Zhang Lijia
Zhang Lijia

Feminism is on the rise in China, and much has changed for the better, tells author and journalist Zhang Lijia of the upcoming novel Lotus: A Novel, in TakePart.Com, in an issue on feminism in China. But too many things have not yet changed, or change too slowly.

Zhang Lijia:

I felt unequal [growing up]. My grandma brought us up, and I loved her to bits, but she was of the older generation of women who very much favored boys. We had very little meat to eat, and she would give my younger brother more meat. So since I was little, [my sister and I] knew we had to excel to go far in life.

The factory was very much a boys’ club. If you were a woman, they often gave you simple jobs, and the higher you go, there are fewer women. I did quite well on my exam, so I got a good job. I could have gotten an even better job, but there was such a strong perception that women are not very good with technical stuff that they didn’t give us a chance to try.

There was a lot of pressure [to get married]. If male colleagues visited, [my grandma] would get very curious and suss them out as husband potential. She had pressured my mother to get married, and my mother regretted it; my parents’ marriage was not particularly happy.

I got divorced 10 years ago, and my mother still hasn’t told her neighbors. For her, [divorce] is a big disgrace to the family. A few years ago I went to Brazil on a book tour and had a very successful trip. I told my mother, and she said, “If only you had a husband.” There is very little I can’t cope with without a husband. I think it makes me strong in many ways. I very much injected the idea of gender equality into my children’s upbringing. Both are strong, independent women, and both are feminists.

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