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Houston Breakthrough 1980-04
Pages 22 and 23
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Houston Breakthrough 1980-04 - Pages 22 and 23. April 1980. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. April 16, 2014. http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/4490/show/4482.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

(April 1980). Houston Breakthrough 1980-04 - Pages 22 and 23. Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. Retrieved from http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/4490/show/4482

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Houston Breakthrough 1980-04 - Pages 22 and 23, April 1980, Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries, accessed April 16, 2014, http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/4490/show/4482.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

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Title Houston Breakthrough 1980-04
Publisher Breakthrough Publishing Co.
Date April 1980
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women--Texas--Periodicals
  • Feminism--United States--Periodicals
Subject.Geographic (TGN)
  • Houston, Texas
Genre (AAT)
  • periodicals
Language English
Physical Description 32 page periodical
Format (IMT)
  • image/jpeg
Original Item Location http://library.uh.edu/record=b2332724~S11
Digital Collection Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters
Digital Collection URL http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Repository URL http://info.lib.uh.edu/about/campus-libraries-collections/special-collections
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see the UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the “About” page of this website.
File name index.cpd
Item Description
Title Pages 22 and 23
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women--Texas--Periodicals
  • Feminism--United States--Periodicals
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see the UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the “About” page of this website.
File name femin_201109_559s.JPG
Transcript notably, I was struck by the extent of active participation of people in their social, economic and political affairs and the determined spirit and varied capabilities in their work. Our entire delegation looked at the PRC's child care system with perhaps a little envy when we reflected upon child care in our own country. We were amazed by the number of support systems provided for working women. My greatest surprise in China was to see the progress made by women in neighborhood organizations and in their daily lives. That is the focus of my story. "Before the revolution in Old China, life for the people was like a deep well full of bitter water, the woman was at the bottom of all," an old woman told us. Footbinding lasted more than a thousand years. In Peking (Peijing) I met five women whose feet had been bound. I visited them at their early morning exercise time for six days. Their ages ranged from 50 to 65 years. Some of them could not walk. Others could walk with a cane. When they did, their weight was on their heels. Footbinding, an excruciating and crippling custom, was forced upon little girls between the ages of three and 12. It was a prerequisite to a proper marriage. "The tiny and fragile appearance of the foot aroused in the male a combination of lust and pity. He longed to touch it, and being allowed to do so meant that the woman was his." (Chinese Footbindings by Howard S. Levy) Footbinding was more prevalent among the middle and upper classes. However, in an attempt to emulate the upper classes, lower class women also practiced footbinding. One historical account gives a Chinese husband's view of footbinding. "I am timid, and my voice plays me false in gatherings of men. But to my footbound wife, confined for life to her house except when I bear her in my arms to her planquin, my stride is heroic, my voice is that of a roaring lion, my wisdom is of the sages. To her I am the world; I am life itself." (Levy) How did a little girl feel about footbinding? The following records her feelings: "Mother betrothed me at the age of nine to a neighbor named Chao, and I went to the home of my future husband. My mother-in-law bound my feet much more tightly than mother ever had, saying that I still hadn't achieved the standard. If I unloosened the binding, I was beaten until my body was covered with bruises. Mother- in-law insisted that the foot must become inflamed to get proper results. Day and night, my feet were washed in a medicinal water. Within a few washings I felt special pain. Looking down, I saw that every toe but the big one was inflamed and deteriorated. Mother-in-law said this was all to the good. I had to be beaten with fists before I could bear to remove the bindings, congealed with pus and blood. To get them loose, such force had to be used that the skin often peeled off, causing further bleeding. I suffered indescribable pain. Being in an average family, I had to go to the well and pound mortar unaided. Eventually my feet were only three inches long. Relatives and friends praised them, little realizing the cisterns of tears and blood which they had caused. My husband was delighted with them, but two years ago he departed this world. The family wealth was dissipated, and I had to wander about looking for work. I envy the modern woman. If I too had been born just a decade or so later, all of this pain could have been avoided. The lot of the natural-footed woman and mine is like that of heaven and hell." (Levy) Including her forced economic dependence, much was involved in the oppression of Chinese women. As one old foot- bound woman said, "Better eat than feet." Little wonder that the All-China Women's Federation was organized six months before the People's Republic was founded. It is easy to understand why