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Conclusion - Re-Drawing Boundaries

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

Barbara Entwisle and Gail E. Henderson

In all societies, boundaries serve critical cognitive and practical functions as people attempt to make sense of the world, yet for China boundaries have always had a particular resonance. One thinks of the Great Wall, or the characters for “China,” zhongguo (“middle kingdom”), which include a pictograph of a rectangular boundary drawn around a mouth and a halberd. Cultural expressions from China's earliest civilization to the present day, including the architecture of cities, temples, and homes, have impressed observers with the importance given to creating and maintaining divisions between groups of people (e.g., invaders and defenders, family and non family). China's earliest written records describe rituals of religion and state that were used to “demarcate the fundamental boundary between stability and instability” and to highlight the boundaries of both space and status (Hay 1994, 9). Our attention to boundaries thus echoes the writings of many scholars who have remarked on the Chinese penchant for assigning people and things to their proper places.

Yet boundaries are also elusive. When they are very familiar, we take their existence for granted. But no matter how familiar or unfamiliar it is, a boundary is never really fixed. Even China's best-known boundary, the Great Wall, was not the boundary that many believe it was. The wall that we see now is primarily the result of defensive fortifications undertaken during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). It did not prevent invasions by nomads from the north, and rather than being a symbol of strength, it in fact represented the defeat of foreign policy (Waldron 1990). Its salience to present day politicians lies less in its physical reality than in what it represents about China's place in the world.

It is not surprising that a book on work, household, and gender in China should feature boundaries. Though less tangible than physical boundaries like the Great Wall, definitional, conceptual, social, and spatial boundaries are central to an understanding of work, household, and gender. Boundaries are implicit in the questions that were the original motivation for the papers in this volume: What is work? How have gender inequalities in work changed over the course of recent history in China? How do families and households influence, and how are they influenced by, the organization of work? How has migration affected the work-household-gender nexus? Boundaries set an interpretive context for social comparison and for measuring change. They reflect and instruct about the way things are and the way they ought to be. But boundaries are flexible, permeable, mythic—they are themselves social constructions. This concluding chapter explicates these points, drawing on the other chapters in the volume for evidence and examples.

WORK

In the past decade China has undergone enormous structural change in its economic institutions, both urban and rural. These changes have produced a rapidly expanding and diversifying private sector, complicating and at times obfuscating the distinctions between public and private, foreign and Chinese, and even household-based andnon-household-based work. These changes create practical as well as conceptual problems for understanding the nature of work in China today. How should activities be classified? How are they regarded? Where is work taking place? How do contemporary work patterns compare with those of the socialist era, particularly with regard to gender differences in labor force participation, occupation, and level of remuneration? Boundaries are implicit in these motivating questions.

Boundaries are explicit in the framework Rosenfeld (chap. 3) proposes to organize the answers. She defines a two-by-two classification of work activities according to remuneration (yes or no) and location (household or not). Remunerated work outside the household is viewed as work everywhere, whereas unremunerated work inside the household is virtually never seen this way (see also chap. 2). Activities can change classification; for instance, agricultural fieldwork has shifted from mainly an “outside” to mainly an “inside” activity over the past 50 years. The degree to which people engage in particular activities and activity types can also change. In the 1950s and 1960s, for example, women were drawn into the formal labor force in China (Andors 1983; K. Johnson 1983; Stacey 1983; Whyte and Parish 1984), and China continues to have one of the higher female labor force participation rates in the world.

Indeed, many of the chapters in this volume reflect upon the meaning of work, and the boundaries between different tasks. Mann (chap. 1) tells us that historically, work as defined by labor (lao) was part of a collective responsibility owed to one's household and to society. Everyone was supposed to labor at gender-, age-, and status-appropriate activities, although certain tasks were more highly regarded than others (mental over manual, for example). Some tasks were carried out in the home, others outside, and when work moved across this boundary, the gender of the worker might also change. Thus the meaning of work was derived from its intrinsic nature, where it was done, and who was doing it. Highlighting the importance of meaning as an independent factor, Zhang writes in chapter 10, “It is not work per se but the value of what is perceived as work that defines gender equality” (p. 184). Rosenfeld echoes this view: “It is not just the site where an activity takes place but also the meaning associated with that site that influences who does the work, in what way, and for what value” (p. 62). It is noteworthy that pay was not a factor in Mann's historical account, although it clearly is in China today (chap. 2).

