To reach female audiences, women’s magazines such as Niizi shijie [Women’s World], Zhongguo niibao [Chinese Women’s Journal], and Niisheng [Women’s Voice] were published by progressive presses and feminist organizations during this period. Some major newspapers also added weekly supplements on women’s issues. By the mid-192 Os, the May Fourth new cultural project and feminist consciousness gained momentum in media throughout the country. In the late 1920s and 1930s, thousands of middle- and upper-class women became teachers and Diesel Jeans journalists; meanwhile, a large number of working-class women became workers in the cotton mills and textile factories in urban areas.
Breaking the prescribed gender roles, many women from different socioeconomic backgrounds participated in the anti-imperialist movement, the women’s movement, and the labor movement. A sizable group of women writers and activists ascended the cultural and political arena; among them were Chen Hengzhe, Bing Xin, Lu Yin, Chen Xuezhao, Shi Pingmei, Xian Jingyu, and Yang Zhihua, to name only a few. The discussions published in the progressive press laid the groundwork for the women’s movement and opened up a discursive space for many women writers to voice their ideas. During this time, Chen and Yang joined the debate and wrote to a readership that was concerned about women’s issues and their relation to social and cultural changes in China. In their essays, Chen and Yang explored what feminism meant to Chinese women and further developed the concept of niiquanzhuyi. They redefined women’s identities in ways that rejected the suppressive discourses that undermined women or hindered them from participating in social, cultural, and political activities.
Their work demonstrates a Chinese feminist rhetoric that defies the sexist portrayal of women and envisions new possibilities for Calvin Klein Jeans women in modern Chinese society. It is important to note that like many women who received higher education at that time, both Chen and Yang came from middle and upper-class backgrounds and belonged to a privileged elite group. Unlike thousands of Chinese women who worked in cotton mills, or textile, tobacco, and printing factories, Chen and Yang had rooms of their own to compose and publish their writings; this points to the heterogeneity of the female population during that period. In their rhetorical practices, Chen and Yang clearly underscored the issues of gender and culture. Although both women were aware of issues of class, Chen was restricted by her background and life experience, and touched these issues only on a surface level. Yang, a leader of the women’s movement and the labor movement, consistently spoke of and for working class women, emphasizing the necessity to improve their living and working conditions.
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