I'm over the moon (pun intended!) that China is sending its first female astronaut into space - although not over the moon that China, a country I do not believe should be the world's leading power seeing as it can't even do basic human rights, is leading the way in space exploration now that NASA has been more or less taken out of the picture.
That said, I'm not sure I'm ready to shout, as Jezebel did, that China is sending a "rocket ship through the glass ceiling".
Liu Yang's trip is clearly a great step forward for Chinese women being more visible in varied career paths, and does provide another strong role model for not just girls in China, or Asia, but around the world, but saying that China has now shattered the glass ceiling is like saying that electing Obama "cured racism" in America.
Because, nuh-uh, no it didn't.
This worries me because if the comments I occasionally get on this blog (some of which I publish, some of which I don't, depending on how coherent and worthy of a response they are) and see on other sites is any indication, people brainwashed by CCP propaganda are now going to go around saying things like "there's no sexism in China! We have a female astronaut!" in the same tone that the racism-deniers use in their "Obama" defense above. I mean, they already say things like "that hurts the feelings of the Chinese people", "Tiananmen never happened" and "most Taiwanese people know that they are Chinese and want to re-join their brothers on the Mainland, it's the evil DPP that keeps them away" and "everyone in China speaks Chinese*" and "Foreigners caused SARS" and "there aren't any gay people in China**".
It's a great, visible step forward, but that doesn't mean the subtle and not-so-subtle sexism women in China (and elsewhere, but we're focusing in China here) have to wade through in their lives is now magically gone.
Women are still going to face job discrimination, discrimination by parents, traditional gender expectations in life, in work and in marriage, second-class treatment and the usual melange of earning less for the same work, snarky comments, incorrect beliefs and assumptions, and admonitions to kow-tow to the all-powerful men's sense of face. (Actual quote from someone I knew in China: "a woman can't be smarter than her boyfriend or husband, because if a woman is smarter than a man, it makes the man lose face, so a woman should marry a man more clever than she is". GAAAAHHHHHHH).
Of course, there are exceptions - I just have to say that before anyone gets all "that's not always true" - you're right, it's not always true, but it's true often enough that it's worth saying out out.
The person who said the above probably isn't going to change his mind because now there's a Chinese woman going to space. The judge who was going to give my boss's son to her abusive ex-husband until she threatened to kill herself in the courtroom is probably not going to be less of an asshole because there's a Chinese woman going into space. The guy who asked me "did your father approve of your trip to China?"*** is probably not going to be less of a douche. The entire town of people who shunned my coworker's now-ex wife because she divorced a man who beat and threatened to kill her probably aren't going to have a change of heart.
So...yay, it's great, but not totally yay. Not yet. Show me real, ground-level change in China and then I'll say "yay" for real.
While I applaud Liu Yang and want very much to see more women like her, just like racism in the US, sexism in China - and racism in China and sexism in the US, because we live in a pretty screwed-up world - is not going away anytime soon and this certainly did not erase it.
*Most (not all) people in China do speak Chinese, but the implication in this statement is that it is the native language of all Chinese citizens (I'm not even going to get into the "they call Cantonese and Mandarin dialects" part of this). If you ignore, say, the Tibetans, the Uighurs and several other ethnic minorities, then that is correct. But, hey, you can't ignore them. Except people do.
**These last two things were statements people actually made to my face in China.
***My answer was "I don't know. I never asked him."
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