kind of personal connections (guanxi), which this migrant couple lacked in the city, but also a “honey tongue” to persuade the managers to allocate the counter space to them. Zhen could not speak proper Mandarin then and was afraid to socialize with Beijingers. In contrast, Lin already spoke good Mandarin and had better social skills. Thus, she played a major role in all matters related to negotiations with non-Wenzhou people. As she recalls, “Every time we went to visit a manager, he [her husband] always asked me to please go with him because he was afraid that Beijingers would laugh at his heavy local accent and ruin the business.” Zhen was not opposed to her participation in business activities, but rather depended on her support. A few years later, with more capital accumulated from clothing retail, they opened their own household-based production of leather jackets. Lin was in charge of the production process, including handling quality control, learning sewing skills, and maintaining ten employees, while Zhen took care of purchasing raw materials and finding wholesale buyers. Their business soon became prosperous and a large amount of capital was rapidly accumulated. In those years, Lin had wide access to different social settings and had more say in major decision making in the household.
Later, the situation changed. Having accumulated more economic capital and social skills, Zhen decided to quit clothing production and turn to real estate development because it was potentially more profitable. Lin disagreed with him, pointing out the extremely high risk of housing development because they were outsiders without official Beijing residency and the state's attitude toward Zhejiang migrant enclaves was particularly negative. She argued that it was safer and equally lucrative to stick to leather production; or if he insisted on developing real estate, they should engage in other community-based business at the same time to reduce the risk by diversification. Zhen and his followers instead plunged into housing development. He sold their house back in Zhejiang for 200,000 yuan, gathered a total of 50 million yuan from some 20 share holders (mainly kinsmen and close friends), and built the largest residential compound in Zhejiangcun in 1995. This “big yard” (dayuan), which hosted more than 1,500 Wenzhou migrant households, however, was summarily bulldozed by the Beijing government after only five months. The official reason given by the Beijing government for dismantling the migrant compounds was that they were all illegal constructions without approval from the appropriate government office. But the underlying reason was to disperse highly concentrated Zhejiang migrants, whose enclave was regarded as a dangerous zone for the development of autonomous social power outside direct state control.
This political incident was beyond Zhen's personal control and prediction. It caused a huge loss to his family as well as other desperate shareholders. It also had significant influences on the use of social space and gender dynamics for migrant families in exile. In the preceding two years, Lin had persuaded her husband to let her open a shop selling leather clothes in Zhejiangcun. The business was successful and made 500,000 yuan in the first year, part of which was invested in building the “big yard.” But Zhen was not happy. He was feeling insecure because he thought Lin had too much interaction with other men and that this was bad for her reputation (and consequently for his authority). Eventually, after several serious fights, she was forced to close down this remarkably profitable shop. Lin did not completely give up, but she had to change her strategy to meet the same goal. “I know I am better and I can make a lot of money. I am not that type of woman who can just stay at home.” She then opened a large day care center, supervising several teachers, cooks, and workers. Because this space was viewed as domestic and less challenging to the existing gender boundaries, her husband did not interfere with it. This center turned out to be an important backup for the survival of the family after the “big yard” was torn down.
Negotiations over spatial mobility and business participation, illustrated by Lin's case, give women room to pursue their goals and power to control their own lives. But in a male-dominated world women's resistance sometimes can result in domestic violence, particularly when gender is linked with politics. During the government's campaign of tearing down all the “big yards” built by Wenzhou migrants in Zhejiangcun, district and local officials put constant pressure on Zhen by visiting his house almost every day. To avoid direct confrontation, Zhen often left home purposely while Lin stayed at home to meet the officials. The logic was that since she was a woman, the officials could not do much about her. Lin tried to take advantage of these opportunities by talking to the work team with her “honey tongue,” hoping to gain sympathy from the local officials to win more negotiation time. One police officer, a member of the leadership of the campaign, was friendly to her and showed sympathy for their situation. At this time, the son of Lin's good friend was arrested by the police for drug use. The youngster's mother begged Lin for help, and Lin approached the most appropriate person for solving the problem, the same police officer. Zhen soon found out, and became enraged and then violent. This officer not only presented a potential sexual threat in Zhen's mind; he was also the primary local Beijing official assigned by the government to dismantle Zhejiang migrants' housing. Zhen justified his violent behavior as follows: “This so and so [the police officer], he tore down my big yard. We are enemies. How could she go to beg him for help?” His argument glossed over his sexual jealousy with political concerns by invoking the collective cleavage between “us” and “them,” victim and violent authority. Wife-beating was transformed into beating a traitor from the community on a symbolic level. Hence, public opinion would lean toward him even if he was the one who exercised violence.