the women's movement spread rapidly in China. The women organized teams to visit families where women were treated badly. They arranged meetings for all women in the village and persuaded each other that, if united, women would be treated better. If a woman were beaten by her husband for attending such meetings, the women would go in a group to confront the husband, and in some cases, beat him. The women's association went through this first stage in order to ensure security for women who joined the revolution. To this day, we were told, collective structures, societal pressures and marriage laws provide support for women. The All-China Women's Federation Our closest contact with the Chinese women was the All-China Women's Federation (ACWF). It extends over all of China, in both urban and rural areas. The organization's overall goals are to reduce the burden of domestic work for women, to provide a support system which includes a paying job, health care, child care, educational opportunities and to encourage political involvement. ACWF has a great concerh for world peace and maintains contacts with women in other countries. In an interview with Professor Le Zhe- shing, the group's vice-president, we learned that the original purpose of this organization was to eliminate polygamy T" m fc * • •. \\V -==-S^W+^ W/^tm yy./////////////////// T ^^!^^«^#ifi?i^ and feudal practices relating to women. Now it works for modernization and social development in connection with the needs of women. Their current priority is to develop and consolidate new family concepts. This goal is directly concerned with the best age for marriage. Professor Le Zhe- shing said, "The big question now is over age. Some people say boys and girls should marry young because of health, others say they should marry older in order to practice family planning." She explained how the neighborhood organizations hold meetings, discuss the issue and bring their questions to the upper level of the organization. The higher level then meets with the people to answer them. Since birth control practices are very acceptable in China, I found it difficult to reconcile delayed marriage with family planning. Care and Socialization of the Children In China, beginning in the nursery, children have many people care for them. The child care centers are open 24 hours a day. They are either free, almost free, or in many cases paid for by the parent's place of employment. Child care in China is not the exclusive responsibility of parents. It is the responsibility of the entire neighborhood. This creates a bond between child and the larger community. The relationship seems to encourage the children to have a good self-concept. When one member of our delegation asked, "How do you help the children develop such good self-concepts?" their reply was simple: they cared for their children. As part of the neighborhood organization, specific systems are being designed and carried out by workers' teams. In this way, childrearing is done collectively. Each production unit plans for the education and care of their children. They decide how much to pay the teachers, if fees will be charged, and the amount and cost of health care. Because they are involved in planning and maintaining such a system, I asked the parents how they felt about the child care provided. The interpreter replied, "They like it. They know the teachers are trained to be gentle with the children, whereas the grandparents, from Old China days, sometimes spank the children." (Corporal punishment is not allowed in the PRC.) In the centers, we observed the teachers and workers treating children with warmth, kindness, and respect. When asked about the teacher's training and qualifications, the response was, 'The teacher must know how to sing, or play a musical instrument and love children." At the kindergarten level, there is an emphasis on music and dance. Everywhere we went children entertained us. When 22 HOUSTON BREAKTHROUGH luuri IttkU ll,,Mliii i.,T^^ ' ••* ^••|ii« asked what other things the children learned, I was told, "They learn to do for themselves." They acquire personal autonomy quickly. Children of all ages decide which neighborhood work to take on as a group. Even kindergarten children are involved in productive labor which is related to their family situation and/or employment. The work might be as simple as sticking labels on a package, watering plants on the farm, or assembling a simple cardboard box. Apparently, this early participation is not an attempt to capitalize on every available source of labor but to teach children, from the beginning, that work is useful to society. Consequently, the children's first contact with work is in a collective atmosphere of production and workers. A worker from their neighborhood will go to the kindergarten or school to instruct the children in these skills. The older children are provided numerous responsibilities such as, forming work teams to clean streets, to do housework for families, conduct education campaigns or to teach people about preventive medicine. These tasks are the sole responsibility of the children. Another example of the relationship between children and adults is the representation of children at neighborhood meetings. School children elect fellow- pupils to represent their worker's team and they attend meetings. In this way, children participate in leadership and re spect is shown to them in the collective system. By experiencing a different lifestyle, there's an emphasis on developing interpersonal skills among children. As an example, students often spend their summer doing "farm or factory work." It may sound unpleasant but it introduces children to a wider spectrum of society. According to our three young interpreters, working with the peasant families helped them learn about life in the country, to appreciate work and the different areas of food production. In China, considerable attention is given