Thursday, September 03, 2009

Chinese women pilots

Whatever else might be said about the Chinese revolution, it certainly succeeded in furthering gender equality. Can the same be said for China's market reforms?

The Western media likes to carry articles about plucky female entrepreneurs and abandoned baby girls. The message: capitalism has pushed women ahead, but old, feudal attitudes persist.

However, a counter-narrative is that women made great strides under communism---hanging power lines, taking on leadership roles in communes, and, famously, flying planes---and they are now being pushed into lesser roles, valued for their beauty or home-making skills more than their physical strength or politics.

Into this debate drops an article from the English-language version of Global Times, which reports that women fighter pilots will be given "new flight suits especially designed for the female."

I would guess that the old Mao-era flight suits were baggy things, basically the same for men and women (someone can correct me on this). Are the new, form-fitting versions a sign of progress? What narrative do they belong to?


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