How to performing femininity in the Chinese society

From past two weeks, we emphasized our topics on gender roles which are a popular topic all the time. I’m from China where has a clear boundary between male and female. Although I have lived in America for two years, it’s still not enough to explain gender roles in terms of American society to me. Thus, I would introduce the gender roles existed in Chinese society through my experience and things surrounding me, which include what my culture teaches me as the correct way to perform femininity, what is considered inappropriate beings for femininity, what kind of job most women prefer to choose and how I think of this phenomenon. I may also mention sexism in order to exhibit the society deeply to you.

When I was young, I didn’t notice what was the difference between boy and girl. My mom always dressed up me like a white and delicate girl. Everyone think this was normal and I didn’t realize and also felt girls should wear like that. Because girls look more delicate than boys who always dress up as cool guys. I remembered the game we were playing were also different with boys. We were playing house or role playing, boys tended to play basketball, football, and other types related ball games. My mom told me that girls could not fight with someone because that looks like a shrew, not gentle and quiet. However, it was a cool thing for boys to go fighting with someone. My parents also taught me that I couldn’t toe out when I was walking. It’s not beautiful for a girl, and something like that. Everything they told was all about how to be a gentlewoman not “tough girl”.


We already have accustomed to accepting the ideology of correct way to perform femininity. Like Louis Althusser (2014) said: “Ideology represents the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence.” The environment surrounding me, people I’m talking, and sexual ideology I’m facing all teach and make me how to perform femininity


In China, sexual discrimination mostly stands for the priority of male and low social status of the female. However, it’s very common to discriminate a kind of male who dress up like women, or not perform masculinity; and there is also a stereotype for women when they are not performing femininity in the office or at home. Most Chinese still think sex and gender are the same things, which male should perform masculine and female should perform femininity. I remembered When I talked with my mom about my plans for future or the job I would like to take. My mom thinks girls had better choose a stable work like an accountant. Because I have to marry anyway, my husband will undertake my life and we will have baby and baby is a most important thing for women. That was my mom’s thoughts when I told her I want to be a PR. Because PR is a job that needs to work overtime always and has to fly to places all over the world for business.

The world of “powerful women” seemingly praise women for working hard and independence; actually, it’s a derogatory term for me. Powerful women are always perceived as uncontrolled people, which they are difficult to fall in love with someone, let alone get married with someone. Because they think powerful women are out of control by men. They traditionally think the male should protect the female. My mom always told me you can find a boyfriend to undertake together, you would feel easier than yourself. She is at ease about my sister’s life, which her husband usually works outside and she hopes his husband have an opportunity of promotion to bring her an affluent life that she only stay at home to enjoy.

We could talk something about the discrimination about male not performing masculinity. It wasn’t me, it was my friend. I had a male friend in the junior high school. He completely doesn’t perform masculinity, he walks like the pace of model with wriggling ass a little. At that time, students in my class thought he is definitely a gay, so he didn’t have same-sex friends. He was so nice, we always talked about many interesting things together. He knew how other classmates talked behind his back, he just ignored that and knew what he was doing and what life he would like to get.

The performance of social-defined femininity keeps the situation of lower status than men. For example, I chose a stable work, got married with somebody, and had a baby two years later. However, this is not the life I would like to get. I use self-reflective gaze to talk about what I should perform femininity in terms of Chinese society. Some perspectives only belong to private opinions.


Althusser, L. (2014). On the reproduction of capitalism: Ideology and ideological state apparatuses. London: Verso.


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