Cultural Construction of Gender

Gender differences were specified in Confucian classics. Accordingly, men and women, like Heaven and Earth, should occupy their correct places. The Book of Rites, which sets rules of correct behaviors, stated that to be a woman meant to submit. Confucian ideology was the basis for gender-specific norms and expectations, which remained unchanged until the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

In traditional Chinese society, family was continued through male descendent lines. Only sons had the right to inherit family property, and the head of the house was always male. At marriage a woman would move from the house of her father to that of her husband. Her primary obligation was to bear sons, providing for the continuation of her husband's family. Patrilineal inheritance and patrilocal marriage were the foundation of a patriarchal society that subordinated women to men. Although the process of immigration led to changes in the family unit, traditional norms, customs, and practices had a great impact on the lives of Chinese Americans.

Chinese girls usually wore long loose dresses to avoid their body being seen in public. In the summer boys could be seen stripping down to their waist, but the girls had to remain fully clothed, with their body parts, except hands and heads, properly covered. It was improper for girls to wear short pants or dresses that would show off their legs or shoulders. The practice of footbinding, which applied to girls only, further differentiated men from women in their appearance. Small feet were associated with family status and beauty; it was an essential prerequisite for an advantageous marriage. Most immigrant women who came in the late 19 th centuries had bound feet, but footbinding was not practiced by the immigrants in the United States. Footbinding was outlawed in China in 1911.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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