Selling the 'modern woman': Consumer culture and Chinese gender politics


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The Chinese paradox of a Communist dictatorship with a fast developing capitalist economy has nourished an interesting discussion on the power of commercial culture. The arguments move between fear and hope. Those critical to the developing consumer culture feel that 'tradition has, to a certain extent, been replaced by the culture of consumerism,' with a risk of 'precious traditional values' being lost (Huang 1995); lamenting that the political is displaced with commercial (Dai 1999) asking 'what happens when the revolutionary hegemony is replaced by capitalist hegemony, namely, the commercial popular culture of today! (Liu 1997:119). Other voices in this discussion take the emancipatory view, believing that commercialisation and transnationalisation will bring about a 'detaching of Chinese subjectivity from the state' (Yang 1996:311) and that China will be transformed by the forces of 'soap operas, tabloids and bestsellers' (Zha 1995). Both among the pessimistic and the optimistic voices we find the same belief that the very nature of commercial culture works towards a depoliticisation and decollectivisation of the Chinese audience; and that capitalist popular culture by its very nature is intimate and individualising.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationImages of The 'Modern Woman' in Asia
Subtitle of host publicationGlobal Media, Local Meanings
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages29
ISBN (Electronic)9781136120589
ISBN (Print)0700713433, 9780700713431
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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