The role of women has changed dramatically throughout the history of human civilization. Commonly, the role of women is associated with family, housework and upbringing. During a long period, the majority of societies followed these ideas and treated women as mothers and housekeepers. The drastic changes inaugurated by the 20th century have significantly changed the attitude to the role of women and enabled them to have new rights and possibilities. Nowadays, the global community provides both men and women with the equal access to education, work and social status, though certain discriminating or harassing actions still occur. This paper analyzes the role of women in China and the Philippines, compares the social implications and expectations in relation to the female citizens and identifies the major differences in two cultures shaped by various cultural, religious and political impacts.
Role of Women in Traditional China
The initial stages of development of Chinese society followed the ideas of Confucius. The principles, views and values of Confucianism were of paramount importance to the entire nation. The Chinese believe that rules and ideas of Confucius acknowledge the supremacy of wisdom, justice and objectivity. Particularly, Confucianism emphasizes the importance of family, respect to parents, careful attitude to nature and protection of the environment. According to this philosophy, individuals should strive for wisdom, honesty and generosity, which can be displayed in everyday life. Overall, it is possible to assume that the ideas and tenets of Confucianism followed the humanistic approach to the world.
At the same time, the philosophy of Confucianism did not provide many opportunities for women in society. In fact, the role of women was set from the very moment of birth. The birth of a girl was not considered a big happiness for the family since daughters had to marry and join the house of the future husbands. Moreover, the girls could not provide any economic or financial profits for the family since they had no rights to work and demonstrate their potential while serving. Thus, the only purpose of women was upbringing and housekeeping.
In addition to limited opportunities, women had to follow some stereotypic ideals of beauty, which could pose considerable threat for their health. For example, the standards of beauty demanded small size of feet, which could be achieved with the help of artificial mutation and changes in the normal physiological development. Despite the obvious harm of such actions, women applied those measures to conform to the commonly accepted standards of beauty. Therefore, similar ideas and values to a great extent caused the discriminating attitude to women and restriction of their individual rights and capacities.
It is also important to mention that the early Chinese society did not treat women and men equally. For example, in times of famines or wars, daughters were the last family members who obtained the food. Additionally, the Chinese history informs about the cases of killing newborn girls because their upbringing was not beneficial for the family. Thus, it is possible to conclude that early Chinese community was strongly discriminating and unfair in relation to the female citizens. Such attitude to women lasted during many centuries until the outbreak of revolution and establishment of a communist regime.
Role of Women during the Communist Regime in China
The beginning of the 20th century brought dramatic changes in all spheres of social life. The Chinese revolution, coup d’état and intensification of communist party changed the position of women in the society. First of all, women acquired the possibility to work and perform the same tasks as men. The bright posters and advertisement offered women relevant jobs and gave the possibility to contribute to the economic prosperity of the country. On the one hand, this innovation claimed the beginning of the new era in relation to the attitude to women in Chinese society. However, on the other hand, acquisition of job and proper education did not eradicate gender inequality, as female workers did not gain the same salaries as men.
Secondly, communist China changed the family status of women. According to the new rules, the birth of daughters was not regarded as a punishment for a family as they could acquire some economic or social value. Moreover, new laws cancelled the harmful beauty standards and prohibited any violence or harassment in relation to women. More significantly, women were allowed to choose husbands and request divorces. As a result, such changes positively influenced the position of women in revolutionary China and led to new qualitative innovations in terms of gender equality and non-discrimination.
Nevertheless, the changes also represented some negative consequences regarding the social position of women in China. Though women could work, they were expected to give birth to children and take care of the house. Therefore, the duties and obligations of women did not change but became more diverse and complex. The following law of one-child-per-couple policy passed due to the necessity to regulate the population of the country led to numerous abortions or unregistered childbirths. Though the society treated women more favorable in comparison with the early ages, a male offspring was more desirable than daughters. In fact, the communist regime brought many controversial issues and laws, which continued to discriminate and underestimate the role of women in the society.
Women in Contemporary China
At the beginning of the 21th century, the position of women in the Chinese society was relatively fair and acceptable. Women gained the possibility to obtain education, obtain employment and build their families. At the same time, new milestones appeared concerning the issues of overcrowding, migration and settlement of urban areas. Nowadays, China legally prohibits the migration from the rural areas to the urban ones in order to prevent the increase in crimes and overcrowding in urban territories. However, young women usually become the victims of this law since migration to the cities is the only opportunity for them to earn a living. Therefore, the modern women in China lack financial security and solid social background to satisfy their needs and demands.
When speaking about the marriage and family life, women are free to make their life choices and select life partners. At the same time, the decision to marry should receive the approval from the workplace, according to the existed laws. However, in case of confirmation, the couple gets significant health care benefits and social insurance. From this point of view, new social reforms positively affect the position of women in China.
Overall, the long history of the Chinese society demonstrated various approaches to the position of women. Largely, the existed religious and social beliefs caused the discriminating, violating and harassing attitude to women. Nevertheless, modern China preserves the ideas of respect for women and tolerant attitude to them. Women have obtained the right to vote, get education, find the relevant job and choose life partners. The social policies provide women with security and numerous benefits. Thus, it is possible to conclude that Chinese society follows humanistic and non-discriminating principles of gender equality.