The account of Lin's case indicates that women are not simply locked in their structural positions. Instead, they constantly negotiate their positions through everyday practices. Women's agency can create room for maneuvering under seemingly unchangeable rules and norms. But this everyday form of resistance has not developed to such an extent that it fundamentally challenges the social structure. At times, women's direct contestation can also lead to great emotional and physical costs, and thus it should not be romanticized (Abu-Lughod 1990; Greenhalgh 1994).
The Use of “Virtue”
In contrast with the dahu women who choose relatively open ways of resistance and negotiation, dahu women with little educational background and few social skills tend to choose indirect ways of gaining leverage in domestic politics. The main reason why they do not engage in open conflict is the fear of losing property, young children, and “face” in the event of divorce. According to local practice, the amount of money a wife can receive in a divorce depends on the mercy of her husband, since women normally do not have enough money to hire a lawyer or enough legal knowledge to fight for their own rights. In most circumstances, the custody of children is given to men because it is assumed that women have no means of supporting themselves, let alone children; and it is extremely difficult for divorced women with children to remarry in the cultural milieu of rural Wenzhou.
From these women's point of view, direct confrontation causes more problems than it solves and it pushes their husbands further away from them. As one woman told me, “If your husband goes out to play with other women, it's no use to know about it. Once you find out, the result is quarreling. The more you quarrel, the worse it gets. You see, when he thinks you do not know, he has to be cautious about what he does, so he might not do something too extreme. But if you tear his ‘face’ away, what else does he care about?” Another woman puts it this way: “If he has other women outside, that means he is already tired of you. If you complain and argue with him all the time, he will get more sick of you and never come back. Maybe that is exactly what they want, and you just fall into the trap.”
Mei is one of the women who share these feelings. Her husband, a rich man in the community, is seldom at home, but spends most of the time having fun outside. Mei knows clearly what is going on with her husband, but does not like to talk about it. In most people's eyes, she represents the ideal image of a virtuous wife who is pretty, quiet, and more importantly rarely complains or interferes with whatever her husband does. She takes care of all the housework and arranges the children's education well (a son in a very expensive private school, two daughters in a fairly good Beijing elementary school). But deep inside, “I feel lonely, helpless, and even angry,” Mei told me.
Maintaining the image of a virtuous wife is not simply a gesture of surrender, however. “Virtuousness” (xianhui) can be used by women as an effective weapon to win sympathy and support from kin members and friends, forming strong social pressure for their husbands not to go too far in extramarital affairs. The logic is that if the wife is so virtuous and perfect, the husband has no excuse to abandon her or treat her badly, although moderate affairs are still tolerated. Further, virtuous women in wealthy households also expand their social space and power by maneuvering in the domestically marked sphere. Since wealthy women like Mei are restricted from male-dominated social spaces, they begin to extend their activities into other spaces generally viewed as domestic and feminine. For example, they make more frequent visits to women in the extended circle of kin members and friends, drawing emotional and pragmatic support from chatting (viewed as trivial by men), sharing tactics of coping and resistance. Talking, therefore, has become a powerful way for them to relieve their frustration, make sense of their situation, and gather social support to deal with the endangered marital relations.
Two images are drawn most frequently in the conversations to explain and critique the currently deteriorating changes in domestic relations: “excessive money” and “bad women.” It is important to note that what money can bring to men and women is quite different. While wealthy Wenzhou migrant men are still in the craze for more and more money, a new discourse is widely shared by their wives, who condemn money as an alienating devil who is eating away at men's hearts and morality. These women feel the irony of their situation and also a sense of betrayal because they migrated with the hope of making more money in order to live a better life, yet have lost control of their own lives just when they began to enjoy their long anticipated prosperity. “Now we might have more money to spend. We do not need to stand in the cold winter snow to sell ten yuan per pair of pants, and we can buy an imported dress for 1,000 yuan without hesitation, but we do not feel happier or more respected.” This is not to say that money simply does not do any good for wealthy women. Indeed, while rich women have lost some power in certain important realms, they have gained a lot of consuming power. But the scope of their consumption is limited to clothes, food, and jewelry; men can use money to expand the business, to increase fame, to buy sex, and to explore the urban jungles of pleasure.
