The author is a second generation Chinese immigrant who tries to explain her Chinese heritage while giving perspective about life in China, the treatment of women in China, and issues of immigration stemming from the search for economic emancipation. The main point of the author as the title suggests is the treatment of women in China. The sexual abuse and prejudice against women as brought about not only by negative cultural practices but also by hard economic circumstances. The author goes on to explain the story of her aunt who was made an outcast by her family for bringing disgrace upon the family by having a baby out of wedlock. The author goes ahead to explain the circumstances which led to the banishment as a result of poor economic conditions. She explains that she would not have been banished or punished if the villagers had been experiencing better economic circumstances.
The author is very eloquent in painting a picture of the Chinese cultural practices and life in the Post Mao Revolution of 1948. The Chinese cultural practices are depicted as being against women in regard to sex and gender issues. The experiences of the author’s aunt who remains nameless are a clear indicator of the low regard with which women were held to in Chinese society. Chinese culture forbade talking about sex and the author seems to indicate that this led to the mistreatment of women. After the author’s aunt is raped she cannot bring herself to discuss the rape or deal with the members of her family since sex is a forbidden subject. It is very significant that she never said a word about the father of her unborn child or her rape even after her family was attacked and she was banished from her family. Women in this society have no voice as they have to obey everything they are told even in relation to their own bodies. The author paints the hopelessness of women by asserting that it would not have mattered if she pointed out the baby’s father since the village had intricate webs of kinship that would still have made the relationship illegal. The author portrays a negative aspect of Chinese culture which places all the negative consequences of sex upon the woman even as the man does not take responsibility.
The author also looks at the economic and societal changes which make the discrimination against women even more severe. There is an increased rate of migration by the men in search for work in order to support their families. The instance of the husband of the author’s aunt is a clear example of this abandonment of women due to economic circumstances. The author asserts that economic conditions are to blame for the increased prejudice against women. The villagers are unhappy with her not because she has got pregnant out of wedlock but because of the child is born in hard times. Since the husband is not around to help in feeding the extra mouth and the responsibility falls upon the family. It is absurd that the villagers never inquire about the father from the aunt and force him to take responsibility. The economic issues that face the Chinese society lead the community to lose all sense of morality and humanity. Morality and humanity is sacrificed on the altar of survival. The changing socio dynamics which have resulted into increasing westernization in favor of men while women still remain shackled to old discriminative culture. This is a reflection of the universal social dynamics which still impose certain restrictions on women yet men are allowed not to abide expected norms with little or no consequence.