to eliminating the absolute dichotomy between school and work. The importance of learning, as it relates to the collective good, is stressed. University students as well as those in the public schools participate in the "farm or factory work" system. agricultural and industrial work and for cultural, educational and health work. The number of people in these administrative units vary. Each commune is run by a committee which is responsible to a regional committee, then to provincial and ultimately to the central government. However, at each place we visited, it was stressed that each commune is relatively free to decide how to best achieve its goals. For their achievement and production, they receive pay and social support. We visited the Fusuijing Neighborhood, or residential committee. The Fusuijing Neighborhood is part of Beijing's West District and is under a regional committee that administers 20,000 households with 77,000 people. In this unit there are 34 residential committees. The Fusuijing Residential Committee cares for five to six hundred households. Then there are usually street committees and sub-committees for every 3 to 5 streets with a group leader on each street. These committees are self-governing and the leaders are elected. Many of the leaders are aged women and retired workers. This highly developed network of ^neigh- borhood offices serve as coordinating and communication links from the grass roots to the top. It is this mechanism which allows people to feel "a part" of the system as an effective, productive citizen. Mr. Liu Wen-yi, the vice director of the neighborhood administrative office described the committee's tasks as follows: to provide residents with health care, education and sanitation; to encourage unity among neighbors; to set up small repair shops, and to provide assorted support services for workers and to organize all students for after school activities. I was told that the high mobility factor among Chinese does not alter this close, cohesive organizational structure. The Chinese are moved to various administrative units where neighborhood committees make decisions for the collective good. The collective goal is to work in four areas of modernization which are: agriculture, industry, national defense, science and technology. The Collective System Dating back to the revolution, the ACWF's neighborhood organizations are a part of the total collective system in the PRC. All people are organized into administrative units for political, economic, Support Systems for Working Women In 1959, large numbers of housewives joined the workforce. They formed groups to organize the domestic work. Now, women are no longer solely responsible for housework. A wife is assisted by communal work groups, and her husband. This support is considered so important that an article in the Marriage Laws was designed for working women to provide protection from extensive housework. Understanding the importance of women's contribution to market production and family life is clearly reflected in what the Chinese refer to as "guarantees for the woman." Although the PRC is now rewarding couples who agree to have only one child, the woman is "guaranteed" two, 56-day, paid, maternity leaves. In addition, her work assignment is modified to accomodate nursing her baby. We were also told during several interviews that women were assigned lighter work during menstruation. In an interview with an American woman in Beijing who had lived in China for over 40 years, we learned that if a husband does not help his wife with housework, she can divorce him. This woman said she is considered a respected citizen in the PRC and is sometimes asked to serve on the neighborhood court. She related events regarding a divorce case in which she participated as an official of the court: The trial was held in the neighborhood. The person serving as judge, and two peers, one man and one woman, sat on a raised platform, a space set aside for this purpose. The neighbors, family, relatives and factory workers were in the room. The woman who was seeking divorce said she worked all day at the factory, came home to domestic duties, and when she asked her husband to help, he said, "No. That is your role." She tried to convince him that under the new system he was supposed to help, but he said, "I like the old ways best." Everyone there discussed the problem and decided that the woman should go live in the factory dormitory while the neighbors, relatives and factory workers gave the husband instructions in modern thinking. After several weeks of instruction the people had "broken through the husband's feudal thinking" and impressed on <him the importance of effective relations and a happy home life. They suggested that the wife go home. She did, and was greeted "by a very friendly, smiling face, and a clean house." She dropped her case for divorce. Professor Le Zhe-shing of the ACWF told us that among the older generation, some men are reluctant to share the housework but it was very rare for persons under 40 because they grew up with the new ideology. She said divorce was allowed, but first the neighborhood worked for reconciliation. "Some couples have different opinions, but sometimes stay married," she said. The Chinese women reported with satisfaction that the divorce rate is low now, one out of every 100. Whereas, immediately following the revolution, many arranged marriages were dissolved. One official of a neighborhood administrative office said, "The residents know each other and this gives a sound basis for decision making." They realize the importance of living in harmony. One American woman living in China pointed out without complaint, "This is a socialist society and you devote your best energies to improve the group or collective life." APRIL 1980 Peggy Chausse was selected by the People's Friendship Association to be part of an all- women's delegation to China in the summer of 1979. 23