, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 717–737 | Cite as

The representation and/or repression of Chinese women: from a socialist aesthetics to commodity fetish

  • Quan Hong Email author


Women’s bodies are often sites for exploitation, political propaganda, and the materialization of normative gender ideologies. Given the long historical transcendence and impact of patriarchal systems of thought such as Confucianism, paired with the simultaneous invisible and visible gaze of the male consumer in the market system of contemporary China, how has the female body been represented and repressed in the Chinese context? Employing the perspectives of iconology and Marxist feminism as both tools and theoretical frameworks for studying gender and gendered aesthetics in China after 1949, when a new ideology of gender equality, as well as the perception that women can ‘hold up half the sky’ began to take root in China under the leadership of the state and party. What will be discussed in this paper are the ways in which gendered bodies, the female body in particular, are constructed (engendered with meaning), governed, represented, and objectified in China through literary and artistic creation that have shaped social aesthetic values. A comparison will be made between two different time periods where the representation and repression of Chinese women went through a change from a socialist aesthetic to commodity fetish: how female images were depicted in the political propaganda posters the state and party issued during 1940s to 1980s; and how women have become newly objectified and valued in terms of their individual appearance, thus the objects of beauty, in the post-reform and opening-up.


Women Representation Aesthetics Socialism Commodity fetishism China 



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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PoliticsEast China Normal UniversityShanghaiChina

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