Chinese socialist women’s cinema

An alternative feminist practice

Authored by: Lingzhen Wang

The Routledge Companion to Cinema and Gender

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138924956
eBook ISBN: 9781315684062
Adobe ISBN: 9781317408055


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In the late 1960s and early 1970s, women’s cinema emerged as a new concept in Anglophone feminist film theory (cine-feminism), and soon developed into a political counter-cinema challenging mainstream commercialism and patriarchal language. By that historical moment, Chinese women directors had already been practicing institutionalized, socialist cinema for nearly two decades, endorsing the mainstream promotion of gender equality, socialist production, and revolutionary ethics. In the 1980s, however, when China underwent economic reform and its “open-door policy,” after a decade of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966–76), the Chinese government and intellectuals turned to the West for a universal model of modernization and cultural discourses. Consequently, the study of Chinese women’s cinema, especially from the socialist period (1949–76), has situated its subject within the terms of debate set by Western feminist critics, centering its criticism on Chinese women directors’ failure to produce counter, minor, or marginalized cinema. The problematic conclusion—that no feminist films were produced during the socialist period—requires a critical re-examination of the relationship between feminism and its specific political and economic contexts.

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