Table of Contents
Introduction: Dagongmei Definition
Dagongmei are a newly-formed feature of the urban working class in the contemporary China. The number of female migrant workers increases daily as a result of the internal and external factors. The poverty of the Chinese villages, slow social mobility, oppression from the patriarchic society and the marketization of capitalism increased the demand for the labor force. However, the practical implementation of the equal labor participation revealed a more complicated issue. The research suggests that the modern dagongmei originate from the socially grounded inequality between men and women in the Chinese society and the aspiration of the latter to overcome this obstacle. The eventual outcome of the growth of dagongmei number is the formation of the new social class that is currently stuck between the former patriarchic China and the contemporary society being unable to enter the modern age owing to rightlessness and exploitation issues.
The class consciousness drastically changed in China. The party-state-market complex invoked the new tensions in the political force and blurred the boundaries between the two ruling elites – the business one and the political one. This process altered the formerly fixed class prejudices. The opening of China to the global markets imposed the conditions for societal changes including the equal labor participation. The growth of contractual firms facilitated the migration of workers to the new places.
These employment opportunities seemed attractive on the outside for the majority of the labor force willing to abandon the poor stagnating villages. Gangdong Statistics Bureau revealed that migrant female workers make 60% out of 10 million of migrants overall. This data serves the pretext for viewing the dagongmei as a new subclass within the working class. Marx’s term of alienated labor became crucial for dagongmei evaluation as the labor contribution could not be estimated taking into account psychological or sex factors. At the same time, dagongmei class cannot function within the current inhuman conditions imposed on it.
The Historical Background
The emergence of the dagongmei class originated from the several historical conditions. Firstly, more than 70% of the population of China remained rural up to the recent industrialization. Secondly, the commune system dismantling in the post-Mao China destabilized the community ties in the village. Thirdly, the rise of enterprising and the economic reforms of the 1980s called for the additional labor force (Gao, p. 2). This shift caused the enormous migration into the cities. As a result of this shift, women occupied a considerable part of this statistics.
Losing of self-sufficiency heavily impacted on the Gao village explored by Gao. The scarcity of the resources, especially food, required the lessening of the population. The natural migration served the most comfortable way of scarce resources management. The entity of the village as “a class in itself” altered when it ceased being a self-governing body (Gao, p. 249). Only the language issue and dialect difference might reveal a villager in the urban community.
The triple social oppression resulted in the necessity of women entering the labor force. Global capitalism, stated socialism and familial patriarchy invoked the seeking of the employment opportunities free from gender, class and inequality bias. The phenomenon of labor migration, to some extent, became a desperate attempt to earn one’s own living and liquidate the rural-urban disparity. The alarming poverty and instability in the Chinese village were the best illustration of the necessity of change (Ngai, p. 4).
The dagongmei experience numerous internal and external factors that isolate them from the class and former social life. They still depend on their families which decide the issues of marrying out or allowing a daughter to work. This lack of freedom, to some extent, prevents numerous individuals in China from plan their life. The partiality of the transition to the industrialized society is still influencing the process (Ngai, p. 6). However, the numerous “working daughters” prefer a single life as a worker in the city to a married life in the village not only owing to the income factors (Ngai, p. 109). The liberation from the patriarchic system is crucial for understanding their choice.
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The migrant workers continue belonging to their villages despite the permanent work in the city. Hukou factor sets them in the double jeopardy as they are referred to no class. On the one hand, the village registration system characterizes them as the contemporary “peasants”. On the other hand, they become urban citizens as a result of change of their surrounding and attachment to the plant or factory (Gao, p. 5). This issue is the first alienation factor to dagongmei class identity.
The language peculiarities form another alienating factor. The residents in Boyang County Town speak a variety of different dialects that change from the neighboring village of Gao. A Gao “peasant”, in his/her turn, experiences difficulties in communicating with the employer in the city that enables numerous manipulations with human rights and abuse (Gao, p. 10). The disputes over the wages and the working hours might originate from the language and education gap caused by the rural-urban disparity. The panopticon effect particular to the Chinese factories influenced the alteration of the worker’s nature.
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Dagongmei Identity Features
Dagongmei make a class owing to the several identity features. Firstly, marriage is not the life priority for these working women. Secondly, the money-saving process for personal needs and purposes. Thirdly, the initial establishing step in sex equality alters the character and forms greater resistance to the social undertakings.
The majority of the newly-formed class women deem themselves independent. They are not bound for the necessity to marry off. The ability to stay in the city not only provided dagongmei with work opportunities but offered a chance to marry to a more well-off party. Ngai observes numerous examples of “escape stories either from a father’s or a husband’s home” (p. 10). The ability to challenge the family decision is a crucial social shift in the Chinese women.
The money-saving process altered as well. The former tradition of a man-centered family provided males with the exclusive right to money management. Dagongmei, despite the difficult work conditions, plan the budget themselves. The memories of dagongmei in Ngai included continuity of education and a trip to Beijing as the life plans change (p. 9).
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Dagongmei are concerned with wage and rights equality. This specialty provides an opportunity for “class-for-itself” transferring. A new Chinese woman, unbound from the prejudice of the past, receives the unlimited opportunities for self-realization and self-education. This attitude sets personal priorities on top of the dagongmei demand chain. The possibility for this transformation emerges from the rapid globalization and China’s entry into the world of global corporations (Ngai, p. 11). Accordingly, the more China cooperates with the European and world partners, the better opportunities and conditions dagongmei will see in the future.
To conclude, dagongmei is a newly-formed class within the Chinese working class. It appeared due to the land reforms of the 1980s and continues to grow owing to the poverty of the rural regions of China in comparison to the urban areas. The dagongmei or “the working daughters” became isolated from the natural living area that caused crucial changes in their psychology and nature. The necessity of social grouping gave way to the individualistic approach that originated from independence and financial sufficiency. Dagongmei identity is currently associated with the necessity of human rights compliance and the first progressive step in China’s entry to the post-Mao modernity.