Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Was Mao Zedong a Feminist?

One accepts, because one is very open minded, that the New York Times has promoted itself as a leader of the Resistance against President Donald Trump. Nothing quite like striking a blow for democracy by extolling a disloyal opposition. One also accepts that the Times has profited for propagandizing its coverage of the Trump administration. In monetary terms Trump is the best thing that happened to the Times since Carlos Slim bailed it out.

And yet, how to explain that the newspaper could be so brain dead that it has taken to rationalizing Communism. One of the greatest and most destructive political failures in human history, an abomination that has brought death, desolation and starvation everywhere it goes… is worthy of a rethink by the New York Times.

In truth, the Times thinks that it is promoting feminism. And it imagines that Communism liberated women. After all, none other than Friedrich Engels promised that women’s lives would be better after the Revolution. A while back, as dutifully reported on this blog, the Times brought us the good news that women in Bulgaria and East Germany had more orgasms while living in the abject misery brought about by Communism. There wasn’t much bread and there certainly wasn’t much cake, but women had orgasms galore. 

Ready to return to those halcyon days? The Times never asked why people in Eastern Europe and everywhere Communism had been tried will go to very great lengths to forestall a return to the unmitigated horrors of Communism.

Yesterday, Helen Gao wrote in the Times that Mao Zedong had liberated women in China. Yes, indeed. If Gao had managed to take off her feminist blinders she  might have taken a glance at Harrison Salisbury’s book, The New Emperors. In it Salisbury describes how Mao sent his flunkies out into the countryside to gather up a bevy of pretty girls. He would happily deflower and rape a different one each evening… showing no concern for the fact that he was infecting them with an STD. Yes, indeed, Mao was great for women. (For the record, Salisbury was a distinguished journalist at... you guessed it... the New York Times.)

Here, without further ado, is Gao’s account. Upon presenting it, we will move on to reality, to the facts, which can be found in prior editions of the Times. Gao has no excuse for lying about Mao. Times editors have no excuse for running propaganda for a regime that produced some of the worst human catastrophes.

Gao is a true-believing ideologically committed feminist. Her ideological blinders obscure her vision:

While the Communist revolution brought women more job opportunities, it also made their interests subordinate to collective goals. Stopping at the household doorstep, Mao’s words and policies did little to alleviate women’s domestic burdens like housework and child care. And by inundating society with rhetoric blithely celebrating its achievements, the revolution deprived women of the private language with which they might understand and articulate their personal experiences.

Like Engels, Mao and his cronies were trying to seduce Western women into joining the Communist cause:

When historians researched the collectivization of the Chinese countryside in the 1950s, an event believed to have empowered rural women by offering them employment, they discovered a complicated picture. While women indeed contributed enormously to collective farming, they rarely rose to positions of responsibility; they remained outsiders in communes organized around their husbands’ family and village relationships. Studies also showed that women routinely performed physically demanding jobs but earned less than men, since the lighter, most valued tasks involving large animals or machinery were usually reserved for men.

Gao does admit that women’s conditions did not exactly fulfill the feminist dream:

Women were shunted to collective neighborhood workshops with meager pay and dismal working conditions, while men were more commonly employed in comfortable big-industry and state-enterprise jobs. Party cadres’ explanations for this reflected deeply entrenched gender prejudices: Women have a weaker constitution and gentler temper, rendering them unfit for the strenuous tasks of operating heavy equipment or manning factory floors.

If you can imagine such a thing, these newly empowered women had to household chores along with their liberating careers:

The party at times paid lip service to the equal sharing of domestic labor, but in practice it condoned women’s continuing subordination in the home. In posters and speeches, female socialist icons were portrayed as “iron women” who labored heroically in front of steel furnaces while maintaining a harmonious family. But it was a cherry-picking approach that focused exclusively on bringing women into the work force and neglected their experiences in other realms.

And, somehow or other, these women were not treated as equals in the factories. Call Sheryl Sandberg. She will know how to solve a problem that is no doubt a mere remnant from feudal times:

Researchers also observed that after marriage factory women often experienced slower career advancement than men as they became saddled with domestic responsibilities that left them with little time to learn new skills and take on extra work, both prerequisites for promotion. State services that promised to ease their burden, like public child care centers, were in reality few and far between. Unlike their counterparts in developed countries, Chinese women didn’t have labor-saving household appliances, since Mao’s economic policies prioritized heavy industry over the production of consumer products like washing machines and dishwashers.

But, despite it all, Communism advanced the feminist cause. That seems to be all that matters to Gao:

For all its flaws, the Communist revolution taught Chinese women to dream big. When it came to advice for my mother, my grandmother applauded her daughter’s decision to go to graduate school and urged her to find a husband who would be supportive of her career. She still seems to think that the new market economy — with its meritocracy and freedom of choice — will finally allow women to be masters of their minds and actions.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal James Freeman is gobsmacked at the Times’s unwillingness to allow reality to undermine its narrative. For an ideologue, the facts do not count. It’s the narrative uber alles.

Freeman counterpoints the Gao narrative with information that appeared in the Times itself. In truth, Mao's Communism produced unmitigated horrors for the people who lived under it.

Freeman writes:

And although Ms. Gao never mentions it, another Times contributor provided important context in a 2010 op-ed. Frank Dik├Âtter described the results of his research into previously classified archives of local and national offices of China’s Communist Party:

In all, the records I studied suggest that the Great Leap Forward was responsible for at least 45 million deaths.

Between 2 and 3 million of these victims were tortured to death or summarily executed, often for the slightest infraction. People accused of not working hard enough were hung and beaten; sometimes they were bound and thrown into ponds. Punishments for the least violations included mutilation and forcing people to eat excrement.

One report dated Nov. 30, 1960, and circulated to the top leadership — most likely including Mao — tells how a man named Wang Ziyou had one of his ears chopped off, his legs tied up with iron wire and a 10-kilogram stone dropped on his back before he was branded with a sizzling tool. His crime: digging up a potato.

When a boy stole a handful of grain in a Hunan village, the local boss, Xiong Dechang, forced his father to bury his son alive on the spot.

That’s not all, folks. Freeman continues to give us a better picture of the Great Famine that followed fast upon Mao’s Great Leap Forward:

In “Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine, 1958-1962,” Yang Jisheng meticulously documents the suffering, including among women who probably dreamed that the revolution could have somehow stopped before it reached their doorsteps. The author interviewed Zhang Shengzhi, who had served as chair of a county women’s federation in China before the party turned on her family. Many years later, she recalled the experience:

My grandmother and my elder sister starved to death. My sister was in Xi County and died in November. She was left in her home and not buried. The reason was so her family could continue collecting her ration of food, but the communal kitchen had closed down in any case. She was buried the following February. After being left out for several months, her face had been gnawed at by rats and was unrecognizable.

Journalistic malpractice, anyone?


Sam L. said...

The NYT has "always" rationalized Communism, at least sine they sent Walter Duranty over to shine it up and gloss over the Holomodor.

"Thinks it's promoting feminism"? Communist feminism, maybe.

I don't believe the NYT didn't believe the Iron Curtain was there to keep to keep people IN, and not OUT.

Mr. Freeman may be gobsmacked, but I am not; it's just the NYT being the NYT.

Jack Fisher said...

Sam, Staatssicherheitsdienst is triangulating your position. If you value your life, run!

Anonymous said...

JPL17 said...

Actually, I think the more relevant question is, "Are feminists Mao Zedong?"

And I think the answer is generally, "Yes."