Another image, “bad women,” is constantly invoked by dahu women. This anxiety about prostitution and the threat to conjugal bonds is directly linked to a nation-wide social insecurity and uncertainty felt in the transition to a market economy. In the economic reform era, prostitution has become a prevalent social problem in China. Despite the state's several attempts to combat prostitution, its anti-prostitution policy has been ineffective. Migrant women in Zhejiangcun view the rampant prostitution in Beijing as an inevitable result of the national “opening up” (kaifang) policy. They feel that, like money, prostitution is also something beyond their personal control. It is important to note that such moral critiques are no longer limited to the personal realm, but extend to problems brought by the larger structural transformation. One woman puts it this way: “Aren't we all in the era of ‘opening up’? That means everything can become ‘open.’ You see, men can date and sleep with girls and then drop them. There are more and more divorces nowadays, but that was not the case before.” Such interpretations of state policy and cultural change by women reflect that all men and all women do not benefit from the economic reform and modernization project in an equal way. The liberal economic practices of the market are not automatically liberating for women and can turn out to be further oppressing for some women in certain circumstances.
In sum, the preceding analysis of changes in gender relations in very wealthy households and the different strategies employed by women suggests two things: First, with the diminishing of women's access to social spaces they once enjoyed, gender equality has decreased in most wealthy migrant households, demonstrating that migrant women's economic status does not go hand in hand with their empowerment (Whyte, in chapter 9, makes a similar point about the multifaceted nature of gender equality). Second, despite this circumstance, it is possible for dahu women to actively adopt strategies to improve their immediate conditions, while challenging the patriarchal order.
WOMEN IN ZHONG-XIAO HU
In this section, I turn to middle/lower-income Wenzhou migrant households (zhong-xiao hu), in which the majority of women in Zhejiangcun live. In comparison with the very wealthy households, women in these households enjoy a more egalitarian gender relationship. This is manifested in a more democratic family decision-making process, freer access to social spaces, and higher satisfaction with their marriages. But even if these women are highly active in the “productive” work realm, the value of their work is still largely underestimated. Thus, it is not work per se but the value of what is perceived as work that defines gender equality in the Chinese context. The question we need to explore further is: How does the value of women's work become transformed in this local context? I argue that the transformation of actual work into socially recognized values is closely related to the cultural conception of the space in which work is performed. This transformation, operating through the patriarchal ideology, serves as a critical means by which gender exploitation is made possible.
Most middle/lower-income households in Zhejiangcun have specialized in garment production and trade. These economic activities often take place in individual households. Both women and men in middle/lowerincome households participate in production and trade in order to reduce internal costs of their businesses. But there is a clear gender division of labor in this production process. Cottage clothing production involves at least four integrated parts: (1) purchasing and preparing raw materials (such as leather, cloth, buttons); (2) gathering information on the most popular designs and patterns; (3) actual production (tailoring and sewing); (4) bringing the products to the market to sell. Women are the primary producers in the third stage, which is central to the whole clothing production. Although the husband in a household is considered the laoban (boss), the wife (laobanniang) is the one who actually takes care of all the details of production and coordination of members of the household. Because the amount of work to be done depends on rapidly changing market demands, the work rhythm is sometimes irregular and intense. Laobanniang and young female workers often have to spend more than 12 hours per day in a production cycle that extends from noon to four or five o'clock in the morning so that finished products can be brought to the market in the very early morning.
The male household head is mainly responsible for obtaining raw materials and arranging the products to be sold. Not anchored at a single work site, these men enjoy the freedom of going out to chat with friends or wandering in garment markets. I was told that the action of moving through various social spaces itself is valued as one of the most important ways of collecting market information, which is central to the success of the business. Sometimes men also help with production at the peak of the business season. But under almost no circumstances do women go out to purchase raw materials if the supply site is outside Beijing. Such gendered spatial boundaries show that division of labor among Wenzhou migrants still falls along the normative “inside/outside” dichotomy: men take up work performed outside the home, while women take up work inside the home.
Although women play a key role in the essential parts of economic activity—garment production, marketing, and the reproduction of labor and social relations necessary for the continuation of production—their work tends to be seen as less productive and secondary. I once questioned a Chinese colleague of mine who has done extensive research on Wenzhou migrants, “Why are 90 percent of your informants men?” His answer shocked me: “I am not interested in gender issues. I think the development of Zhejiangcun is based on men's activities, not those of women.” His answer represents a widely shared way of thinking, which reduces women's essential work simply to a separate gender issue, inconsequential to the development of Zhejiangcun and its economy.
To probe how the work performed by men and women is assigned unequal value and symbolic meaning, I look at how social spaces are used and conceived by these Wenzhou migrants. In Zhejiangcun the demand for housing by Wenzhou migrants is far greater than the local supply. Migrants without the Beijing hukou can only rent rooms from local Beijing households. In the early 1990s, after negotiating land use with local rural production teams, Wenzhou migrant groups began to build their own residential compounds, or “big yards” (dayuan) in several preexisting suburban villages to accommodate several thousand families.
