Course Code


Course Name

Selected Themes on Gender in China


Thursdays 1:30-4:15pm




Dr. SUN Lin

Teaching Assistant

Huang Xiaotong

Course Description

This course takes an anthropological perspective to debate a general human category, gender, in the context of contemporary Chinese society. Through this approach, the course will show how the notion of gender is largely a sociocultural product. The anthropological approach helps us contemplate takenfor- granted beliefs regarding gender and sexuality. Gender politics in essence address differences and inequality. Reflecting upon how gender became a category of analysis for anthropologists, we bring to the fore the relationship between culture and power. Students will explore material, economic, political, and sociocultural factors that underpin such processes of construction. This course will start by introducing core concerns, arguments, and approaches related to gender and sexuality in China. After the introductory sessions, we will focus, week by week, on common (or controversial) gender and sexual issues we encounter in our daily lives. Students are encouraged to examine their own gender identities and beliefs critically; to not only understand how our gender assumptions are shaped but also to develop one’s own gender statements.

Course Outline

WEEK 1 (11 Jan): What is Gender, and Why do We Study Gender?: An Anthropological Approach to Gender and Sexuality


  • Ortner, Sherry.1974. “Is Female to Male as Nature Is to Culture?” In Woman, Culture, and
    Society, M. Z. Rosaldo and L. Lamphere, eds. Pp. 67-87.
  • **2Rosaldo, Michelle. 1974. “Woman, Culture and Society: A Theoretical Overview.” In M.Rosaldo and L. Lamphere, eds. Woman, Culture and Society. Pp. 17-42.

WEEK 2 (18 Jan): Performing Chinese Femininities

NO TUTORIAL (Sign up for the tutorial facilitation)

  • Huang, Xin. 2012. “From “Hyper-feminine” to Androgyny: Changing
    Notions of Femininity in Contemporary China.” In John A. Lent , and Lorna Fitzsimmons, eds., Asian Popular Culture in Transition, pp. 133-155.
  • Pei, Yuxin. 2011. “Multiple Sexual Relationships as a New Lifestyle: Young Women’s Sexuality
    in Contemporary Shanghai.” Women’s Studies International Forum (34): 401-410.

WEEK 3 (25 Jan): The Hybridity and Pluralism of Contemporary Chinese Masculinities

  • Song, Geng, and Derek Hird. 2014. “Chinese Masculinity: Is There Such a Thing?” In Men and Masculinities in Contemporary China, pp. 1-21. Leiden: Brill.
  • Song Geng. 2022. “‘Little Fresh Meat’ and the Politics of Sissyphobia.” In Televising Chineseness: Gender, Nation, and Subjectivity, pp. 126-153.
  • **MANN, Susan. 2000. “The male bond in Chinese history and culture.” American Historical Review 105 (5): 1600-1614.

WEEK 4 (1 Feb): Gender and the Chinese State

  • Rofel, Lisa. 1999. “Allegories of Postsocialism.” In Other Modernities: Gendered Yearnings in China after Socialism, pp. 217-256. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Yang, M. M.-H. 1999. “From Gender Erasure to Gender Difference: State Feminism, Consumer Sexuality, and Women’s Public Sphere in China.” In Spaces of Their Own: Women’s Public Sphere in Transnational China. M. M.-H. Yang, ed.: Pp. 35-67. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press.
  • **Yang, Wenqi, and Yan Fei. 2017. “The Annihilation of Femininity in Mao’s China: Gender Inequality of Sent-down youth during the Cultural Revolution.” China Information 31 (1): 63-83.
  • **NAGEL, Joane. 1998. “Masculinity and Nationalism: Gender and Sexuality in the Making of Nations.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 21, 2: 242–68.

