Session Abstract: As a critical response to recent slut-shaming rife on Web 2.0 and globally emerging #MeToo movement, this panel aims to historicize the phenomena of female shame exemplified in both Chinese and Chinese American contexts. Drawing from interdisciplinary approaches at the intersection of history, theater, literature, cinema/media studies, and performance studies, the panel explores how a range of women have been constructed as “Chinese sluts” within a broad spectrum of deviance, and how the counter-narratives that the women themselves as well as their patriarchal patrons presented complicated, if not confronted, regulations of shame and regimes of power.
Both challenging conventional assumptions about the Chinese wives/daughters and sharing an approach that moves beyond temporal and geographical border, Enhua Zhang rethinks the classic “slut” figure Pan Jinlian as a feme fatale in theatrical productions while Crystal Kwok analyzes memory work around unruly Chinese immigrant women that creates potential space for agency, desire, and resistance. Echoing each other, the papers of Shu Yang and Belinda He turn to the key moments of Chinese socialist revolution when female virtue/shame was reinvented and regulated to meet the Party(-state) imperatives: one tackles rural Communist feminism during the Chinese Soviet Republic and Yan’an era; the other moves to the post-1949 urban space to examine the role of prostitutes in the practice of slut-shaming both familiar and alien to the Mao era.
Embedded in discourses across race, revolution, class, and politics, the strength and usefulness of the Chinese slut shone through the murky definitions of femininity, virtue, and progress.
Paper Presenter: Enhua Zhang – University of Massachusetts Amherst
Paper Presenter: Crystal Kwok – University of Hawaii at Manoa
Paper Presenter: Shu Yang – Western Michigan University
Paper Presenter: Belinda Q. He – University of California, Berkeley