Because of tight living space, the Wenzhou garment production households commonly serve as a combined site for production and residence. Hence, for them “household” is a realm whose primary function is for economic production. In an average Wenzhou production household, space is efficiently used for multiple purposes. What is most interesting is that, in a one-room apartment, physical space is divided into two vertical sections by adding an overhead wood platform as an extra sleeping area, which takes up almost half of the upper level of space in the room. The production area takes up nearly 80 percent of the lower level of space, with a large board for cutting cloth or leather and several semi-automatic sewing machines. The almost concealed, dark space underneath this cutting board is also used for sleeping. Cooking is mainly done outside at the corner near the door, and an eating area is provided temporarily by a folding table set up in the middle of the production space. Other slight variations of household spatial organization are all based on this pattern. The majority of middle-income households consist of a young or middle-aged married couple, their children, and a few hired young working girls. This multifunctional space is shared by men and women, bosses and employees. Young workers, although having no kinship relationship with the boss's family, are also considered part of the household for reasons I will discuss later.
Because the boundary between work and domestic space is not clearly demarcated in middle/lower-income households, there is a tendency toward what I call the “domestication of production” side by side with the new gender division of labor. But because of the overlapping feature of production and domestic site, the labor-intensive work performed by women at home is less visible and coded as feminine, private, and thus natural work for women. Women's work is also less valued because it can be easily conceived of as an extension of domestic chores, which are traditionally regarded as less productive than publicly visible work (see chap. 1).
In fact, among Wenzhou migrants, neither domestic work nor private economic activities are called work (gongzuo) (see chap. 2). Gongzuo is a term reserved for formalized urban job appointments associated with state work units (danwei). Domestic work, which does not usually generate direct cash income and takes place primarily at home, is called jiawu huo (similar to “chores” in English). All other forms of economic activity among Wenzhou private entrepreneurs are specifically called zuo shengyi (doing business), presumably involving profit-making through production and trade of commodities. This semantic distinction is not simply a description of different kinds of activities, but assigns values to actions and renders asymmetric power to social agents. Performed in the household and often mixed with domestic chores, clothing production—a traditional female occupation— is feminized, privatized, and therefore devalued despite its high labor intensity. In men's narratives of labor division and productivity, the roles of their wives and daughters as the primary producers and supervisors of production often fade away in the domestic background. A Wenzhou migrant man once explained to me the division of labor in their households like this: “It is our custom for men to do business outside home, while women just cook and take care of kids and chores at home.” When I pressed him further by asking who is in charge of the workers and production in his house if he often goes out to purchase materials, he answered without even thinking: “my wife.” But then he added: “Her chores (huo) are simple. She just stays at home helping out and looking after things when needed.” What he was telling me first was the normative ideology of what men and women are supposed to do. But what they actually do in the new socioeconomic context significantly differs from that seemingly unchanging custom. My point is not that the patriarchal ideology in which this man lives is simply a false reflection of the changing reality, but rather that this ideology itself helps shape his conception of what the reality is.
Another related process is the social transformation of space previously conceived as “outside” into “inside” space. For households specializing in garment sales, marketplaces with their numerous clothing counters and stalls are the most important social site on which their daily activities take place. Wenzhou private entrepreneurs invest a tremendous amount of time at their counters and stalls, which mean life and death to their business careers. Although physically separated from migrants' urban abodes, these trading sites in the public space are regarded as an extended part of the domestic realm because they are stable, bounded, and privately owned. It is wives and daughters of Wenzhou migrant households who are most likely to work at these counters and stalls. Better-off households hire other young female migrants to do the actual selling, sending senior family members only to oversee the transactions. In the domestication of privately owned trading sites, women's work performed in such space is coded as informal and less productive. (See chap. 5 for discussion of rural women engaged in marketing outside the home.)
In contrast, men's work is highly valued mainly because it is performed in a space far from home (for example other cities and provinces) and requires frequent spatial mobility. Since staying outside the home overnight is constructed as a taboo for women, work that has to be performed in distant areas from home becomes a privileged thing that only men are entitled to do. A man explained to me: “Women are more cowardly. Further, it is not good for them to stay in hotels. But for me, there is no problem. If I cannot go back home that night, I just phone her. That is it. But women cannot act like this.” Another woman echoed this view: “You know nowadays there are so many bad guys. If we women also go on a trip to buy materials and stay outside, they would think we are ‘bad women’ and come to harass us because women are not supposed to go to that kind of place.” Thus, work requiring staying overnight is regarded as a masculine activity that women are unable to accomplish. This impossibility for women is grounded more in a cultural construct than in physical factors. But such culturally formed constraints on women's outside activities are then transformed into a natural, biologically based inferiority of women.
