Ting Guo reviews Women and China’s Revolutions by Gail Hershatter
Despite its revolutionary and socialist origins – as women in the garment industry marched through New York City in 1908 demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights – International Women’s Day on March 8 has become a rather commercial holiday in many places around the world. That includes China, my socialist motherland. Taobao, the world’s biggest e-commerce website, uses the day as a shopping festival, and was able to hit 30.8 billion yuan (approximately $4.5 billion) in gross sales for women’s fashion, accessories and cosmetics in 2017. This year, however, a 1949 speech delivered by the socialist writer Ding Ling (1904-1986), a winner of the Stalin prize for literature in 1951, went viral on Weibo.
This speech, entitled ‘Thoughts on 8 March’, was delivered in the Communist heartland of Yan’an on August 3, 1949, a few months before the founding of the People’s Republic of China. As Ding Ling wrote:
“Aware, modern women should identify and cast off all their rosy, compliant illusions. Happiness is to take up the struggle in the midst of the raging storm and not to pluck the lute in the moonlight or recite poetry among the blossoms.”