October 9, 2012
Human Roots and Societies
China: A Gender Bias Country
Son preference has existed among most Chinese parents for centuries. Across thousands of years of Chinese history, Confucianism has served as an officially supported patriarchal belief that has deemed women inferior to men and has limited the role of women to their households. Women were understood to belong to their families before marriage and thus were required to be obedient to their fathers or elder brothers; after marriage, a woman belonged to the family of her husband and was expected to be obedient to her husband and later to her sons. This belief, together with China’s workforce being completely dominated by males, convinced parents that investing in daughters was a waste of money (Tsui and Rich 2002). As a result, parents usually placed higher value on the nutritional intake or education of sons than on that of daughters. In addition, the traditions of co-residence with sons and son-dominated old-age care also prompted parents to invest in sons as long-term insurance (Hannum et al.2009). The gender bias has led to inferior intra-household status for daughters and, consequently, to the biased allocation of household resources. The huge gender gaps in the literacy rate and educational achievement are examples of the consequences of such gender bias.
In Ancient China woman were sought as a piece of property and even as a liability until they were old enough to marry. Their role in the family was restricted to the household, a household that they would have no say in what goes on or any pull on decision making. Women also had no say in who they married and once they were married they were to leave their family and change their identity to fit those of their in-laws. As a daughter-law her priority and purpose in life were to concentrate on the fulfillment of all the rules of filial piety, putting others first, herself last (Kuhn 2009). The in-laws controlled...
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