As I think I may have wondered aloud before, I cherished a beautiful vision for China.
The imposition of a one-child policy on a culture in which boy children are valued considerably more highly than girls has led – surprise, surprise – to a sex imbalance. Abortions and child abandonment have led to a situation in which it is currently predicted that by 2020 men will outnumber women in China by around 30,000,000.
I imagined a future in which Chinese society started to appreciate the value of a woman, when a woman’s “rarity value” made her important and gave her power, a voice, a chance to demand freedom and independence and equality.
Today, there has been a story about the rise of syphilis in China (see here and here). The most telling aspect, as it is relevant to the Beautiful Dream is this one: much of the blame for the epidemic is being placed on a rise in prostitution in China; and much of the blame for the rise in prostitution is being placed on a shortage of women making it difficult for men to find wives.
Men can’t find wives, because there are too few women. So they make more women into prostitutes and use them for sex instead, with women having to have multiple sex partners to make up for their shortage in numbers.
The bigger the imbalance gets, the worse this threat to women is going to become.
Which all leads me to some other conjectures:
There are not enough marriageable women to go round, especially since many of the few women available are being rendered “unmarriageable” by an increased pressure for them to go into prostitution. Thus the few women available become prized possessions to be jealously guarded.
There are not enough marriageable wombs to go around and so China starts to become concerned about a falling population. Consequently, women are pressured into spending their prime years having babies, from ever younger ages, instead of developing their own lives. The need to prize women for their reproductive capacity and child rearing skill outweighs any feminist call for them to be valued as human beings.
There are more men than ever, all seeking after jobs. With so few jobs to go around, there is no incentive to open up employment to women – who should be at home having babies anyway, right? – and the glass ceiling presses ever lower and harder on those women who do want jobs.
A man seeking after a wife can no longer insist on a grown woman and brides become ever younger. Meanwhile, grooms become ever older, before they have earned whatever it is they need to “deserve” a wife. Very young women are bartered in matrimony by their families to older, powerful men. The power dynamic in marriage thus shifts even more towards the side of the older, more experienced, more powerful, richer, independent man who chose his young, girlish, inexperienced, weak, dependent bride.
Life gets bleak for women.
But then, that alternative vision suggests itself again, insistent, the fluttering little touch of Hope trying so hard to get out of Pandora’s box.
Prostitutes and other sex workers will have real power, if only they can work out how to wield it. They will be the sex queens, needed and desired and in demand. They will be highly paid, they will earn more in a night than a senior party official earns in a year. They will build temples to the goddess Sheela-Na-Gig. They will work together in these temples, rulers in their world, safe and valued and conscious of their power and status in a newly woman-centred world.
Women who choose motherhood will band together in their own temples, built to honour the Great Mother. They will be highly paid in their vocation of motherhood. Skilled and valued helpers will assist them to bring forth new life and yet other skilled and valued helpers will help them to care for their children. They will know better than to have any truck with patriarchy and, because they hold all the power in a population that needs their childbearing wombs, they will make the rules. Sperm will be donated anonymously. No child will have one, biological father with paternal rights and demands: instead each child will have its own mother and a temple family of loving adults to raise and care for him or her.
People who do not work in the great enterprise of womanhood that these temples represent will be free to follow their own dreams in a world that no longer demands compliance with the patriarchal vision of a like-it-or-not-nuclear family. Women’s power will grow. Men will find that they too are freer and happier in a post-patriarchy that makes no demands of them based only on their sex and they too will be able to participate in the new religion, as leaders yes and also as supporters, helpers, nurturers, followers, lovers and, if they can find a woman with the same dream, fathers in a yes-we-do-like-it-thankyouverymuch nuclear family.
The trouser leg of time is about to bifurcate. What will China do?