I would like to elaborate on another important but often neglected role of middle-class Wenzhou women in the reproduction of social relations necessary to production. Marxist analysis reminds us that to insure the continuation of the capitalist production, besides the supply of labor power, capital, and technology, the relations of production also have to be constantly renewed (Engels 1891, Sangren 1996). This part of work, mostly done by women in this case, is productive in that it provides the necessary conditions for material production. In Zhejiangcun there are some 40,000 wage-earning rural migrants, mostly young girls, from other provinces working as cheap labor for Wenzhou households. Although they interact with the employer's kin all the time in a shared space, there is an insurmountable class tension between wage workers and their employers. Because explicit class differentiation is still somewhat alien to most Chinese people after over 30 years of socialist collective ownership, the hiring of laborers by private entrepreneurs is politically sensitive and easily subject to social criticism. Public imagination tends to liken Wenzhou migrants' household-based production to early capitalist cottage industry. Aware of this danger, Wenzhou migrants are cautious about how to present their relationship to their wage-workers. The female head of the household (usually the wife) plays a key role in creating a familial atmosphere through the kinds of food she cooks for workers and the way she interacts with them. “Being like a family” is important not only because it can shade class exploitation, but also because it helps improve proficiency and productivity when working girls develop feelings of loyalty to the boss's family (see Kondo 1990). Two girls from Henan told me that they were very unhappy about their boss's arrogant attitude, and if it were not for the wife of the boss, they would have left. “We have been here for more than a month, but the laoban never cares to ask for our names and treats us very coldly. We feel depressed and just want to drag in the work. It is true that we came to work for them. But if we sleep and eat together, they should treat us more kindly. Then we would be willing to work hard and sacrifice for them. The laobanniang is better. She cooks for us and talks to us in a warmer way, not looking down upon us.” In most households, the laoban does not interact with his workers. When workers have problems or hope to obtain a small amount of advance pay, they like to go to see the laobanniang. Because it is often their first time away from their rural homes, young female workers become home sick and frightened about possible sexual harassment in this new place where they are isolated and without social and legal protection. Emotional bonds that keep workers loyal to their bosses thus ensure the continuity of economic production.
Finally, let us look at the different ways in which Wenzhou men and women in middle-income households perceive the new social spaces for consumption—bars. Working wives are generally very critical about men going to those places, arguing that this form of consumption is time consuming and money wasting. Moreover, they are deeply concerned about the potential crisis in conjugal bonds that may result from extra-marital sexual relations. Men's attitudes toward karaoke bars and hotels are different and ambiguous. Although middle-class men have little time for activities beyond markets and production sites, they admire wealthy men who can spend time and money lavishly in these places. They wish to show off and win social status, but they also fear becoming financially drained. Seeking prostitutes on a long business trip to other provinces, however, is not uncommon among middle-class merchants. They justify their behavior as a “natural” male tendency and argue that it is not immoral if one keeps it within a certain limit. Such is a common attitude: “As long as it does not interfere with my family life proper and I do not abandon my wife, I do not think it is a problem. It is natural.” Such sexual practice is expected, if not required, as a demonstration of one's economic power and manhood in the Wenzhou merchant culture. Even if wives detect the potential danger, they feel that they can do little to stop it. Frustrated, they attribute men's extramarital practices to “bad women” and the alienating influence of money. Many women told me that they do not want their families to become too wealthy because “all men will turn bad as soon as they get rich; they think they can do everything and will not care about you any more.”
In sum, women of the middle/lower-income Wenzhou migrant households play the primary role not only in overseeing the quantity and quality of material production, but also in ensuring there production of labor power and social relations for the continuity of production. But their essential productivity is still inadequately articulated or is downplayed by the local gender ideology in the Wenzhou migrant community. Thus, although middle class working wives enjoy a more egalitarian relationship with their husbands than before and in comparison with wealthy dahu women, their productive work, which is performed and coded in domesticated spaces and in an overarching patriarchal system, is not sufficiently translated into socially recognized value and power. To improve this situation is not simply to make women'swork “outside” or “public,” but requires a new way of thinking about work and productivity in terms that transcend this spatial dichotomy.
WAGE-EARNING WORKERS IN COTTAGE INDUSTRY
The last social group I discuss are those on the lowest economic and social stratum in Zhejiangcun: female wage-earning workers in Wenzhou migrant households. The majority of these wage workers are young unmarried women, 15 to 20 years old, from poor rural areas in provinces like Guangxi, Anhui, Hubei, Henan, Sichuan, or Hunan. Migrating with friends, not family members, they usually arrive in Beijing through informal native-place networks (laoxiang guanxi). Lacking any initial capital and means of production, these young working women can only sell their labor in exchange for limited cash income. In this section, I discuss gender and class exploitation and some troubling changes facing these young women as they move into Wenzhou entrepreneurs' cottage industries.
