Confucianism and Women: A Philosophical Interpretation

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SUNY Press, Jun 1, 2007 - Philosophy - 210 pages
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Confucianism and Women argues that Confucian philosophy—often criticized as misogynistic and patriarchal—is not inherently sexist. Although historically bound up with oppressive practices, Confucianism contains much that can promote an ethic of gender parity. Attacks on Confucianism for gender oppression have marked China’s modern period, beginning with the May Fourth Movement of 1919 and reaching prominence during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. The West has also readily characterized Confucianism as a foundation of Chinese women’s oppression. Author Li-Hsiang Lisa Rosenlee challenges readers to consider the culture within which Confucianism has functioned and to explore what Confucian thought might mean for women and feminism.

She begins the work by clarifying the intellectual tradition of Confucianism and discussing the importance of the Confucian cultural categories yin-yang and nei-wai (inner-outer) for gender ethics. In addition, the Chinese tradition of biographies of virtuous women and books of instruction by and for women is shown to provide a Confucian construction of gender. Practices such as widow chastity, footbinding, and concubinage are discussed in light of Confucian ethics and Chinese history. Ultimately, Rosenlee lays a foundation for a future construction of Confucian feminism as an alternative ethical ground for women’s liberation.
 

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Contents

INTRODUCTION
1
CONFUCIANISM CHINESENESS AND REN VIRTUOUS PERSONHOOD
15
RU AND ITS AMBIGUITY
17
RU STATE AND CHINESENESS
24
REN AS CONFUCIAN VIRTUE ETHICS
34
YINYANG GENDER ATTRIBUTES AND COMPLEMENTARITY
45
YINYANG AND THE OPPOSITIONAL BINARY OF FEMININITYMASCULINITY
48
YINYANG AND CORRELATIVE COSMOLOGY
50
THE FOUR BOOKS FOR WOMEN AND BY WOMEN
103
THE QUESTION OF FEMALE LITERACY AND THE VIRTUE OF WOMENS SPEECH FUYAN
110
CHINESE SEXISM AND CONFUCIANISM
119
GENDER OPPRESSION AND CONFUCIAN VIRTUE ETHICS
122
WIDOWHOOD AND FOOTBINDING
129
TOWARD A CONFUCIAN FEMINISMFEMINIST ETHICS INTHEMAKING
149
THE PROBLEMS OF GENDER AND THE POLITICS OF FEMINISM
150
A HYBRID IDENTITY
152

YINYANG COMPLEMENTARITY AND GENDER HIERARCHY
55
NELWAI GENDER DISTINCTIONS AND RITUAL PROPRIETY
69
NEIWAI RITUALIZATION AND CIVILIZATION
71
NEIWAI FUNCTIONAL DISTINCTIONS AND GENDER HIERARCHY
79
DIDACTIC TEXTS FOR WOMEN AND THE WOMANLY SPHERE OF NEI
95
LIENUZHUAN GUIFAN AND THE TRADITION OF VIRTUOUS WOMENS BIOGRAPHIES
96
REFLECTIONS AND CONCLUSIONS
159
NOTES
161
BIBLIOGRAPHY
185
INDEX
197
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About the author (2007)

Li-Hsiang Lisa Rosenlee is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Mary Washington.

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