The nature of boundaries related to work is revealed most clearly when an economic system is in flux. The massive changes instituted by the regime after 1949 and again after 1978 provide ample illustration. When work was collectivized, private activities disappeared for some time in China. This was a problem for women, whose activities by definition were “private” and “inside,” especially in rural areas. As a result of state-initiated policies, many women did go outside to work, and in the process redefined gender appropriate activities. Others got around this in different ways, demonstrating how boundaries can be redrawn. One solution was to redefine the task. Sidelines, for instance, which were forbidden as private activities, became housework and therefore an invisible part of the household (M. Wolf 1985). Child care, seen as a barrier to women's full participation in production, became a collectivized, compensated activity, notably in urban areas but also intermittently and partially in rural areas. In the process, the social meanings of the household shifted as well.

Similar events characterize the post-1978 period, when private enterprise was reinstituted. At the height of the Maoist era, work (gongzuo) was defined as “paid, outside work,” or “something that gives you a benzi,” an official identification card, in a state work unit (chap. 4). Work in collectives had lower status, while farming, even though collectivized, was never regarded as “real” gongzuo. Following the reforms, there was “no longer a clear line between gongzuo and household-based work; both can bring in money. And there [was] no longer a clear line between gongzuo and farmwork, especially since farmwork is increasingly commercialized” (Harrell, chap. 4, p. 76). Chapter 2, on the meaning of gongzuo, focuses precisely on the unstable boundaries between different kinds of work—agricultural and nonagricultural, household-based and based outside of the household, work for remuneration and work for household consumption. It shows that the meaning of gongzuo changes according to the nature of tasks and who is performing them. Yet equally important, it also shows that there is no clear agreement on what work or a job is.[1]

Despite varying understandings of what counts as work and what does not, data collection in censuses and surveys generally relies on a single question, for example: Does this person have work? Follow-up questions about occupation, sector of employment, and other job characteristics are generally restricted to respondents who have answered yes to this question. Several authors in this volume use these kinds of data, and thus for them, the meaning of work per se is not the focus of their investigation. In chapter 7, for example, Bian, Logan, and Shu define work in their urban sample simply as “work for wages.” Others include employment sector (state, collective, private), occupation or industry, or mode of production (e.g., Entwisle, Short, Zhai, and Ma in chap. 15). Boundaries between work and nonwork are built into the response categories. If the concept of work is unclear and the activities to be classified are ambiguous in some way, responses may be misleading. For example, Entwisle and others (1994) note that the work of women in household businesses is underreported. The focus group interviews analyzed by Henderson, Entwisle, Li and associates in chapter 2 suggest why: the location of these businesses “inside” the household and the unpaid nature of the work. The lack of visibility of household-based work may be one explanation for the finding by Goldstein, Liang, and Goldstein (chap. 12) that a great many rural-to-urban female migrants are housewives. One of Zhang's male informants (chap. 10) described his wife's contribution to clothing production as “helping out and looking after things when needed,” even though she and her young female workers often spent more than 12 hours a day on this household-based work. This is just one example of how the combination of qualitative and quantitative data approaches featured in this volume helps piece together a more complete picture of the interconnections between work, household, and gender.

HOUSEHOLDS

Households are fundamental to an understanding of gender and work in China. Traditionally, households are thought to divide “inside” work from “outside” work, private from public, and work that is performed by women from that done by men. The malleable character of this boundary emerges as we look again at who tills the fields. As Mann describes in chapter 1, Confucian orthodoxy dictated that men should farm while women should engage in various household sideline (“inside”) activities. This changed in the 1950s. In essence, the regime attempted to take economic control away from households by collectivizing as much work as possible, even the “private” and “inside” work of households like child care and cooking. As noted above, women were encouraged to take on new roles outside the household, although they were less likely than men to do the actual fieldwork. Those who did, like Cao Zhuxiang, featured in Hershatter's chapter 5 about rural women in the 1950s, were held up as model labor heroines. After 1978, economic reforms promoted return of the control and location of work to the household, particularly in rural areas. The effect of this was, oddly, to make “outside” and “inside” work both more visible and lucrative, and more private. Furthermore, another kind of “outside” work appeared, as industrialization expanded opportunities outside of the household. When men began to leave agriculture entirely for wage work, women took over more of the heavy farming tasks. In the process, space was again redefined and the classification of fieldwork shifted from “outside” to “inside” work.

How did the boundaries change? The answer depends in part on the causal ordering of gender and the “inside/outside” classification. Was fieldwork associated with men because it took place outside the household, or was it labeled “outside” work simply because men did it? Is it possible that in response to men taking jobs quite far away from the household (that is, traveling to jobs both beyond the local area and away from agricultural into industrial employment), the fields became redefined as part of the household, and thus as the province of women? The answer will be revealed at least partially by future trends, especially by whether or not women follow men into wage employment. This is the trend that Michelson and Parish (chap. 8) expect, for example.

