A talk given at the Beijing Women’s Normal College, December, 26, 1923
This talk references the play A Puppet’s House by Henrik Ibsen. The play is about a woman who realizes that her husband does not truly love her and is simply using her as a puppet to fulfill her wifely and motherly duties. At the end of the play she decides to leave her family to find herself. The speaker talks about what happens to Nora after she leaves her home. The speaker believes that when women leave the comfort and security of their home where they are provided for, there are only three resolutions for them. They will either end up becoming prostitutes to survive, go back to their husband or starve to death because they are unable to provide for themselves.
The speakers states that in order to escape those inevitabilities, women need financial freedom as well as physical freedom from their husbands and fathers. Women need economic rights so they can support themselves if they choose to leave home and not need a husband to support them. Giving women economic freedom would mean they are no longer completely dependent on the men in their lives. Men want women to be reliant on them so they have complete control over the woman.
The speaker believes that first, in a family, men and women need to equally share their assets, and second, men and women need equal rights. The speaker believes that obtaining economic rights for women will be harder than political rights as the idea of political rights is more abstract and intangible, but for the equal distribution of wealth, to men if women have an equal share of wealth there will be less money for the men themselves. If someone is gaining, someone else has to be losing. The amount of money you have is more tangible and therefore harder to lose or gain compared to something conceptual like the right to vote.
The speaker also believes that teaching children equal distribution of wealth from a young age by giving your children the same amount of money is important, as that will teach them that what they do with their money is their own responsibility. The speaker also believes that a “good memory” is essential, as we need to learn from history and past mistakes. Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
The speaker believes that people have to be tenacious when demanding for economic rights. No matter what people say you have to just keep demanding for it.
Similar to today with how the most prominent thing that senators and representatives listen to is lobbyists and money, the most important step the people have to take is to start organising and demanding that their voice be heard and that people won’t stop demanding for change until change happens. For example, with the gun control movement, the most important thing for it to work is that it doesn’t lose momentum and that even after the initial anger and protests people still talk about it and still call their senators and demand for policy change. So the speaker believes that people need to keep demanding for economic rights in order for change to happen.
1. Is the literature that comes out during a certain time period reflective of the social atmosphere of that society? The play came out in 1879 and women gained the right to vote in 1913 in Norway, was the play part of a social movement for women to gain equal rights?
2. The speaker mentions how China is very set in their ways and we can see that from how people still look back at Confucian texts from thousands of years ago. We can see that tradition is very important to the Chinese and the speaker states that the Chinese are resistant to change. Is the lack of rights for women partially due to the subservient expectations in Confucianism? Children must the subservient to their parents and wives subservient to their husbands?
3. The speaker implies that it is more important for women to gain economic rights before political rights, is the speaker right in saying that?