First among these changes is the shrinking access to social spaces and the increasing vulnerability for young workers in social isolation. Working girls in Zhejiangcun are usually restricted to the workshop, where they spend nearly 24 hours a day. Many of them told me that they have not been outside the community in which they live since their day of arrival. I have charted the places where their daily activities occur and found that they are roughly within a diameter of one kilometer from their domiciles: home/ workshop, public bathroom, vegetable market, grocery stores, and clinic (in case of illness). A number of factors have led to the shrinking of accessible social spaces for these migrant workers. To begin with, their wages are very low and things in Beijing are expensive. As one working girl stated, “If you go out to do something, you have to pay a lot of money for transportation, food, drink, and high park entrance fees if you go sightseeing. We cannot afford it.” Many of them told me how difficult it is to make money in the city, and that it is almost a sin to spend this xuehanqian (money exchanged for blood and sweat). In addition, Beijing is enormous and baffling to young girls who once lived in small villages where social relationship are face-to-face. They find it difficult to travel in the city and often become lost in the forest of street signs and commercial advertisements. Further, working girls have little control of their own time and spatial mobility. For every minute they leave the boss's house approval must first be obtained from the laoban or laobanniang. During busy seasons they are usually not allowed to leave the sewing machine except for going to the bathroom. Public bathrooms often become a resting place where working girls try to prolong time, chatting and stretching out. Given their isolation, these young women are extremely vulnerable to potential violence from the boss's family. The social isolation among working girls is more an effect of their economic position than of the cultural construction of “proper” and “improper” spaces, which is more the case for wealthy women.
The second change is a shift in the primary form of gender oppression from kin-based patriarchal relations to class-based production relations. In the studies of Malay factory women and Mexican maquiladora women, Ong (1987) and Fernández-Kelly (1983) argue that the employment status of working women might have loosened them from the traditional kind of male domination (father-brother) at home, but at the same time, it exposes them to modern, institutionalized male domination at the work place. This shift of social control holds in my study too, but with an interesting twist: the transformation of gender oppression from home to workplace is blurred by a reinvented family ideology that attempts to conceal gender and class exploitation.
Working in the Wenzhou cottage industry, migrant girls are subject to strict discipline. Like other forms of primitive capital accumulation in world history (Mintz 1985), the unbelievably rapid capital growth in Wenzhou migrants' garment production is built on maximizing the extraction of surplus value from labor. This is achieved through hiring young women who will work long hours at wages that are as low as possible. It is widely acknowledged that Wenzhou bosses prefer to hire young unmarried women not only because they are docile (tinghua) and cheap (they eat less than men), but also because as women they are viewed as more adept at sewing, and more patient in long-term, repetitive manual work. Young working women have little freedom to arrange their own lives in terms of either time or space. Even when they get up and when they go to bed is decided by the laoban or laobanniang. There is no break except for meals, carefully calculated for 15 minutes at a time, throughout a long work day of 10 to 12 hours. Then they must rush back to the sewing machine. Any delay will cause criticism and even curses by the boss's kin. Many workers told me that their backs hurt from hours of sitting in front of the sewing machine. Some said that at night they can hardly open their eyes and almost fall asleep at their machines. “It is not free at all. We cannot go anywhere. If you do something the boss does not like, you have to see his lianse (unhappy expression) and may be fired later, if not immediately.” Migrant girls may have left the direct parental control of their rural homes, but they immediately became subject to another kind of gender oppression in the capitalist-oriented production system, one which is colored by the traditional form of family discipline. This form of discipline by a patriarchal figure (not necessarily a male) is justified by the notion that young working girls are considered part of the employer's household (yijiaren), and thus their activities should be directed and scrutinized by the head of the household.
Young workers may be rhetorically treated as family members of the household they work for, but their position and physical mobility are shaped and controlled by deference to the employer's kin. In the name of protecting young girls' interests, the boss pays workers' salaries only in one lump sum, at the end of a year. A laobanniang explained to me, “This is because they [working girls] are too young and do not know how to keep money well. If we pay them once a month, they will spend it all. This way [once a year] they can take all the salary back home before the Spring Festival.” But, from the workers' point of view, a monthly salary would be preferred. How the salary is paid is directly related to power and autonomy. “If we are unfairly treated or want to leave the boss before the end of the year for some reason, we are very likely to lose all the unpaid salary. But if we do not leave, we must tolerate the unfairness.” In the worst situations, a boss can expand his control over the workers by holding their identification cards and clothes, making it impossible for them to leave. If some households lose business or make little profit, working girls might not receive their wages at all despite their year's hard work. Isolated in small social spaces, they have no one to ask for legal help because “we are waidiren, the major target of governmental regulation; if we go out to seek help from them, they will simply deport us.”
