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Courageous women "hold up half the sky"
By Zhou Liming (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-03-08 01:44

Marietjie Smith, a Namibian whose husband is in the foreign service and who has lived in China for a year, said: "I think Chinese women are more appreciative of their work. They're proud of what they do and what they achieve."

Clara M. Acosta, a project manager from Cuba who has been working in a Beijing biochemical company for over two years, said she has witnessed a unique perspective: "Chinese women are different. They are less complicated. They seem to enjoy a simple, uncluttered life, like going out with their children. They are open and friendly."

Teresa Hansell has been in China for only five days, but she has found Chinese women possess more strength compared with American women, who "tend to be more concerned with their appearance."

Her daughter, Christine, who has taught in Beijing for nine months, added that "girls here are more vocal in class and less shy than boys. They try harder and participate more."

But despite more equality than ever before, the feminist cause has some way to go especially in the home. And some fear the strong women's role may be in regression.

When Louise Cadieux first arrived from Canada, she was surprised at the "level of gender equality."

"Women here were driving buses and running businesses, occupations that we used to associate with men. But later I found out that, at home, they were not always equal," she observed.

Cadieux, a consultant for China Today magazine, added that the situation varies from place to place. "There's a difference between women's role in urban and rural areas."

She was very impressed by the "courage and determination" of the women she met in Inner Mongolia.

Like Cadieux, Lisa Carducci has been working in China for over a decade. She has noticed some regression in gender roles as the country's economy grows in leaps and bounds: "Half the parents waiting to pick up their children after school were men when I first got to this country. Nowadays, it's mostly women. Why? Are men afraid of being seen as wimpy if they take up this task?"

Ellen Sander tells of women being discriminated in the workplace. "A student told me that when an employer goes on a recruiting campaign, the priority goes like this: first boys with Beijing resident permits, then boys from other places, girls come way last," she said.

But for Chinese women in general, she had nothing but adulation: "Chinese women are wonderful. They are glorious. Their concept of sisterhood is so evolved," enthused the Women of China magazine editor. "They not only hold up half the sky, but have their feet firmly on the ground."

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