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Mao Zedong Thought had become the central operative guide to all things in China. The authority of the Red Guards surpassed that of the army, local police authorities, and the law in general. China's traditional arts and ideas were ignored, with praise for Mao being practiced in their place. People were encouraged to criticize cultural institutions and to question their parents and teachers, which had been strictly forbidden in Confucian culture. This was emphasized even more during the Anti-Lin Biao; Anti-Confucius Campaign. Slogans such as "Parents may love me, but not as much as Chairman Mao" were common.
The status of traditional Chinese culture within China is also severely damaged as a result of the Cultural Revolution. Many traditional customs, such as fortune telling; paper art; feng shui consultations; wearing traditional Chinese dresses for weddings; use of traditional Chinese calendar; scholarship in classical Chinese literature; and the practice of referring to the Chinese New Year as "New Year" rather than "Spring Festival"; had been weakened in China. Yet some aspects recovered fully, and some still survived in some forms in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, Malaysia and in overseas Chinese communities, notwithstanding the impacts of Western culture (and Japanese culture in the case of Taiwan and Manchuria) on those communities.
Traditional Chinese society has been male-centered. Sons were preferred to daughters, and women were expected to be subordinate to fathers, husbands, and sons. Far fewer women were educated than men, and many of their readings consist of book such as Nü Xun (å¥³è¨“, Advice for Women) and Lienü zhuan(çƒˆå¥³å‚³, Biographies of Notable Women), which instruct them to be subjects of men. Sketchy but consistent demographic evidence tends to show that female infants and children had higher death rates and less chance of surviving to adulthood than males. In extreme cases, female infants were the victims of infanticide, and daughters were sold, as chattels, to brothels or to wealthy families. Bound feet, which were customary even for peasant women, symbolized the painful constraints of the female role.
Mao Tse-Tung and the Communist Party formally outlawed many of the old Chinese laws and traditions that they viewed as not benefiting the state. The practice of foot binding had become almost obsolete by the time he took power 1949. He believed that by forcing gender equality he could make China a world power. Although he persecuted Christians and mandated policies that lead to millions of deaths, he did lift shift the oppression of Chinese women from producing for the home to the producing for the state. Husbands were not allowed to abusing their wives, have concubines, or use prostitutes. Marriages could no longer be arranged, wives with unbound feet were encouraged, and divorce was made easier to obtain. Both sexes were forced to wear the same gender neutral padded clothing. These changes initially gave females an increasing sense of self-confidence as they were encouraged to join the work force, become a communist official, and pursue educational opportunities. This indeed was in stark contrast to centuries of being less than second class citizens. Women willingly followed Mao in 1958 with his provision of daycare and soup kitchens to push the patriotic "iron woman" into longer work hours for the benefit of the nation. Unfortunately, this national brainwashing of the "Great Leap Forward" led to the starvation of millions.
What have been the longer term results of dictator enforced equity? Do women today walk the streets of China with pride as they go to work in a variety of places? By law, women have equality in education, marriage, rights, and freedom. However, while there have been many improvements to women's roles in China, there are still some laws that have been ignored. The most insidious violation regards infanticide of female babies. Although killing a newborn child is illegal, killing the child before birth is promoted. Since 1997, hundreds of "mobile abortion clinics", complete with body clamps to hold down Women doing something "voluntarily", have been made to take abortion to the remote countryside.
With the availability of ultrasound and enforcement of the one child policy, China has an unnatural ratio of about 118 males to 100 females due to a half a million sex-specific abortions every year. The reasoning follows since males still have the greatest earning power in the workforce. With these earnings, and a decrease in available females, the abduction and sale of teenage girls is on the rise. Human Rights groups estimate hundreds of thousands of girls have been sold into prostitution and $500 mail-order brides since the economic boom of the late 1980s.
From the cruelties of foot binding to state coerced family planning, women have been played as pawns of the male dominated state. The function of women's literacy and workforce equality has been to improve communist state. It is for the reader to decide if these dramatic changes are cause for the Chinese woman to hold her head with pride in what her nation has done for her status.