I want to share some thoughts that I had in class today. In discussing the double entendre that women face, the double-edged sword in the Chinese culture we are examining that places upon women the responsibility of aspiring to be a ferocious force, a woman warrior, severe and unforgiving, while at the same time remaining soft, gentle, motherly, beautiful.
I want to unpack this, to get down to what the reality of this cultural expectation means in terms of patriarchal values and constructions. The severity of women when in their roles as feminine warriors and the softness that they exhibit in their roles as wives, slaves, and mothers become tools both used and manipulated by the men that surround them. For example, look at the story of Mulan. The power, ruthlessness, and hardened force that she exhibits in her role as a warrior, a soldier, a general, becomes a tool used by men in their goal of winning the war. Mulan’s weakening after the birth of her son furthers this idea, as we see that when the softness of her feminine self begins to show itself through childbirth and motherhood, she is not as strong, not as important, and not as powerful a tool to use.
In the case of Brave Orchid, we see her less as a direct tool of the patriarchy, and more as a feminine body and spirit that is manipulated by the patriarchal culture around her to serve the needs of men. We see this in the way that, while she is warrior-like in her fearless pursuit of education, success, and a strong career, she is still discounted as a married woman whose true purpose is to serve her husband, sons and daughters, produce children (meaning, as we all know, sons) and caring for other surrounding family members by being a soft yet sturdy maternal figure.
The patriarchal construction of gender and the way that it operates to serve men in the patriarchal society that sets these values, ideas, and standards. Does anyone else have thoughts/ideas about other ways that the book talks about this/reinforces these ideas?