In considering these issues, it is important to remember that the household is both a physical and social location. Traditionally, a household (hu or jiating )was often surrounded by a wall, the interior geography marked off to provide spaces for various functions, such as worship of ancestor tablets, and for the inner spaces for women, who included the “inside person” (neiren) or wife. But the physicality of the household cannot be readily separated from its social role of providing a place for people to live and a site and context for their activities. It is the social aspect of the household that allows its boundaries to move. This is illustrated in Hershatter's story in chapter 5 of Cao Zhuxiang, who, when the need arose, extended the umbrella of “inside” work all the way to marketing towns. It is also vividly represented in chapter 10 by Zhang on migrant workers in Zhejiangcun, whose households stretch across several provinces during their sojourn in Beijing. When such arrangements fall within the official household registration system, they are given administrative validity. One consequence of the differences between physical, social, and official household boundaries is difficulty in labeling different kinds of migrants—temporary versus longstanding versus permanent, official versus unofficial (see chaps. 12 and 13).

In fact, the boundaries between work and household are often fluid. Many kinds of work (sideline activities, retail businesses, and factory production, for example) can take place both inside and outside households. The apartments of Zhejiang migrants living in Beijing are transformed into clothing production sites, and private living rooms can become public office space when the need arises. For some urban households, work is segregated away from the household, as Davis reports in chapter 14 on Shanghai families. The re-drawing of boundaries between home and workplace, public and private has implications for the visibility and social recognition of different kinds of work, of course, as Rosenfeld explains in chapter 3.

In addition to boundaries within households, there are also boundaries between households. The collective era sought to minimize these in the pursuit of common public interests; the reverse is true of there formera. There in statement of households as units of economic production in the reform era, distinctive to China, may have reinforced boundaries between households there. Of course, whether households really are meaningful units of planning and decision making is an open question that is not easy to answer. In chapter 15 Entwisle, Short, Zhai and Ma show that with respect to work, at least in rural areas, households may be more than the aggregation of their members. Without data over time it is difficult to interpret the level of interdependence or the trend. Boundaries may also weaken and harden over the combined life course of family members, as Davis describes for Shanghai. In urban areas, increased rural-to-urban migration has prompted a defensive response about household boundaries as urban governments strengthen barriers that keep migrants outside of the official urban domain—even going so far as to bulldoze Zhejiang migrants' temporary housing.

Finally, there is an important conceptual distinction to consider: the distinction between household and family. Some researchers see households as secondary to family, indeed, as dependent on negotiation among family members (e.g., Davis, chap. 14); others see a different balance (e.g., Judd 1994). Of course both are relevant, but as a location and site of daily activity as well as a social construction, households have particular importance to an understanding of gender and work. There are practical considerations as well. Survey and census data are almost always collected from households, and most of the chapters in this volume are based on household data. Moreover, the Communist household registration system (hukou), following the imperial system that registered and taxed households (hu) as fiscal units (Bray 1997, 93), plays a critical role in the story of work in China—and that system is obviously based on the household.

GENDER

The introduction to the book Engendering China describes both the complex meanings that gender embodies and the social forces that influence where the boundary line between male and female is drawn: “Gender signifies that the categories female and male—the meanings assigned to them, the behaviors expected of them, the sense of self associated with them, and the relations among and between those female and male selves—are cultural constructions. … [B]ehaviors that are thought to transgress gender boundaries can be understood only if we know how a particular society has mapped those boundaries.”[2]

The rhetoric and legal reforms of the Communist regime raised expectations that a utopian socialist world was being created, one that blurred the distinction between male and female, even eradicating gender altogether. Of course this was a utopian vision, and when the gap between rhetoric and reality was exposed, it generated considerable frustration among Western feminists who had hoped and believed that this experiment would succeed (e.g., see M. Wolf 1985). The legacy of sparse and unreliable data from the socialist era, in combination with this utopian vision, creates substantial ambiguity regarding the starting point for understanding trends in various aspects of gender inequality over the past several decades (Whyte, chap. 9).

This ambiguity is some of the context in which our examination of gender in relation to work in China is situated. The chapters in this volume explore two interrelated aspects of this relation: work as infusing meaning into gender, and gender as affecting the work in which people engage. Both types of discussions were produced in response to the same motivating question: How have gender inequalities in work changed over the course of the post-1949 period? For some scholars the question inspires quantitative analyses of how gender affects life chances: schooling, job placement, pay, job mobility and the like (e.g., Bian, Logan, and Shu in chap. 7 and Michelson and Parish in chap. 8). For others, the question raises issues of representation and meaning, best explored in the life stories of individuals (e.g., Hershatter in chap. 5 and Honig in chap. 6).

