Women suffer under yoke of dual responsibility
Global Times


(Photo: Global Times)

How does it feel to be a woman, especially a mother, in China? The recent surprise hit Chinese movie Lost, Found, which tells the difficult circumstances three Chinese women find themselves in, shows this may not be an easy job for most. 

In the movie, the three women are shown passing through life's pangs and are unhappy despite their social status. Li Jie, an elite female lawyer, divorces her husband - a mummy's boy - and works arduously to secure a decent life for her daughter. She has to hire Sun Fang, a dull and weak rural woman who suffered domestic violence, as the nanny to help take care of the little girl. There is also Zhu Min, a well-educated housewife whose husband cheats on her. She cannot get her child's custody due to economic dependence. Li had condescendingly attributed the miserable life of the other two women to their own weakness. But in her desperate search for her daughter who was taken away by the nanny for revenge, Li discovers the hardships and predicament they have gone through and realizes what a disadvantaged situation most women are in despite their varied backgrounds. 

That's just the reality. Today, the conditions a woman faces are tougher than she used to in yesteryears. In addition to looking after children and the home as they are deemed to be a woman's traditional responsibilities, she is expected to do well at the workplace to be economically independent so as to have a say in the family. Yes, in the same 24 hours a woman has more responsibilities to shoulder than a man. If she works full time without devoting enough attention to the family, she feels guilty. If she chooses to be a housewife, she has to take the risk of losing herself and her husband. In most cases, women exhaust themselves trying to manage their career ambitions and the family with more time and energy spent, not to mention the discrimination and glass ceiling they face at the workplace. After all, as Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, said, "There's no such thing as work-life balance. There's work, and there's life, and there's no balance." 

And what's expected of a man in modern society? Generally a man is considered fulfilling his responsibility if he has a good career to support the family, which doesn't differ much from the past decades or even hundreds of years ago. He would be considered brilliant if in addition he can have a little empathy for his wife and be more than perfect if he babysits and shares the housework. Unfortunately, complaints by women everywhere on social media suggest a majority of men still fail on this count. 

Statistics don't lie. The study by the World Economic Forum released in November found that women spent about 44.6 percent of their non-working hours on unpaid work like taking care of family, while the figure was only 18.9 percent for men, according to AFP. In the study, China has fallen for a ninth consecutive year in terms of gender equality, ranking 100 among 144 countries. 

"Why do women have to pretend to be something that they're not?" Mrs Maisel, the heroine of American TV series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel set in the 1950s, asked on stage as a stand-up comedian after she was cheated by her husband and resolved  to become what she wants to be. It's still hard to answer the question today. Perhaps for a long time, women will still have to fight with work, family, tradition and public awareness. Changes are coming, but they are frustratingly slow.