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Women in the society face a lot of challenges in different spheres of life including politics, social sphere and education. Like in most parts of the world, women in China do not have equal chances to men in terms of resources or available openings. They are regarded as the weaker sex, whose main role should be taking care of their families. This happens even when a woman has similar educational qualifications as a man; thus, a man will get the upper hand on a woman during the recruitment process simply because he is a man and is considered to be the stronger sex.

These perceptions have been passed down from generation to generation through the mediums of the media and societal norms. The media is known to avoid covering achievements of women, especially politically, and focus on their family roles. The media also airs content that promotes men politically while women are broadcasted as the weaker sex, whose main role is taking care of their children, husbands and the elderly. The government has, however, embarked on various measures to ensure the empowerment of women, especially in the educational and employment sector (Mow, Jie, & Bijun, 2004). There has also been a rise of feminist groups who lobby for women’s right to equal opportunities in the various spheres of life. Chinese women, therefore, like women in other parts of the world, face various challenges, especially in the denial of equal opportunities when competing in various spheres of life including politics, education, employment, and the overall societal bodily perception of Chinese females.


Theoretically, Chinese women are said to enjoy the same political rights as men. They are entitled to equal rights to be voted for any political seat or vote for a candidate of their choice. Their political engagement may be conducted through entering legislative organizations and thus taking part in discussions and creation of the laws of the country. They may also perform leading functions in administration to different levels and take part in the management of social and state issues. They may also express their views and ensure the protection of their entitlements and interests through organizations of women workers and federations of women trade unions at different levels.

Reports will actually confirm that women have been given an adequate chance to take part in politics. It is also known that the contribution of women to politics has been fortified by the state administration, offered protection by the Constitution and also the laws on labor and women rights’ protection. This is, however, not an apparent fact. It is observed that political engagement of women remains limited. This may be seen through their lack of the right to voice when it comes to the decision-making process of the state at all levels. In most instances, women are put in leadership positions in different government departments either as a political symbol or as a token. The mass media has also done a lot to illustrate the sidelining of women. The mass media has been known to be one of the platforms in which political figures, both male and female, get publicized.

They can create a positive or negative impression or perception of political engagement of women. The media in China is said to give elected women little coverage. If they do get some media coverage, their political activities are briefly described. Substantial media coverage tends to incline towards traditional roles of women, like nurturing their families, taking care of the old and balancing careers with their family roles. Through the media, people get to know what their leaders are doing to help them decide on how to vote in the next election. Non-coverage of women politicians does little to ensure their successful future in politics.

The sidelining of the political lives and activities of women has something to do with the perceptions of some editors. For example, in the coverage of women cadres and entrepreneurs, journalists were given instructions to “lay stress on their feminism and their roles as a wife, mother and daughter rather than on their work so the article would be more readable” (Women’s Foreign Language Publications of China, 2002). Subsequently, the lack of coverage affects the ability of women and their political success has “further strengthened the impression that women leaders are merely in supporting roles” (Women’s Foreign Language Publications of China, 2002). Interestingly, the research has shown that young people have a tendency of being politically apathetic and unconcerned or even having fear of political engagement of women. This negative attitude was mainly derived from the impact of historic movies and TV plays, which did not support political participation of women. The media has created an impression that women who participated or had intentions of engaging in politics were lonely, and men could not accept them (Women’s Foreign Language Publications of China, 2002).


Education is another main measurement of the status of women in the society. Prior to 1949, when the People’s Republic of China was founded, women did not have equal educational opportunities with no more than 20 percent of girls receiving formal education. The government, however, embarked on a women empowerment education program that aimed at increasing the number of women getting formal education (Mow, Jie, & Bijun, 2004). This fostered the enrollment of girls into primary schools and higher education institutions, which was almost at the same level as that of men. As a matter of fact, by the end of 1999, the level of illiteracy of adult women was 22 percent, and the level of illiteracy of women between 15 to 45 years was 7 percent (People’s Republic of China Yearbook, 2001).


The raising level of education of women is supposed to correspond to an increased employment rate. This is, however, not the case in China. Women are discriminated in the employment field, irrespective of their academic achievements or qualifications. Employers will often limit them to feminine jobs such as a secretary even when they are qualified for jobs such as engineering. This attitude is cultivated in most children starting from childhood, when most of them are encouraged to pursue careers that are feminine or not too entailing to enable them have time for their families. Rosaldo argues that there should be division of labor that results from gender stratification. According to Rosaldo, women’s role is to bear and bring up offspring. Women are, thus, more in charge of home-related actions and often do not need prolonged attention.

Discriminatory practices such as firing of pregnant women are also rampant in China. Harassment of women at workplaces in China is also very frequent, especially sexual harassment of females by supervisors, co-workers or even their employers. The government of China is, however, taking measure to end these work-related discriminatory practices against women. It has embarked on empowerment policies such as gender equality during hiring and even promotional practices to ensure that women are given fair opportunity to get employed based on their qualifications. Avenues for reporting harassment cases have also been created, where abusive employers, supervisors or co-workers can be investigated and have relevant disciplinary measures (Mow, Jie, & Bijun, 2004).

The social development theory may be used in explaining the state of women in China. In this way, there is more focus on the quality of life, which then strikes a balance between economic growth and political matters. Some of the indicators of the social development theory include a rise in literacy rates, empowerment of women, income distribution and an increased rate of employment. All these have been reflected in Chinese women’s progress, except for the low rate of employment.

Portrayal of Chinese Women in the Mass Media

This section of the paper seeks to evaluate how women in the Chinese culture are depicted and exemplified in the mass media. This is a particularly specified area regarding women in China. The key areas in this section are the changing images of Chinese women in the media and their portrayal in the news and advertisements.