As Mann shows in chapter 1, work activities were central to the definition of gender in traditional China. This may be partly related to the agricultural economy. Men and women, properly, did different things: “man tills, woman weaves.” Women's sphere was “inside,” and men's “outside,” yet each was seen as critical to the maintenance of the household economy. Entwisle, Short, Zhai and Ma (chap. 15) explore these complementarities in terms of specialization and diversification of work activities in contemporary households. “Man tills, woman weaves” implies specialization by gender within households. The authors of chapter 15 find that households with more women are also more likely to be internally specialized than households with more men.

These historical and contemporary examples bracket the period of flux in the boundary between men's and women's work. The rhetoric of the early 1950s advocated collapse of the boundary between masculine and feminine. Rural labor heroines, such as those interviewed by Hershatter (chap. 5), were extolled because they were doing the work of men. Hershatter notes: “What the revolution did for these women was not so much to remove the stigma of ‘outside’ labor as to change the context and the rewards associated with it” (p. 83). Cao Zhuxiang “broke the old habit of believing that women could not do farmwork” (p. 85). Of course, the truth about Cao, as the chapter details, is that she had often worked “outside” before that time, though she might not have called it that. Work previously invisible when performed by women became socially recognized. The relation between gender and work changed in the early 1950s for this reason, as well as because of the actual movement of women into agricultural fieldwork.

Did this represent the erasing of gender differences, or were women expected to become “like men”? Honig's chapter 6 on the Iron Girls of the Cultural Revolution argues that in moving from the cities to the countryside and eschewing the traditional tasks of rural women, the girls had no option other than to become like men. Often it was the sent-down youth who challenged rural beliefs about women's roles. As outsiders, these young women could establish a new precedent far more easily than local women could. Honig also describes how challenging old beliefs about gender and work could be in the interest of local cadres. But the problem was, when everyone becomes a man, who is left to work at home? Both Hershatter and Honig illustrate how deeply hidden beneath the rhetoric of gender equality the problem of child care was. Venturing over the male-female divide was a dangerous, even deadly, undertaking.

The post-Mao era brought a repudiation of this ideology and the rise of a new feminine identity, separate from men. Although traditional Confucian gender roles differed from those espoused by the Communist state and its organ, the Women's Federation (Fulian), both periods were characterized by an authoritarian state discourse. In contrast, in the reform era women began to create their own ideas about gender identity.[3] Through the “discovery” of inequality, the public rhetoric that constructed gender identity was challenged (Croll 1995). What was private and invisible thus became public and visible, and the boundaries between men and women shifted.

These shifts in meaning are inextricably tied to shifts in gender differences in work, although there is no one-to-one correspondence. Michelson and Parish (chap. 8) suggest that in the overall context of economic transformation in rural areas, men move first into nonagricultural activities and into growth areas within the nonagricultural economy, and women eventually follow. The authors develop a picture of change that accommodates sharp gender differences at one point in time (e.g., as documented by Yang in the rural areas of Zhejiang Province in chap. 11), with attenuation at some subsequent point. For Tianjin, by contrast, Bian, Logan and Shu (chap. 7) describe remarkable stability in wage differences between men and women between 1978 and 1993. They attribute much of the difference and its stability to a persisting male advantage in education and Party membership, and in job allocation and mobility practices, and a long-standing requirement that working women retire ten years earlier than working men. There is no simple answer to the question of how gender inequalities have changed over the course of the course of the post-1949 period.

CONCLUSION

As we have tried to show, concepts of work, household, and gender presume the drawing of boundaries, and in addition to movement across boundaries, the boundaries are themselves of interest. Further, gender, household, and work that is carried out by men and women inside and outside their households are not three separable and independent dimensions; they are interrelated. An exploration of any one leads inevitably to the other two. The familiar “inside/outside” dichotomy encapsulates this interconnectedness spatially and socially. The space that is set off as the household, distinguishing it from the world beyond it, and the arrangement of space within the household embody cultural concepts of family, work, and gender (Bray 1997, 53, 91). Contemporary social scientists writing about China have not tired of the inside/outside dichotomy and use it to interpret various aspects of gender and household relations. For us, though, the inside/outside boundary is a starting point. The boundary is not a given, but rather is problematized as one among many potential influences on social arrangements.[4]




NOTES

1. This is illustrated by the fact that the same reasons were given to justify why an activity is “not work” and why it is (e.g., “sidelines are not gongzuo” “sidelines are gongzuo,” or “running a household business [getihu] is not gongzuo,” “if you have a getihu, you have gongzuo”).

2. Gilmartin et al. 1994, 1.

3. Women began to create their own ideas about gender identity, using terms consciously outside state discourse, as Barlow (1994, 339) describes. For example, funü was discarded for nüren or nüxing.

4. See Bray's (1997) study of gender and work in late Imperial China for a highly nuanced treatment of these issues.

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