Gender Roles: Brazil, the Qing Dynasty and Senegal

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Gregory Andrade

Gender Roles:Brazil, the Qing Dynasty and Senegal

AEGL 291
Dr. Claxon
04/11/2011

On my honor as a University of South Carolina Aiken student, I have complemented my work according to the principle of Academic Integrity. I have neither given nor received any unauthorized aid on this assignment.

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The purpose of this research paper is to analyze the role women and men play in certain societies. First, a novel by a Chinese novel, Anchee Min, is analyzed. The novel, Empress Orchid, is about the last emperor of China, Tung Chih. During the time in the Forbidden City, there was an obvious gap between males and females – the gender roles were significantly different. Another novel will then be introduced, Scarlet Song written by Mariama Ba. This book tells a love story about a Senegalese man and French woman. The different background of each of the lovers prevents a happy relationship and causes a tragedy. Finally, in order to contrast the gender roles of both novels to recent events and contemporary culture, the current gender roles in my native Brazil will be talked about in this research paper. “Newly released data from China’s 1990 census support previous suspicions that 5 percent of all infant girls born in China are unaccounted for. It is not clear what has happened to them. Are they killed at birth, drowned in a bucket of water by the midwife, on instructions from parents who want a son rather than a daughter? Or are they given up for adoption? Or perhaps they are raised secretly to evade the one-child policy? Some evidence suggests a combination of these factors accounts for the missing girls, although officials usually insist that very few are killed” (Women’s International Network News). This is the current situation in China, the most populated country in the world. With more than one billion inhabitants, the government has installed a one-child policy to stop overpopulation from damaging the economy. But why does it lead to this shocking data that almost 5 percent of girls are unaccounted for? The same article, Where Are The Missing Chinese Girls?, seems to have the answer. The paragraph “Sons Preferred in Asia” states: “The girls almost certainly disappear because of the traditional preference, common in many parts of Asia, for sons rather than daughters. But in a larger sense, they are the unintended causalities of China’s 12-year-old ‘one child policy’. While Chinese couples are limited to having one or two children, as is now the case, they are sometimes reluctant to ‘waste’ their allotment – or risk heavy fines and stiff punishments if they exceed it – on a daughter. They fear that if they go ahead and raise a girl, they may miss the chance to have a son later on.” This behavior, which we are witnessing in China today, has its roots in China’s history and customs, as are portrayed in Anchee Min’s novel. In the novel, the preference for sons is definitely obvious. The Forbidden City is ruled by only one male, in order to make sure that only his blood line has any chance of reproduction. A custom at the time was that the Emperor had as many females as he wished: He had seven wives and hundreds of concubines in his palace, just waiting to be summoned by him. The only role of the females in the novel is to get dressed and look beautiful for the emperor. In one scene, Orchid talks about how submissive they acted towards the Emperor. “We kowtowed to Emperor Hsien Feng and the Grand Empress. We sang our drill in one voice: “I wish Your Majesties ten thousand years of life. Your luck will be as full as the East China Sea and your health as green as the Southern-” (Anchee Min, 39). Orchid shows the importance of the male in China. She is able to set herself apart from the hundreds of women who are ultimately fighting for the same thing she is – the attention of the Emperor. She sells all of her valuables to bribe the Chief Eunuch in order to be...
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