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Chinese historical view of what a woman should be


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Chinese historians usually view women who hold positions of power negatively, and view women who let their husbands run the show positively.

Aggressive female rulers like Wu Zetian and the Empress Lu of Han Dynasty were two examples of women who have received a bad rep from Chinese historians. Others include Cixi and Jiang Qing.

However a woman can use her aggressiveness and charm for positive purposes. For example, Soong Mei-ling used her fluent English, charm, and aggressive personality to win American support for China in the fight against Japan. Her 1943 speech to the US Congress received a rousing standing ovation from senators and representatives alike.

Chinese women who remain out of the limelight and exercise a passive, but positive influence on their husbands are viewed more favorably. One example was Tang Taizong's wife Empress Zhangsun, who persuaded her husband to heed advice from capable officials. She often helped cool tempers whenever her husband and Weizheng argued over policy matters.

Another woman with a positive rep was Empress Ma, Zhu Yuanzhang's wife. She never bind her feet and reportedly had big feet.

In contrast to Chinese women of power, female rulers in Western countries were more tolerated by people in those countries. Queen Elizabeth I and Catherine the Great were held in high esteem in their countries.

In the US, First Ladies like Jacqueline Kennedy or Laura Bush are widely admired, while more aggressive First Ladies like Hillary Clinton are viewed negatively by many American men.

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I wonder how much things have changed. See the Forbes list below. Fenlan, you're probably thinking of Song Qingling (wife of Sun Yat-sen). Song Meilin was the wife of Chiang Kai-shek.


Vice Premier Wu Yi is the world’s second most powerful woman, according to a Forbes magazine list that also included India’s Sonia Gandhi, Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri and Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Peng Peiyun, president of the All-China Women’s Federation, was number 47 on the list of the world’s 100 most powerful women, while Xie Qihua, chair and president of the Shanghai Baosteel Group, was in 55th place. Ma Xuezheng, vice chair of the Lenovo Group, was in 80th place.

Condoleezza Rice, the national security advisor of U.S. President George W. Bush, topped the Forbes list, published in the September 6 issue.

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In the US, First Ladies like Jacqueline Kennedy or Laura Bush are widely admired, while more aggressive First Ladies like Hillary Clinton are viewed negatively by many American men.

I've often wondered about the "admiration" of First Ladies. Considering they don't really have power (besides affecting their husbands), and weren't elected themselves, they're somehow important. I guess I had a negative view of Mrs. Clinton while she was First Lady, because she was very proactive, using her husbands' power as her own. Once she became Senator Clinton, she was validated in a sense.

I think that this is similar to the view of Cixi and Jiang Qing: they were essentially stealing power from their husbands, without having to go through the "proper" channels of gaining power.

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Not sure why this would be so strange. It wans't too long ago, that here in America, having a woman working, let alone, leading was considered taboo and looked upon negatively. Take it out of the "equal liberties" of America and go to an asian country where family "ideals" are still a little stronger than most cultures, and it really doesn't seem that strange why women in power are looked upon negatively.

It seems that subconsciously men look for women that will be powerful enough to support them and work along side them, but also be a good wife and not over-use their power and/or authority. Women who do not fit this profile are often looked upon negatively in most cultures by men (and sometimes other women). Overall, I believe it is largely due to cultural values... which I agree with.


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