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Nennu and Shunu: gender, body politics, and the beauty economy in China.

Nennu and Shunu: gender, body politics, and the beauty economy in China. This essay analyzes recent discourse on two emerging representations of women in China, "tender" women (nennu) and "ripe" women (shunu), in order to examine the relationships among gender, body politics, and consumerism. The discourse of nennu and shunu suggests that older, ripe women become younger and more tender by consuming fashions, cosmetic surgery technologies, and beauty and health care products and services because tender women represent the ideal active consumership that celebrates beauty, sexuality, and individuality. This discourse serves to enhance consumers' desire for beauty and health and to ensure the continued growth of China's beauty economy and consumer capitalism. Highlighting the role of the female body, feminine beauty, and feminine youth in developing consumerism, this discourse downplays the contributions of millions of beauty and health care providers (predominantly laid-off female workers and rural migrant women) and new forms of gender exploitation. Such an overemphasis on gender masks intensified class division. This essay suggests that women and their bodies become new terrains from which post-Mao China can draw its power and enact consumerism. Gender constitutes both an economic multiplier to boost China's consumer capitalism and a biopolitical strategy to regulate and remold women and their bodies into subjects that are identified with the state's political and economic objectives. Since consumerism has been incorporated into China's nation-building project, gender thus becomes a vital resource for both consumer capitalist development and nation building. This essay shows that both gender and the body are useful analytic categories for the study of postsocialism. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Signs Pubmed

Nennu and Shunu: gender, body politics, and the beauty economy in China.

Signs , Volume 36 (2): 26 – Mar 31, 2011

Nennu and Shunu: gender, body politics, and the beauty economy in China.


Abstract

This essay analyzes recent discourse on two emerging representations of women in China, "tender" women (nennu) and "ripe" women (shunu), in order to examine the relationships among gender, body politics, and consumerism. The discourse of nennu and shunu suggests that older, ripe women become younger and more tender by consuming fashions, cosmetic surgery technologies, and beauty and health care products and services because tender women represent the ideal active consumership that celebrates beauty, sexuality, and individuality. This discourse serves to enhance consumers' desire for beauty and health and to ensure the continued growth of China's beauty economy and consumer capitalism. Highlighting the role of the female body, feminine beauty, and feminine youth in developing consumerism, this discourse downplays the contributions of millions of beauty and health care providers (predominantly laid-off female workers and rural migrant women) and new forms of gender exploitation. Such an overemphasis on gender masks intensified class division. This essay suggests that women and their bodies become new terrains from which post-Mao China can draw its power and enact consumerism. Gender constitutes both an economic multiplier to boost China's consumer capitalism and a biopolitical strategy to regulate and remold women and their bodies into subjects that are identified with the state's political and economic objectives. Since consumerism has been incorporated into China's nation-building project, gender thus becomes a vital resource for both consumer capitalist development and nation building. This essay shows that both gender and the body are useful analytic categories for the study of postsocialism.

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ISSN
0097-9740
DOI
10.1086/655913
pmid
21114079

Abstract

This essay analyzes recent discourse on two emerging representations of women in China, "tender" women (nennu) and "ripe" women (shunu), in order to examine the relationships among gender, body politics, and consumerism. The discourse of nennu and shunu suggests that older, ripe women become younger and more tender by consuming fashions, cosmetic surgery technologies, and beauty and health care products and services because tender women represent the ideal active consumership that celebrates beauty, sexuality, and individuality. This discourse serves to enhance consumers' desire for beauty and health and to ensure the continued growth of China's beauty economy and consumer capitalism. Highlighting the role of the female body, feminine beauty, and feminine youth in developing consumerism, this discourse downplays the contributions of millions of beauty and health care providers (predominantly laid-off female workers and rural migrant women) and new forms of gender exploitation. Such an overemphasis on gender masks intensified class division. This essay suggests that women and their bodies become new terrains from which post-Mao China can draw its power and enact consumerism. Gender constitutes both an economic multiplier to boost China's consumer capitalism and a biopolitical strategy to regulate and remold women and their bodies into subjects that are identified with the state's political and economic objectives. Since consumerism has been incorporated into China's nation-building project, gender thus becomes a vital resource for both consumer capitalist development and nation building. This essay shows that both gender and the body are useful analytic categories for the study of postsocialism.

Journal

SignsPubmed

Published: Mar 31, 2011

There are no references for this article.