Female Masculinity and the Image of Women in the Chinese Cultural Revolution


My current research investigates the influence of the Cultural Revolution on the image of women in Chinese film and television. The paradigm used in this paper to examine this is the concept of “female masculinity”, which I theorize as a specific female identity that advocates masculinity (or that women internalize and embody masculine values). Postmodern feminist Judith Butler argues that gender identities are not natural but a process of social construction and performances (Judith, B, 1990). Also, gender identity has been deemed a relatively unstable construction that is formed and reproduced through social institutions including political and media agendas (Judith, B, 1990; Connell, R, 2009; David, G, 2002). “Female Masculinity” has been viewed as a subversion and marginalization of identity in the traditionally binary gender system. However, this category of deviant identity flourished in Mao’s China, particularly in the Chinese Cultural Revolution and has been widely accepted as an orthodox of women’s identity. On the one hand, Mao’s China as a communist country applied Marxist ideology and Mao aimed to construct a new female identity which was different to bourgeois women. On the other hand, mass media in the Cultural Revolution, in particular the films, not only served as propaganda, constructing the ideal identity of women, but also reflected or re-presented the social realities. Therefore, this paper argues that the Chinese Cultural Revolution can be viewed as a cultural event which reformed gender identities, changed gender relations and challenged the traditional image of women.

Author Information
Zhuying Li, University of RMIT, Australia

Paper Information
Conference: MediAsia2014
Stream: Critical and Cultural Studies

This paper is part of the MediAsia2014 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon