How Do We Make the Women's Movement Truly Powerful?

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How do we make the women's movement truly powerful? Everyone wants an answer to this question. Speaking more broadly, we could say that this question is related to the entire New Culture Movement. But this essay will only address the women's movement itself.

I think that we need to look at which class the bulk of the women's movement comes from in order to determine the strength of the women's movement. In other words, we need to determine which class of women are the women who have already developed consciousness.


Observations of society suggest that there are, roughly speaking, three classes of women in every society, whether foreign or Chinese. They are present in societies that have never democratized, and inevitable in democratic societies.

In the past, when the class system was extremely strict, men and women alike were subject to strict bondage and could not break through the limits of their class. The four classes of old China, the aristocratic, priestly, and common classes of Greece and Rome, the landlord and serf classes of recent Russian history, etc., invariably exercised great power over all individuals and made upward mobility almost impossible for any individual. Even if an individual had the ability to be upwardly mobile, the social system still would not allow that individual to move up. Thus we have the ancient Chinese saying, "The son of a scholar is always a scholar, and the son of a peasant is always a peasant." The customs of medieval England and France did not allow upstart merchants to join the gentry class. These were the realities of class limitations on upward mobility.

But the so-called classes of a democratic society are not like this. These kinds of classes are not fixed in accordance with an individual's social status. Instead, they are fixed in accordance with each individual's economic situation. In ancient times, even someone who suddenly became wealthy could not squeeze into the upper class. Today, this is no longer the case; as long as one has money, "even a beggar is equal to a duke." Classes are completely defined by wealth. Such classes always precede the implementation of economic democracy.

Based on this, we can also discern the situation and character of the three classes of women in contemporary society.


Roughly speaking, women in today's society can be divided into (1) wealthy wives and rich young ladies; (2) wives and young ladies of middle-class, scholarly families; (3) women of poor families, who depend on their own labor to make ends meet. These three classes of women are present not only in Chinese society but also in Western societies. Moreover, in Western societies the middle-class women are the most numerous.

Now that society truly has these three classes of women, we must pay special attention to the livelihood, education, mentality, and moral values of each class of women when we do research on how to develop the women's movement.

This essay intends to focus on the women's movement in China, particularly on the three classes of women in our society today.


Let's see! What kinds of lives do the wealthy wives and rich young ladies of China lead? What kind of education do they have? What do they think? What are their moral values? They are arrogant and accustomed to living in comfort and luxury! And they have certainly been imbued with the influence of their evil environment! Even if they have some education, they got it by being chauffeured to elite schools to receive elite educations. (Of course there are also a good number of exceptions and outstanding people among them, but statistically speaking, even though there may be many such exceptions, I don't know if they would add up to even one percent of the total!) They grow up amid reams of beautiful silk, never knowing about the suffering of their little sisters in the third class. Even if fighting for the right to suffrage ("What's the right to suffrage!") seems fun to them, I'm afraid they are not willing, able, or daring enough to go out and work with working-class women. On top of this, most of them hardly know or think about anything (and even if they do, it is nothing but corrupt thinking). We certainly won't get anything accomplished if we depend on them to form the center of the women's movement!

These upper-class women actually comprise only a small portion of Chinese society, but they are potentially very influential. Those who have the least power in society are actually the most numerous. Many of these are women of the lower class. These women suffer oppression in their daily lives. They are the ones who will be "left behind" in life. Unless they work their fingers to the bone, they cannot catch up with the other classes in this life. They have to struggle for survival every day and do not have the time or money to get educated. With such a bad environment, they hardly have the leisure to think about anything and can only act on impulse. Because they are always oppressed by their low social status and endure unbearable treatment, their moral level is also pretty low. Needless to say, it would also be very difficult to depend on this class of women to carry out the women's movement. They will not be able to accomplish anything until they get some guidance and good education.


Since women of the upper class and women of the lower class cannot take on the important tasks of the women's movement, middle-class women—the wives and young ladies of middle-class families—are our only hope.

This class of women comprises about half of the women in our society. They don't have to worry about making a living, and they have access to education. Not yet imbued with arrogance, they are still industrious. They can think. They have a sense of morality and the courage to go out and do things. They can bear hardship. Obviously, this class of women must necessarily form the center of the women's movement. Only then can the women's movement truly accomplish something.

But I don't know whether or not this class is at the center of our country's nascent women's movement.


It is my hope that women of the middle class will quickly arise to breathe life into the women's movement! Arise! Do you suffer oppression in your lives? Do you not yet have opportunities to get educated? Do you feel that you have no freedom to think for yourselves? Do you suffer from moral double standards? These are not just your own concerns. They do not hurt women alone. Instead, these are issues that vex our whole society. Therefore, we should all arise and fight them together. Do you fear that we won't be able to march forward in unison? I say, have no fear; just start by uniting everyone in your own class! Do you fear that you are still weak, and that you do not dare to lead the charge against the old society? Have no fear; you have your little sisters of the lower class, and you can raise them up to fight together with you.


It is not China alone that depends on women of the middle class. Based on developments in the West, we see that it has always been the women with education but no property who were the first to rise up. The cries of the movement for women's suffrage sometimes originated with women of the upper class, but today the woman question is not just about women's suffrage. Nowadays, women's suffrage cannot address the entire woman question. Who has built the women's emancipation movement?

Chinese women of the middle class! You should understand your status and your responsibility. We have been talking about the woman question for over six months. But everyone has forgotten who the true bearers of the mission are. Today we say, it is you—you women of the middle class, who have knowledge but no property!