The Female Question: Envision Emancipation, or Sustain
“It is like the case of a caged bird: of course
there is no freedom in the cage, but if it leaves the cage there are hawks, cats, and other hazards outside; while if imprisonment has atrophied its wings, or if it has forgotten how to fly, there certainly is nowhere it can go” (Fong & Lan, 177).
In Lu Xun’s essay on “What Happens After Nora Leaves Home,” I find it imperative to open our eyes, minds and hearts in order to refine our worldly perspective. In this, I mean that we must shed our narrow view of the acceptable, and awaken our senses to the new order. There exists an unfair and unequal differential between the genders within our traditional bureaucracy. It is here that women are initially pushed beneath the surface of equality and denied independence and dignity. Due to the compelling influence of social programming, women must first learn to escape the trap, or cage so to speak, to which society has traditionally confined them. I believe women will then be capable of forming the necessary collective to address issues of resistance and revolution. Here I raise my voice for a new culture, for a new people, for a new understanding. With this voice I hope to awaken the unaware that find themselves lost beneath the littered layers of history.
In Lu Xun’s depiction of “What Happens After Nora Leaves Home,” we are given two scenarios. The first denotes a negative scenario in the assumption that she will fall prey to the ills of prostitution. In order to fulfill her economic necessities, however, Nora, or any newly independent woman, must coerce the situation into utilizing any and all of her limited resources. “To remedy this drawback and to avoid being puppets,” (Fong & Lan, 179) Nora’s only other option would have been suicide, according to Lu Xun. While she could have taken the option of returning to her husband, all of her previous efforts and fights would have been futile. Moreover, this created yet another problem rather than a solution. It is with this concept in mind that I hope to further convey our mission. On this mission we must recognize, as Zhang Weici has, that women have “been subjected to poisons that have been handed down for thousands of years.” This also raises concerns on how “to meet the demands of the new society after women are emancipated” (Fong & Lan, 22-23). By leading through example and teaching our children well, we may begin to deconstruct traditional Chinese customs while serving as a catalyst for social reform. Primarily through emancipation and then through construction, we will be capable of modernizing the status quo.
In my greatest hopes, one day soon we will find that “high above, there flies a large flag with ‘Emancipation’ written on it” and “step by step and arm in arm, we march forward” (Wang Huiwu, 163). Factors exist, however, which come into play with the initiation of this revolution. First and foremost, there is education and the stigma surrounding women’s education. One major concern involves bound feet and the great impact it has on a woman’s education. Those with bound feet are looked upon as “old-fashioned and unable to learn” (Chang 60) by teachers, if they can at all manage to walk into a classroom with such debilitating pain. Despite the decrease in this practice, however, our movement continues to reap the consequences of this custom. With modern outlooks on social Darwinism, Confucianism, Western influence and technology, our emancipation depends upon our enlightenment. In order to further strengthen our movement, we must believe that the “well-being of humanity cannot be achieved without equity in social development” (Fong & Lan, 125). In Lu Xun’s depiction of “What Happens After Nora Leaves Home,” he fails to incorporate Nora’s desire “to learn to be competent” (Ibsen, 192). It is important that I recognize such desire because this is the initial step towards transformational thinking and power. Through education we may begin to reverse the internalization process, which is fostered by the higher institutions of our society. We will uphold our individuality while viewing life from a more modern and diverse perspective.
With my voice I hope to awaken the unaware that find themselves lost beneath the littered layers of history. Traditional modes of thought and behavior must be overturned and condemned. China’s traditional customs, morals and laws are incongruous with our revolution. When I question whether women are to envision emancipation or sustain subordination, I sincerely feel that it is necessary for our country’s survival to choose the former. The spirit of a new age is upon us and it is now our responsibility to shed the conservative beliefs of the past (Wang Jingwei, 142). We understand that “though our knowledge is incomplete, we are certain that our minds are pure, our thinking is thorough, and that we should be the ones to fulfill the great responsibility of fundamentally transforming the world” (Fong & Lan, 126). I have made the decision to stand as an informant of the dire issues affecting our generation throughout these monumental times. In turn, I hope you choose to take these words and formulate constructive actions against social injustice. It is only us, the people, who have the ability to make this revolution possible, and it is only us, the people, who can overturn social injustice. As in the case of a caged bird, women’s freedom, as with their potential ability, has been greatly atrophied. If women have “forgotten how to fly” (Fong & Lan, 177), it is our civil and humane responsibility to promote emancipation through education.