Social Status of Women in Early Filipino Society
In comparison with China, the Filipino society imposed more loyal and respectful attitude to women. In the pre-European period, the Philippines highly valued and respected women and provided them with nearly the same advantages and opportunities as men had. For example, it is a well-known fact that Filipino women could become the heads of the clan or village chiefs. The women possessed great power within the community and actively participated in decision-making. Moreover, the early Filipino society followed the bilateral kinship, which presupposed equal distribution of power.
In the early period, women could obtain different professions and skills. Thus, they could be doctors, astrologers or even priestesses. At that time, all of these professions were highly respected and important, meaning that the social status of women was also high. When speaking about family obligations, women were not forced to do the housework compared to China. More notably, women in the Philippines could request divorce and were free to choose the husbands, in contrast to Chinese traditions. In general, the early Filipino society did not restrict the role of women and treated them with the appropriate respect.
The situation deteriorated after the acceptance of Christianity. In fact, Christian principles treat woman as subordinate in relation to men. Correspondingly, this religion limits the rights of women and regards them mainly as caregivers and mothers. The adoption of Christianity in the Philippines did not change their outlook, but merely modified it. Nevertheless, the Spanish conquest and new religion restricted the opportunities of women. The values of this period were similar to the treatment of women in China. Correspondingly, both societies valued boys more than girls and forced women to take care of children.
Nevertheless, the situation in the Philippines remained better than in China. The reason is that Filipino women could obtain free education provided by the Spanish government. Apparently, this meant that all citizens of the Philippines could obtain elementary education and acquire certain skills and knowledge needed for the future professions and jobs. Moreover, the availability of free education significantly improved the outlook of the Philippines and made the island more progressive and ready to accept positive changes, in contrast with China. Thus, the early period of the Filipino society was more favorable in relations to women than in China.
The Filipino Women in 20th Century
The industrial revolution, development of science and technologies, and new philosophic movements and trends have left their reflection on the treatment of women in the Philippines. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Philippines belonged to the US since Spain had lost its control over their territory. The new American government implemented a new system of public education, which provided both boys and girls with equal opportunities. After graduating the school, many of Filipino women continued obtaining the higher education outside the island. Therefore, women in the Philippines had more opportunities in contrast to China at the beginning of the 20th century.
However, the family role of women encountered some legal obstacles. Thus, in 1990, divorces and remarriages were legally prohibited, according to the laws of the Catholic Church. The community allowed the separation of the family, though did no support it on the level of legislature. On the one hand, such laws restricted the rights of women and freedom of choice. However, on the other hand, the laws aimed at reducing home violence and protecting women against the careless and obstinate husbands.
It is also important to mention the increase in professions available for women at the beginning of the 20th century. Thus, Filipino women could choose from the variety of professions and individually earn a living. The data witnesses a great number of educated female workers at the beginning of the 20th century. When comparing with situation in China, it becomes obvious that the Philippines seemed more developed and progressive in terms of gender equality.
Modern Filipino Women and their Rights
Nowadays, the Philippines provides women with diverse opportunities and capacities. In fact, women are free to choose the profession, employment, place of residence and marital status. According to the statistics, the literacy levels for women remain higher than for men. Analogically, there is a great number of women graduating the universities and obtaining scientific degrees. Thus, modern women in the Philippines have appropriate access to the information and education. Apparently, the same is true in relation to Chinese society, which grants women with the opportunity to obtain the education.
At the same time, the economic life of Filipino women is not easy. Since they are obliged to take care of children and housework, it is easy to assume that modern women have a double burden. Therefore, professional obligations and housekeeping duties do not facilitate the lives of contemporary women but only provide them with additional tasks and responsibilities. In fact, the same situation is common for the modern Chinese society, which treats women in a similar manner.
In addition, the contemporary Filipino society allows both men and women to participate in the business sphere and politics and occupy the position of the executive officers or directors. As a result, the correlation between male and female businesspersons is nearly equal.
The family status of Filipino women has been improved since the beginning of the 20th century. The new laws cancel the supreme role of men, install the fair sexual morality and standards as well as grant both sexes equal rights and abilities. Moreover, nowadays, Filipino women can request divorce, remarry or separate on the legal basis. In addition, the existing law does not force women to be a caregiver and mother, making her free to make the individual life choice. In fact, on the contemporary stage of social development, both the Philippines and China follow the same traditions and values, despite the significant differences they have experienced throughout their national histories. Nowadays, these two communities demonstrate the respectful attitude to women and enable them to have significant social power.
The attitudes to women have drastically changed throughout the history. Nowadays, there is a tendency toward promotion of gender equality and formation of valuable attitude to female citizens all over the world. The Philippines and China are not the exceptions since they introduce relative laws and moral standards, which require honorable, worthy and respectful treatment of all people, despite sex and gender identity.
Nevertheless, when analyzing the history of the Chinese and Filipino societies and their approaches to the role of women, it is possible to observe notable differences. Generally, the policies and traditions of China were more discriminating in relation to women, in contrast with the values and philosophy of the Filipino society. Overall, women in the Philippines had more rights than in China. Nowadays, both communities abandon harmful practices from the past and acknowledge the values and ideas of equality and justice in a like manner.