Varying Images of Chinese Women in the Mass Media

In relation to alterations in the social, political, cultural, and economic scopes together with the varying situation and status of women in China, the image of women in the mass media has greatly transformed over time. In the 1950s, women were looked at as simply model personnel. In the succeeding decade of the 1960s, women in the Chinese media were depicted as ‘Red Guards”. This was simply due to the fact that they were often shown in donning military clothes and an arm band that bore the words “Red Guards”. In the 1970s, women portrayed in the news and advertisements were majorly referred to as Iron Girls since they were characterized by the media as a gender that was capable of performing functions that used to be considered men’s functions. It was a period that was described by a propped up desire and struggle for equality among the male and female gender. In the 1980s, the role dilemma arose, and this was the lens through which women were illustrated in the mass media. Contending images arose in the 1990s.

There was a basic portrayal of women in China as peasants and workers of industries. This was during the period between the 1950s and 1960s. The general perception of women in China as peasants and industrial employees was majorly resulted from a low overall level of education among Chinese women. During this period, the majority of accomplishments by women were a result of their hard work. This was coupled with the dedication of these women associates of the Youth League, the Communist Party or simply as employees at many modeling agencies (Mow, Jie, & Bijun, 2004).

By the end of the 1970s, a large number of Chinese women who were mainly in their middle ages already had a considerably high level of education. A big portion of these women were considered to be role models to other women in China. The key aspect in the portrayal of women was that, at that time, they were depicted as reflectors of individual success, hard work, and the result of an effective courageous struggle aimed at empowering women in the People’s Republic of China. The concepts by Mao Zedong kept propelling the strategy of empowering women in China. Mao’s belief during the period was that women had a capability to doing what men were able to do.

Later, there were drastic changes in the images of women in terms of preservation of their individual accomplishments and preservation of study. These were on the rise together with such issues as hard work in relation to the production of the Chinese government. This was furthered by the overall perception of women as good wives and mothers bearing the best interests of their husbands and children at heart (Mow, Jie, & Bijun, 2004). This thwarts the theory by Rosaldo regarding division of labor that results from the stratification of the genders.

In the depiction of images of women in China, the use of the mass media has proven to be the most effective and quickest channel through which the images of women in China have been affected positively. The mass media has resulted in a quick and ground-breaking reversal of the depiction of Chinese women. It has, additionally, changed social characterizations of the role of Chinese women. Ever since the Chinese nation opened up to the external spherical portion of the globe, there has been an inflow of foreign cultures and values that were conveyed through the mass media. As a result of this inflow of new cultures and values, women in China have been left in an image dilemma.

They do not know which culture or image to uphold or get themselves in a more appropriate standing among the overall Chinese culture and values. The images depicted by the mass media regarding the female gender in relation to the public view of women under the effect of western principles and norms. The key western principles and concepts that had an impact on the media image of the Chinese women include consumerism, commercialization and materialism. The other side of the coin concerns traditional views and anticipations of the Chinese culture about the role of women in the community, which are still strongly upheld.

In the advertising segment, the image of women is largely commercialized currently. This is due to the increased effect of globalization on cultures all over the world. There is now a significant move towards market economy and the rise in consumerism. Women in the advertising segment of the mass media in China have now grown into a commercial commodity. Furthermore, with an increase in consumer products and modern trends, commercials in the western world have now become points of reference for commercial producing in China (Mow, Jie, & Bijun, 2004). This was also influenced by the life and cultural choices of the younger generational females, particularly those having higher educational standards. The main effect of this is that Weber’s theory of ideology rather than a material culture is upheld in that people get to decide what to do rather than simply get forced to do something by a person in the authority. This concept holds that there is a collective structure of thought that forms social and economic establishments. As a result, social ranking is attained through symbols instead of economic placing.

Karen Sack’s revision of the theory by Engel entails the use of social labor as a means of determining the improved status of women in China. This theory holds that an increase in social labor boosts social standing of an individual. An increase in the social labor by women through their functions in education and employment contributes to building the society. Thus, according to this theory, women become more recognized and accepted as adults, whereas men are accepted in a similar manner.


In China, women have been faced with various challenges and opportunities in relation to their portrayal by the society. For example, in the political sphere, Chinese women often experience many challenges. These include such issues as the inadequacy of media coverage or its lack. They have, furthermore, been denied various rights in terms of their civil entitlements and activities. Looking at women from the liberalist and naturalist perspectives, they are all entitled to these rights with the inclusion of the right to vote and compete for an electoral seat in a similar way as men. In terms of education, women have gotten a positive effect on their image by the society. There have been frantic efforts by the government and other nonprofit institutions in a quest to empower women in the Chinese culture. Currently, there has been a rapid increase in the number of Chinese women who have received education.

In this way, Chinese women have gotten to an elevated level where it has been virtually accepted by the society that they can do anything as well as men. In the employment sphere, however, Chinese women have often encountered various barriers. These have mainly been due to the traditional perception among the Chinese society that men are more superior compared to women. Due to this, Chinese women always face challenges such as the denial of job opportunities and preference for promotion of men. There has also been an increased interconnection and interdependence between Chinese people and people from the rest of the globe. This has majorly been attributed to globalization. Globalization has fostered the mass media. This has greatly affected the image of Chinese women. It has led to their empowerment in relation to the advancement of education. It has also made them realize that they are equal to men in the performance of virtually all functions. Furthermore, the mass media, through the news and advertising segment, has resulted in the most drastic improvements of the image of Chinese women.

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