Yet, this newly invented family ideology that places working girls under a patriarchal umbrella is a double-edged sword. It allows bosses to exercise domination over working girls' time and activities by claiming parental authority, but it can also can be used by workers as a weapon to criticize and limit unreasonable treatment by bosses. For example, many young workers routinely demand a small prepayment of their salaries (around 15 to 20%) each month in the name of purchasing clothes and daily-use items as a common strategy to reduce the degree of possible loss if their bosses refuse to pay them at the end of the year. They told me that except for buying a few things like toothpaste and socks, they usually save the prepayment. The negotiation with employers is not easy. When workers' demands are turned down, they complain to the employers and to others that if they are not treated like family members, they cannot be expected to work so hard and remain loyal to their employers. This discourse plays into the image of “being one family,” but aims for different ends that may benefit the workers themselves.
Finally, I turn to the changing cultural conceptions of gender relations and the dilemma of returning home. The majority of migrant “sisters” (dagongmei) come to work in the city for two goals: to make money to improve their family's economic status and their dowry, and to see the outside world (jian shimian) before marriage. At home, they are under the direct control of parents or senior siblings. They believe that after marrying and having children they will have no chance to work as a migrant wage-laborer (see chapter 8 for confirmation of this). Hence, they view this period of migration as their only opportunity to experience personal freedom, even if their income is frequently appropriated by their parents. Most working girls bring their annual salaries back to their parents at the end of the year and hope that if they contribute more to their families' economies now, their parents will offer more money for their dowries later. Many girls left their home villages with such dreams, thinking they would return permanently after a few years. But things do not often work out as expected. Their dream of a free, independent working life ends almost the moment they begin to work for a Wenzhou boss.
At the same time, after working in the city for a period of time, working girls begin to feel that the future spouses arranged for them in the village no longer fit their image of an ideal husband. They begin to pay attention to how urbanites and Wenzhou migrants act and dress in comparison with their fellow villagers. In their eyes, Wenzhou migrants are modern, rich, and fashionable, more so than local Beijingers. Young working women are exposed to all sorts of images identified as “urban,” “modern,” and “civilized.” These attractive, romanticized modern images regarding marriage and love, provided by the mass media or their own experiences, are often juxtaposed with undesirable rural practices. Under these new cultural influences, after staying in the city for a year or two, young working women begin to spend money on clothes, shoes, and make-up, rather than saving every penny as they had planned in the beginning of migration. Some girls end up marrying Wenzhou men or finding boyfriends, causing a huge turmoil at home when previously arranged wedding engagements are called off. Many informants told me that canceling the engagement (tuiqing), a social taboo, is accepted by more and more young rural migrants. Most girls, however, are not willing to go so far, but at the same time do not want to “just get married to anyone.” Thus, a common strategy is to delay marriage by working in the city, hoping for something better. The physical distance between migrant girls and their kin in the village makes this form of resistance, which would otherwise be crushed by direct social pressure at home, possible.
The preceding analysis makes two main points. First, changes in gender relations among the floating population do not follow a single path; rather, they vary greatly in accordance with specific household situations. To demonstrate this point in a concrete way, I provided a detailed discussion of the reworking of gender relations and women's coping and resistance strategies for three different social groups in Zhejiangcun. For wealthy migrant households, gender equality actually has decreased with the family's economic gain. Being gradually pushed out of what is culturally defined as the productive sphere and other social spaces, women in dahu are trapped at home and have less control over their own lives than before. In middle/ lower-income households, wives are the primary producers in the cottage industry, sharing a more egalitarian relationship with men than prior to migration. But their essential work tends to be devalued because it is performed at home and is subsequently assigned less productive value. Finally, young female workers have little freedom of spatial mobility and are subject to exploitation in social isolation.
The second point that runs through all the sections is the dialectical relationship between work, power, and gendered space. My analysis suggests that linking gender relations to control over social spaces and means of production can illuminate how socioeconomic and cultural factors intersect in reshaping the lives of Chinese migrant women. The preexisting asymmetric power relations between migrant men and women set the conditions to reconfigure and recode new social spaces to advance men's superior position; at the same time, the socially formed spatial boundaries and meanings of these spaces can in turn reshape the power relations in gender politics. Women's participation in and contribution to economic production and trade are of course important for them to gain power and enhance their social status, as Boserup (1970) has forcefully argued. But, it is certainly not the only determinant factor. More recent anthropological accounts (Judd 1994; Munn 1986; Sangren 1996) have also rightly pointed out that women's economic activities are not automatically translated into socially recognized value. In the case of Zhejiangcun, I suggest that gender domination and the value of women's work are closely linked to the reconfiguration of gendered spaces (household, workshop, trading area, bar and hotel, business sphere, and so on) and to the cultural interpretation of these places in terms of proper and improper, domestic and wild, pure and dangerous, productive and unproductive.
