Half the Sky : Women's Liberation During Mao Zedong's Leadership in China, 1949-1976
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Many historians, anthropologists, and ethnographers have documented the experiences of women in China during Mao's leadership. However, women are either treated as subjects of the state, or as liberated agents. Though the central goal of Mao's leadership was not to liberate women, and women's liberation was often seen as a necessary tool to maximize "production" and eliminate class consciousness, women who lived during Mao's time were not passive recipients of state-promoted rhetoric. Chinese women not only formed their identities and experiences with the influence of rhetoric and ideologies, but were also central to the process of reforming ideologies, constructing institutions, and reproducing social structures. Women inhabited both identities: the subject of the state-promoted ideologies and rhetoric, and the materially liberated agents. Though many were equalized in terms of materiality—gained access to work, access to resources, freedom to marry and divorce, they were still acting within boundaries of cultural limitations and social expectations.