Week 3 Response

Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn use storytelling to bear witness to indignities and oppression of gender discrimination. This week describe an experience during your internship that has increased your understanding of broader issues regarding gender discrimination or poverty. Discuss the way these issues compare to those presented in Half the Sky.

In general, almost everywhere in Shanghai I go, women of all ages are mostly dressed up. Most of them are wearing chiffon dresses, tights, flashy high heels/wedges, accompanied by a nice purse, as well as armed with the latest cell phone/tablet. It was very surprising to me to see how they seemed to dress up everywhere they go, particularly seeing the short dresses/skirts on women of all ages, and even work attire was rather short in length. Apparently Shanghai are held as some of the most fashionable people in China. I wonder why the women feel the need to dress this way. Is it to appeal to others? To find a job? Because it's too hot to wear anything longer? Is it a symbol of class - that poor women cannot afford to wear short dresses and high heels?

As for the experience in CereCare, the center I volunteer at for children with cerebral palsy, I saw similar gender issues as Joyce did. When the children are doing their class routines that may involve repeating familiar chants, often the boys' voices fell short, and a couple of times, the teacher would admonish the boy(s) asking them why their volume was soft like a girl, and how a boy should be louder, almost pitting them against the girls who are following directions and doing well. Other than that, I have yet to see any different treatment/attitudes towards boys and girls. I do see that the girls tend to perform better than the boys in terms of following directions but also in perseverance. Some of the boys have cried during physical therapy and acupressure sessions because of the pain incurred in helping them relax and flex their various joints and muscles - but none of the girls have even come close to crying.

In terms of poverty, in my conversation with a teacher at the center, she revealed that in Shanghai city district, children with cerebral palsy get little to no subsidization from the government, and if they did, it would probably be due to family connections to someone in the government. She revealed that even in other cities in China that is supposed to provide government subsidies, the reality is that connections really trumps everything. So the poorer families have a hard time making ends meet because they pay as much as they can for their child to live at the center. They are also poor in the sense of lacking human capabilities because they do not have connections to someone powerful. On the other end of the spectrum, my flatmates volunteered at a very wealthy private kindergarten. Their coordinator treated us to dinner at a very pricey French pizza restaurant, and it turned out that she could afford all this because her husband works for the government and she just submits the bills to get reimbursed.

In sum, I think social inequality is very high in Shanghai and probably in China overall, because there are the disabled and sick that do not receive as much help as they should have, along with the poor and connection-less, while there are burgeoning gigantic shopping malls full of international high-end brands and fancy resorts and cars, fueled by those who made it in this economy and those who work for the government.
As far as Half the Sky goes, I think  I would have liked to see the authors discuss urban poverty, especially in places like China, where the economy is moving faster than the rest of the country can keep up with. In particular, Kristof and WuDunn wrote about how sweatshops have given women a boost, and how the implication is that the West "should be encouraging manufacturing in poor countries." (p210) I can understand why they think it has worked in China, but I wonder if they support further sweatshops and factories in China even today. According to a recent nytimes article (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/16/world/asia/chinas-great-uprooting-moving-250-million-into-cities.html?pagewanted=all), the Chinese government's plan is to urbanize pretty much all of  China, and everywhere that is rural has seen developers buying up land and building infrastructure. I wonder what Kristof and WuDunn have to say to this and if they think it is a good idea - would urbanizing and creating low-income jobs in China benefit women and the poor in general? 


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