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The Effects of China’s Cultural Revolution on the Status of Women

Updated on July 5, 2020

The Effects of China’s Cultural Revolution on the Status of Women


The Republic of China experienced significant changes after its formal foundation in 1949. This ushered in a cultural shift created by the Communist regime which was operating the nation at that time. One of the most dramatic changes in the transformations on the portrayal of women in society. It is clear that in China, the cultural revolutions which presented a shift in the manner in which the women were treated in the Confucian patriarchy tradition.

Sufficient job opportunities

First of all, the revolution, engineered by the communists led by Mao Zedong, presented more job opportunities to the women. They could now be allowed to take up jobs that were previously reserved for the men. Cultural revolution also taught women that they were capable of undertaking any job that could be done by men (Zuo, 2013). For instance, female militancy and fierceness were valorized as depicted by the valorization within Mao's poem "Militia Women,". Additionally, the masculine women as depicted within the Eight Model Operas of the Cultural Revolution like The Red Detachment of Women.

Freedom of expression of ideas

The women also got the opportunity to express their ideas. In the previous cultural system, the women were only there to be seen but not to be heard. The new cultural system gave them the freedom to pursue collective goals. For instance, due to thorough agricultural collectivization, domestic duties that were undertaken in the family units also needed collectivization, and the subsequent launch of service centers (Kelly, 2017). Moreover, the newly created institutions like cafeterias, kindergartens, as well as nurseries mushroomed and were typically staffed by women. By 1959, the approximated number of both nurseries and kindergartens was 4,980,000 while more than 3,600,000 dining-halls were established within the rural areas.

Realization of gender equity

The status of the women also got elevated in the previously male-dominated society. This led to the rise of famous iron ladies who would champion the interests of the female gender. They also got access to career advancement opportunities. This was aided by the launch of the Great Leap Forward Movement in the year 1958 in China, which aimed at increasing economic progress, particularly the progress of industry and technology (Domenach & Selden, 2019). Consequently, women were swayed to join the underlying labor force within the fields evacuated by men who had been moved to the corresponding male-oriented industrialized occupations.

Liberation of women

They managed to liberate the peasant daughters from brothels and homebound duties to factories, ushering them to social independence. However, this cultural movement had some weaknesses. Even though this communist revolution gave them improved opportunities, they did not wholly alleviate them from some of the domestic burdens such as childcare and housework. They were also given less physically demanding tasks and this meant that they would earn less than the men counterparts. For example, the Chinese Communist Party adopted fundamental legislative documents in the year 1950 that is the law of marriage and land(Yu & Xie, 2015). This led to the ban on prostitution, organized marriage, child betrothal as well as concubinage.


Presently, times have considerably changed where both men and women considered equal. This, however, is different from the traditions where the role of the women is to conduct domestic duties. This was achieved through women's liberations, socialistic revolutions, and economic development movements.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Michael Omolo


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