I just finished reading "The Good Women of China" by Xinran Xue.
It got me thinking down a not, I admit, very original path, but a thorny one.
"The Good Women" is an autobiographical account of Xue's time working on a call-in radio show in China. The book is a collection of experiences told to her by her female callers. It is, as might be expected, pretty horrific. There are assuredly bits of light but, for the most part, it's about poverty, abuse, opression, rape, etc.
Nations have, since nations began, used the body of women as a metaphor for the state. Communist countries have done this with particular gusto. The suffering and stolen virtue of its women are held up as symbols representing the invasion, violation and victory of their countries.
This has led to an interesting duality. Vietnam, for instance, is extremely careful about how "Vietnamese Womanhood" is represented. The flower of the country, the virtue of the nation, the purity of love for the Motherland. And yet it's equally willing to use her violation as a symbol of it's own colonization.
The "Rape of Nanking" was, in actual fact, a rape, or, rather, thousands of rapes committed by the invading Japanese army. The mass rape of women in Kosovo has long since ceased to be a set of individual tragedies. It has become representative of a certian style of warfare. How did the individual experiences of these human beings come to serve the state?
I'm not thinking as clearly as I'd like this morning, and so I'm not really doing a good job of explaining this. But somehow, I feel we haven't really gotten past this. Because somewhere in Xue's text lies a strange undercurrent of "See how much we can take?"
Even in the US diorama of visual iconography, the image of the Wholesome, Blonde, Smiling Cheerleader - pompoms at the ready - is only inches away from the pornographic images of her on her knees in the same little blue and white uniform being penetrated by someone off-screen with an unusually large appendage.
"See how much we can take?"
"We" being the operative word here. There seems to be an unending supply of women to be put up on pedestals of virtue or laid low in defamation, in the service of the state.
I wonder what is going to happen when every female fetus is terminated in favour of a son. Who will we use for our propaganda then?
Causes Remittance Girl Supports
Coalition Against the Trafficking of Women The Pleasure Project: A sex-positive organization working in the HIV prevention field.