Chapter 2: Labour, Leisure, Gender and Generation: The Organization of ‘Wan’ and the Notion of ‘Gender Equality’ in Contemporary Rural China
Yuqin Huang INTRODUCTION Since the early 20th century, the relationship between ‘labour,’ ‘gender equality’ and ‘development’ has been a central concern for both policy makers and scholars interested in the situation of women. Following Engels and liberal development economists, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and some scholars have endorsed rural Chinese women’s participation in the labour force as a means of achieving greater gender equality, as well as contributing to economic development in villages. However, others insist that women’s participation in the labour force does not guarantee gender equality, as it cannot overcome women’s inferior position in gendered divisions of labour, their lower incomes and lack of access to and control over income within the household, or their ‘double burden’ of work in both the paid labour force and in unpaid domestic work. They suggest that a materialist understanding of gender and development, such as that adopted by the CCP, does not pay enough attention to family and other social relations women are involved in, and neglects the complex connections between the material side of women’s lives and cultural practices (Jacka 1997; Wolf 1985). This research aims to contribute to this reassessment of materialist models and strategies of development by introducing the household distribution of leisure resources as a lens through which to envisage the complex relationship between labour, development and gender equality. In the post-Mao reform era, a series of structural and technological changes increased leisure time for many people in rural China. Economic reforms also have increased...
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