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Chinese Femininities/Chinese MasculinitiesA Reader$
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Susan Brownell and Jeffrey Wasserstrom

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780520211032

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520211032.001.0001

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Past, Perfect or Imperfect: Changing Images of the Ideal Wife

Past, Perfect or Imperfect: Changing Images of the Ideal Wife

(p.335) Chapter Thirteen Past, Perfect or Imperfect: Changing Images of the Ideal Wife
Chinese Femininities/Chinese Masculinities

Harriet Evans

University of California Press

This chapter explores several images of a Chinese ideal wife. Female gender is defined by a series of innate and essential characteristics associated with certain responses, needs, and capacities that naturally make women wives and mothers. Wifehood, and its invariable expression in motherhood, is the relational and biological state in which women find their truest expression. A Chinese woman is constructed as the key agent of sexual and marital order, enjoined to patrol her own sexual conduct for the sake of marital and familial harmony. On the other hand, she is represented as an object for men's sexual gratification, waiting to be made whole, even given life, by the active and dominant male. However, the same biological structure that made women born to be mothers made it natural for women to continue to take on the lion's share of domestic tasks, regardless of what other responsibilities and needs they might have.

Keywords:   Chinese woman, ideal wife, wifehood, marital order, motherhood

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