Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Women and Power

First of all I came across Alexandra Kollontai (U.S.S.R) and Ding Ling (P.R.C) - prominent feminist figures during the Communist Era. As many of us have observed, despite proclaiming equal right for women and encouraging them taking part in the labour market, there were few female cabinent members in the former Communist governments, let alone real dominant leaders. Women politicians were more often helped to cultivate the image of women's participation in politics ONLY in symbolic forms. The most notible case here is Song Qingling, who was always there in the most ritualistic celebrations, standing for not only her dead Nationalist Party founder Sun Yat-sen, but also as an idol for all those women who were called to devote their labour repetitvely in the fields they assigned to. Alexandra Kollontai and Ding Ling's roles were different to Song's. The very reason they were marginalised or even penalised from the central power circuit was their persistance in talking and proposing equal status of women in material and cultural terms rather than the symbolic.

Wikipedia sites of them:

Why did women got expelled when they seriously talked about power? By asking this question, I saw my second case - Aung San Suu Kyi (Burma). An explantory case, though not in all sense adequate. As the daughter of the most influencial personna for Burma's indepence from Britain, Ann San Suu Kyi was arrested and kept in detention since when she returned to Burma for political struggles and gained massive support from Burmese people and international community(call it Democratic or not) . She was elected by votes in the first open election in Burma, but later refused to be handed over the power by the military leaders. And she is still under the detention roofs despite suffering from Diarrhea. Why is that? Coercive power, that she doesn't have. Besides a devoted Buddhist, she also followed Gadhi's non-violent method for political contention. Albeit slightly different purposes, nearly all the feminists have adopted such method to claim more power. An extreme case will be the modern Chinese feminist think-tank He Zheng. Not satisfied with the muppet feministic voices during Republican China era, He Zheng contended that as long as power was formed and supported by coercive means, there would never be a real equality between men and women. She observed that the military forces were (and of course are still) dominated by men. She also further suggested that military roles were designed and cultivated to cater men's physical and mental features. Men, in turn, were always socialised and educated to be more suitable for that system. The advice He Zheng gave was quite anarchical and hard to implement - subvert the then (and current) political power system based on succession of coercive power control. In addition, her observation was not conclusive either. Take the instance of some Burmese states again, the Kachin state for example, women were forced to serve in the army starting from age 13. They, nevertheless, do not have absolute right to choose their marriage. Historically speaking, the Burmese women had a greater share of power than the rest of the world till the military took over in the 1960s. But even before that, there were cultural and religious institutes kept them more or less subordinate of men. The point I want to make here, however, is to emphasis that coercive power does play a big part in this round of power struggle between men and women. We, as feminists, should not neglect such element just because we have not worked out a practical framework to tackle it.

Let me attach a picture of Ann San Suu Kyi. She is really pretty. Looked like Zhu Yin (朱茵). :D

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