Many Giant Steps

Coercion and corruption taint the huge changes for chinese women


In Guo Yu Xian’s 58 years, she has seen women with bound feet, the forced collectivization of agriculture, the Cultural Revolution, and now the rapid economic growth that has driven many farmworkers to the city in search of jobs. Her tight-knit family has managed to resist the new “generation gap” that breeds tension in many rural families, as younger women read city magazines, listen to rock ‘n’ roll, and demand more autonomy.

While the state still exerts tight control over women, even its controversial one-child-per-couple policy can be circumvented with money or connections. But Guo Yu Xian’s family has the allotted three grandchildren, one for each of her children. She herself married for love, at 19, and bore a daughter and two sons. With her husband, she built their home on land from the government. She lives with her extended family–husband, sons, their wives, and two grandchildren–in their rural compound.

GUO YU XIAN: My parents wanted me to get as much education as I could, but I only went to primary school. My favorite subject was mathematics. When I was younger I wanted to get more schooling, but now I won’t because of my old age. I began working in the fields when I was 17, and since then it has taken up most of my day. This is what I like to do most. I’d rather be here, raising the pigs and irrigating the land, than cooking and taking care of the children.

We get along well with each other in this household; we divide things equally and we forgive the trifles. Privacy is not important to me; I like to be circled by people. If we get enough clothing, and enough food, then I’m happy. I have enough money to buy what I want; in our community we are neither rich nor poor. I’m very satisfied with my life, but if I had the money I’d buy two or three more pigs.

My mother’s life was much harder. She had her feet bound to three inches and because of her short feet she couldn’t do anything she wanted. It was painful for her, and I remember a very strong, bad smell. This was a very cruel thing. Women are more equal now than they were then, but I hope that women’s condition will improve even more.

Go to Mali . . .

OUR NEW CORRUPTION PROJECT

The more we thought about how MoJo's journalism can have the most impact heading into the 2020 election, the more we realized that so many of today's stories come down to corruption: democracy and the rule of law being undermined by the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

So we're launching a new Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption. We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We'll publish what we find as a major series in the summer of 2020, including a special issue of our magazine, a dedicated online portal, and video and podcast series so it doesn't get lost in the daily deluge of breaking news.

It's unlike anything we've done before and we've got seed funding to get started, but we're asking readers to help crowdfund this new beat with an additional $500,000 so we can go even bigger. You can read why we're taking this approach and what we want to accomplish in "Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's the Rot Beneath All of Them," and if you like how it sounds, please help fund it with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate