The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston starts out with a powerful chapter called “No Name Woman.” Kingston covers many topics in this short, 13 page chapter. Everything from cultural differences between China and America, to stories from her childhood and finally, to what this blog post will focus on, the treatment and views of women in Chinese culture. The most shining example of this is the story of the author’s aunt, who inspired the name of the chapter.
The chapter begins with the author’s mother telling her that her “father had a sister who killed herself. She jumped into the family well. We say that your father has all brothers because it is as if she had never been born” (3). As the chapter goes on we find out that the aunt had gotten pregnant while her husband was away in America. The day the aunt was meant to give birth the villagers raided her family home, destroying their belongings and killing their animals. The aunt gave birth alone that night in the pig’s pen after her family kicked her out yelling “ghost! Dead ghost! Ghost! You’ve never been born” (14). They next morning they found her and the baby dead in the bottom of the family well.
The most striking part of all of this to me was when the author explains that the aunt was most likely raped by someone in the village. She says, “the other man was not, after all, much different from her husband. They both gave orders: she followed. ‘If you tell your family, I’ll beat you. I’ll kill you. Be here again next week'” (7). The aunt never said the name of the father, not that it would have mattered anyways. There was no sympathy for her being raped, no respect for her from the man, her family, or her village. There was no support for her, no understanding. She was discarded from the family to the point that no one will speak her name. She took her and her child’s life knowing that there was no one there to support them for something she had no control over.
Rape culture in America is a big problem, but not to this extent, or so I’d like to think. The lack of respect for women is clearly shown in this story. No woman should ever have to experience that kind of pain and loneliness. To be blamed and punished for something that is by no means her fault is heartbreaking. To not even have your own family stand behind you and support you creates a loneliness beyond compare. This story was one of the most blatant examples of how women are treated and viewed in this culture, but it is by no means the only example in this chapter.
What other examples did you notice that highlights the views of women in Chinese culture?
Can you find any connections between this book and any of the other readings we’ve done so far this semester, in regards to the treatment of women in different cultures?
Kingston, Maxine Hong. The Woman Warrior. Random House, 1975.