WEEK 5 (8 Feb): Gender, Marriage, Power and Resistance

  • Siu, Helen F. 1990 “Where were the Women? Rethinking Marriage Resistance and Regional Culture in South China”. Late Imperial China 2(2): 32-62.
  • Chao, Emily. 2005. “Cautionary Tales: Marriage Strategies, State Discourse, and Women’s Agency in a Naxi Village in Southwestern China.” In Nicole Constable, ed, Cross-Border Marriages: Gender and Mobility in Transnational Asia, pp. 34-52.
  • **Wolf, Margery. 1972. “CH3: Uterine Families and the Women’s Community.” In Women and the Family in Rural Taiwan. Pp. 32-42. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press.
  • **Watson, Rubie S. 1991. “Wives, Concubines, and Maids: Servitude and Kinship in the Hong Kong Region, 1900-1940.” In Marriage and Inequality in Chinese Society, edited by Rubie S.Watson and Patricia B. Ebrey, 231-255. Berkeley: University of California Press.

WEEK 6 (15 Feb): NO CLASS (Lunar New Year Holiday)

WEEK 7 (22 Feb): Empowerment or New Forms of Exploitation?: Gendered Mobility in Contemporary China

  • Schein Louisa. 2005. “Marrying out of Place: Hmong/Miao Women Across and Beyond China.” In Nicole Constable, ed, Cross-Border Marriages: Gender and Mobility in Transnational Asia, pp. 53-79.
  • Klein, Kerstin. 2016. “Assisted Reproductive Technologies, Sperm Donation, and Biological Kinship: A Recent Chinese Media Debate.” In Transforming Patriarchy: Chinese Families in the Twenty-First Century: pp. 219-233.

WEEK 8 (29 Feb): Gender, Class, and Work

  • Yan, Hairong. 2008. “Part I ‘Intellectuals’ Burden’ and Domestic Labor.” In New Masters, New Servants: Migration, Development, and Women Workers in China, pp. 57-79. Durham: Duke University Press.
  • Pun, Ngai. 2005. “Imaging Sex and Gender in the Workplace.” In Made in China: Women Factory Workers in a Global Workplace, pp. 133-164. Durham: Duke University Press.

WEEK 9 (7 Mar): NO Class (Reading Week)
Work on your reflection paper!

WEEK 10 (14 Mar): Gender, Body and Consumption

Reflection Paper Due

  • Wen, Hua. 2013, “The Commodification of the Body.” In Buying Beauty: Cosmetic Surgery in China, pp. 125-146.
  • Zheng, Tiantian. 2009. “Turning in the Grain: Sex and the Modern Man.” In Red Lights: The Lives of Sex Workers in Postsocialist China, pp. 105-146.
  • **Song, Geng, and Derek Hird. 2014. “Masculinities at Leisure.” In Men and Masculinities in Contemporary China, pp. 169-210. Leiden: Brill.

WEEK 11 (21 Mar): Gender, Aging and Caregiving

  • Zhan, Heying Jenny. and Rhonda J. V. Montgomery. 2003. “Gender and Elder Care in China: The Influence of Filial Piety and Structural Constraints.” Global Perspectives on Gender and Carework 17 (2): 209-229.
  • Eleanor, Holroy. 2001. “Hong Kong Chinese Daughters’ Intergenerational Caregiving Obligations: A Cultural Model Approach.” Social Science & Medicine 53 (9): 1125-1134.

WEEK 12 (28 Mar): Gender, Eating and Cooking

  • Gao, James, Z. 2013. “Eating, Cooking, and Shanghai’s “Less-than-Manly Men”: The Social Consequences of Food Rationing and Economic Reforms.” Front. Hist. China 8 (2): 259-293.
  • Liu, Chen. 2020. “Food and Gendered Intimacy.” In Food Practices and Family Lives in Urban China, pp. 50-71. London: Routledge.
  • **Martin, Diana. 2001. “Food Restrictions in Pregnancy among Hong Kong Mothers.” In David Y. H. Wu and Chee-Beng Tan, eds., Changing Chinese Foodways in Asia, pp.97-122. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press.

