Zhang Xiaomei submitted on March 7 a proposal suggesting that women whose living circumstances permit be encouraged to devote their energies to the home rather than going out to work. She explained that this return to the household could be either in the form of women becoming full-time home makers or through policies, such as extending maternity leave and allowing days off during summer and winter school vacations, and strengthening the emphasis in labor contracts on consideration for women workers during their menstrual cycle. Zhang emphasized that these policies should be geared to women who want to devote more time to their families whose working conditions do not permit them to.
The topic of happiness has been prominent among this year's CPPCC discussions. Zhang holds that the family is fundamental to happiness, and that the happiness index of individual families and all society would be considerably higher if women were able to devote more time to their families.
"This is not a reversion to an earlier age, but a wise alternative for women's more thorough-going liberation," Zhang said. "Women returning to their families could optimize social human resources, promote efficient social work and ease the unemployment problem."
Zhang also calls for legislation guaranteeing women's rights and interests upon their return to the household. "Women's family property rights should also be protected in ways that give them independent property rights and the right to dispose of and have a share of the household income."
Zhang's suggestion was not well received.
Chinese sexologist Li Yinhe expressed opposition to the proposal on her Sina microblog. "I was stunned at Zhang Xiaomei's proposal. The group of men sociologists who a few years ago called on women to return to families stirred up a hornet's nest of indignation from Chinese women. Their unanimous condemnation of the suggestion intimidated these men into silence. That a woman CPPCC member should raise this proposal again is astonishing, because it neutralizes the most important achievement of women's liberation—that of freeing women from the home and enabling them to join in social productive labor. Zhang should reflect on exactly what she is suggesting," Li said.
"Why doesn't Zhang resign her position as a CPPCC member and be first to return to housework?" was scholar Fang Gang's suggestion.
Fang went on to say that the proposal supports an unequal social gender structure wherein women are confined to the private area while men continue to dominate the rest. "Women have the right to choose to be home makers. But public policy should give them the right to do so in their own way rather than as defined by others. More input from men, rather than women giving up their careers, is the best path to happy households," Fang said.
Many other netizens agreed with Li Yinhe and Fang Gang.
The question raised by the Sina Microblog Smart Secretary, "Do you approve the proposal of women returning home?" drew a negative response from 64% of the 1,428 participants.
Sina microbloger Humei Huayao said: "What an absurd idea! How could a husband pay off a mortgage alone? And who would pay women's endowment insurance?"
Microblogger Wang Jiezhe tweeted: "Whether or not to return to the household is a matter that concerns not only women. Why does society insist on stressing women's dedication to families? It shows no respect for women, who should have equal rights to compete in the job market."
But certain netizens support Zhang's proposal. Microblogger Henan Channel Eight-Xie Jinbo said he supports the idea of women returning to the household because men and women have different roles.
"Due to unclear definitions of men and women's roles, women attach more importance to their careers than their families and entrust their children to the care of parents or parents-in-law. This blurs gender characteristics. In Japan and Korea, men go to work and women stay home to take care of the home and nurture the children. This makes families more harmonious and is a good way of educating the next generation," Xie Jinbo said.
Also in agreement with Zhang was microblogger One Cocoa, who said: "A mother's cultivation of her children carries far more social value than tightening a few screws in a factory."
Microbloger Unicom Loose believes that a mother's influence on children goes even deeper than that of a teacher.
Zhang Xiaomei, however, stresses in her proposal that she is not recommending that all women return to the household, her point being that women play their social roles better in a social setting. "We should let women choose," was Zhang's last word on the matter.
Zhang also expresses support for equal pay for men and women and equal retirement age. But she believes that giving women the right to choose is also important in view of their irreplaceable physical functions of childbearing and nursing.
(Source: finance.ifeng.com/Translated and edited by womenofchina.cn)