The book, The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston is memoirs based on growing up as a Chinese woman. The first memoir, “No Name Woman” is very a powerful and painful piece. Kingston goes into extreme detail of how women were treated in Chinese culture and the harshness that came along with being a woman. Even to this day, women are always being viewed as lesser than men and unfortunately, they don’t have equal opportunities as men. This book shines a light on this issue of gender inequality that has been going on for hundreds of years.
Kingston starts off the first memoir by diving into a horrific story that her mother told her when she was a young woman going through puberty. In this story, her mother tells Kingston about an aunt she once had that had brutally killed herself and her baby. The aunt had committed suicide due to the fact that she was having a baby without having a husband. This had been seen as shameful and unforgivable, no woman should be having sex and carrying a child if they are not married. The aunt committing suicide caused the family to neglect that there even was a daughter in the family. They were so disappointed with what she had done that they didn’t want to remember her.
The family and the village were very aware of the growing baby bump but no one talked about it. They didn’t mention it because it would mean they would have to admit the shameful act she had done. Kingston recalls what her mother had once told her, “The village had also been counting. On the night the baby was born the villagers raided our house… At first they threw mud and rocks at the house. Then they threw eggs and began slaughtering our stock. We could hear the animals scream their deaths- the roosters, the pigs, a last roar from the ox” (5-6). Their house, animals, and food had been destroyed because what her aunt had done was so disgraceful. Not only did the aunt had to face the repercussions but so did the family. This horrible event of slaughtering and suicide had happened in the early 1920s and decades later Kingston’s mother is still warning her on what could happen if she disappoints the family. Kingston states, “Don’t let your father know I told you. He denies her. Now that you have started to menstruate, what happened to her could happen to you. Don’t humiliate us. You wouldn’t like to be forgotten as if you had never been born. The villagers are watchful” (5). This shows that a woman’s role in society hasn’t changed, they still have similar standards of being secondary to men.
In Chinese culture, women were just there to listen to their spouse, look pretty, cook and clean. They weren’t viewed as people or as individuals. They had to bond their feet, to keep intact their tiny feet which would have been seen as beautiful but in reality, it was very painful and excruciating. Women had no say in what they could or couldn’t do, it was the men that were making the decisions. Even from the very beginning at birth, females are seen as inferior. Kingston states, “Mothers who love their children take them along. It was probably a girl; there is some hope of forgiveness for boys” (15). She is saying that if her aunt had a boy that things could have maybe been different. The baby could have lived a full happy life but because she was most likely a girl then she wouldn’t have had a good life. Kingston demonstrates in her book how unequal the two genders live.
To this day, are women still viewed as objects or lesser than men? How?
Did Kingston’s memoir of “No Name Woman,” help you to understand what Chinese females had to endure in traditional Chinese society or only complicate it?