Although in this chapter I have tackled different forms of gender inequality and male domination in China's floating population, I by no means suggest that current rural-to-urban migration is a uniformly negative experience for rural Chinese women. Quite to the contrary, I believe that the grand flows of labor, capital, wealth, and skills in the post-Mao China between rural and urban areas (detailed in chapters 11 and 12) deserve celebration. But at the same time, we should not become blind to genderspecific problems. If post-Mao labor migration marks a significant step for economic liberalization, it is not automatically liberating for all migrant women. Positive changes in gender equality are contingent upon not only women's economic participation but also a transformation of societal values and beliefs. That is to revalorize work performed by men and women and envisage more flexible social spaces that migrant women in diverse social positions can freely embrace. By solely stressing how poor rural households can achieve prosperity through migration—as the popular discourse goes in China—we might fail to discern that some women might be further disempowered during the process of getting rich.
* This chapter is part of a larger study of the floating population in Beijing based on 15 months of anthropological fieldwork (1995–96) in China. Field research was supported by a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship and a grant from the Committee of Scholarly Communication with China. The Wenner-Gren Foundation and President's Council of Cornell Women also provided supplementary grants for this research. Cornell's East Asia Program, Center for International Studies, and Peace Studies Program provided travel grants for the preliminary stages of this research. I would also like to thank the following colleagues and friends for their valuable comments on this essay: Dorothy Solinger, Steve Sangren, John Borneman, Gail Henderson, Barbara Entwisle, Wang Feng, Mark Miller, participants of the conference on “Gender, Households, and the Boundaries of Work in Contemporary China” at Chapel Hill, and members of the dissertation writing seminars at the Departments of Anthropology at Cornell University and the University of California at Berkeley.
1. Throughout the chapter, I use the term “floating population” as a socially constructed category. For detailed discussion of the formation of this category and its deep-seated social ramifications, see my doctoral dissertation (L. Zhang 1998).
2. Because of their frequent spatial mobility, no accurate census of migrants in this area has been completed. “A Report on Constructing the North Zhejiang Commercial City” by a joint committee of Wenzhou government and private organizations quotes 110,000. Xiang Biao (1996) provides a figure of 96,000.
3. In anthropology and sociology, “sojourner” and “migrant” are defined as two different categories (cf. Chavez 1988, Skinner 1976), primarily based on whether the person intends to return to his/her home origin. Considering the hukou practice in the People's Republic of China, S. Goldstein, Liang, and A. Goldstein (chap. 12) and Yang (chap. 11) propose to differentiate “permanent migration” from “temporary migration” or “de facto migration” on the basis of whether one can obtain official resident status at the arrival point. In this chapter I use the term “migrant” purposely to deconstruct the theoretically drawn boundaries between these terms and to denaturalize the often taken-for-granted “intention,” which, I argue, is indeed shaped by the larger structural factors (the hukou system) in China.
4. Elsewhere, Davis and Sensenbrenner (1997:24–26) also observed this merging of work and family lives, production and consumption in a single expanded private realm of family in China, particularly among self-employed private entrepreneurs.
5. The annual income of what I call “very wealthy households,” which make up less than 10 percent of all Zhejiang migrant households, is usually above 800,000 yuan. The majority of households in Zhejiangcun are what I call “middle/lowerincome households,” whose annual incomes range from 100,000 to 500,000 yuan. Although the middle/lower-income households are also considered rich in comparison with average urban Chinese households, it is important to differentiate them from very wealthy households to understand Zhejiangcun's social stratification. A young worker in a Zhejiang migrant household makes 3,000 to 10,000 yuan a year with a few exceptions.
6. Whether private individual business owners (getihu) should be granted permission to hire helpers was a highly debated issue in the beginning of the economic reform. Over a long period of time, government policies shifted carefully from defining a private employer-employee relationship as an exploitative, capitalist class relation to allowing a limited number of helpers. For details of this change, see the Chinese State Administration and Regulation Bureau of Independent Economy (1987).
7. Compare the use of such gender ideology based on the construction of female docility and manual dexterity with the employment strategy of multinational industry elsewhere (Fernández-Kelly 1983; Lim 1983; Ong 1987).
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