WEEK 13 (4 Apr): NO Class (Ching Ming Festival)

Final Research Paper Proposal Due (Optional)

WEEK 14 (11 Apr): Individual Consultation Sessions (TBA)


WEEK 15 (18 Apr): Romancing and Queering the Cyberspace: Gender and the Charm of “Beautiful Men”

  • Feng, Jin. 2013. “Addicted to Beauty.” In Romancing the Internet: Producing and Consuming Chinese Web Romance, pp. 53-83.
  • Ye Shana. 2022. “Word of Honor and Brand Homonationalism with “Chinese characteristics”: the Dangai Industry, Queer Masculinity and the “Opacity” of the State.” Feminist Media Studies: 1-17.

Friday, 26 April 2024: Final Paper Due

Assessment & Assignments

Attendance and participation (15%)

Prompt attendance at each class meeting, and active and informed participation are keys to a meaningful learning experience. Completing assigned readings before coming to each class, listening attentively to others, raising insightful questions, posing alternative interpretations, and sharing your related experiences are some of the effective ways to do so. The evaluation will be based on both your attendance, and more importantly, your engagement in class (5% of this part of the grade will depend exclusively on your tutorial participation, see below).

Discussion Facilitation (20%):

Nine tutorials will be open to facilitation by a group of students. Sign up for the topic you are interested in during the 2nd lecture (Week of Jan.18).

Each group will have 20 to 25 minutes to present. Your cardinal job is to raise critical questions relating to that week’s theme and provoke thinking. While you need to prepare your presentation based on the course readings provided by the below weekly reading list, feel free to bring in outside material relating to the theme of the week – news stories, case studies, film clips, and use a variety of formats – role play, debate, games etc. – to facilitate learning. As facilitators, it is important for you to think through these exercises carefully before coming to
class, planning it step by step with clear instructions.

*The remaining 20 to 25 minutes are exclusively for in-class discussion. Every student is encouraged to participate. 5% of the overall “attendance and participation” grade stated above will depend on your performance in this part.

Reflection Paper on a Gender Issue in Contemporary China (30%)

Use one piece of advertisement, news, movie, song, painting photo, etc. or your personal story about yourself, your relatives, your friends, etc. that describes your ideas about a gender issue in contemporary China. Describe in 1,200- 1,500 words why it catches your attention and why you think it’s worth discussing. A good reflection paper should also relate the story to the issues discussed in class and in the readings. This is a good chance for you to scrutinize your view toward gender/sexuality.

A soft copy of the reflection paper, in PDF form, should be submitted via Blackboard to the instructor together with a signed Veriguide receipt on or before March 14, 2024. Unexcused late assignments will result in a grade deduction (5% per day).

Final Research paper (35%):

Students will research and write a paper of 3,000 to 3,500 words on a specific gender issue in China of their choice. Topic for this research paper can be related to your reflection paper or an entirely new one. The paper should be based mainly on primary data collected by yourself via interviews/surveys/library (archival) research/digital (social media) research, etc. Students are also required to use no less than three course readings to facilitate their arguments. Using outside secondary sources is certainly welcome too. All students seeking to produce high-quality work should discuss the research design and source base of their paper
with the instructor.

Students will receive one compulsory consultation session on the writing of this paper in WEEK 14 (Apr. 11). A soft copy of the final paper, in PDF form, should be submitted via Blackboard to the instructor together with a signed Veriguide receipt no later than April 26, 2024. Unexcused late assignments will result in a grade deduction (5% per day).

*In order to ensure the quality of your final paper, you are encouraged to submit a brief proposal/plan (no more than 500 words) on or before April 4 via email and tell the instructor your ideas about how to develop and organize your final paper. It is entirely optional.

VeriGuide can be found at

Attendance and Participation 15%
Discussion Facilitation 20%
Reflection Paper 30%
Final Research paper 35%

Honesty in Academic Work

Attention is drawn to University policy and regulations on honesty in academic work, and to the disciplinary guidelines and procedures applicable to breaches of such policy and regulations. Details may be found at With each assignment, students will be required to submit a signed declaration that they are aware of the policies, regulations and procedures.