English Comp II
11 Feb 2013
The Denouncement of Female Sexuality
Female sexuality has long been a taboo subject. In Ha Jin’s “In Broad Daylight,” it is examined from a cultural perspective. Set in China in the 1960’s, the story analyzes the misfortunes of Mu Ying, a woman who is being publicly denounced for her role as the town’s “whore.” Whether she chose to this position for extra income or for fulfillment of her needs, what is really being called into question is her embraced sexuality. The residents of the town have long known of Mu Ying’s activities; however, it is only after a member of the Red Guard is assaulted for his lack of payment that she is finally brought shamefully into the town’s center and humiliated. Although it seems she is being persecuted for her indignities, there is a recurring theme of jealousy and resentment towards Mu Ying’s embracing of her own sexuality.
To begin, men and women were treated much different during punishment for adultery, which highlights the disparity between the sexes. Even in modern day, if a man sleeps with multiple women, he is commended while women, like Mu Ying, are considered “whores” for behaving in the same manner. In the tale, the narrator White Cat is told of the forthcoming public humiliation of Mu Ying. He recalls his grandmother telling of how adulterers were punished in previous years. While men were to be beheaded, women were to suffer being “hung upside down above a wood fire whose flames could barely touch her scalp...and it took at least half a day for her to stop shrieking and a day and night to finally die” (153). Given the time period and culture this story is set in, this may be proof of gender discrimination; however, it also helps to show resentment by the town’s people towards women like Mu Ying who do not care what the others think and attempt to realize their own sexually driven needs. If this were simply a question of adultery, then both man and...