When will it no longer be necessary to attach special weight to the word ‘woman’ and to raise it specially?

Each year this day comes round. Every year on this day meetings are held all over the world where women muster their forces. Even though things have not been as lively these last two years in Yenan as they were in previous years, it appears that at least a few people are busy at work here. And there will certainly be a congress, speeches, circular telegrams and articles.

Women in Yenan are happier than women elsewhere in China. So much so that many people ask enviously: ‘How come the women comrades get so rosy and fat on millet?’ It doesn’t seem to surprise anyone that women make up a big proportion of the staff in the hospitals, sanatoria and clinics, but they are inevitably the subject of conversation, as a fascinating problem, on every conceivable occasion.

Moreover, all kinds of women comrades are often the target of deserved criticism. In my view these reproaches are serious and justifiable.

People are always interested when women comrades get married, but that is not enough for them. It is impossible for women comrades to get onto friendly terms with a man comrade, even more so with more than one. Cartoonists ridicule them: ‘A departmental head getting married too?’ The poets say: ‘All the leaders in Yenan are horsemen, and none of them are artists. In Yenan it’s impossible for an artist to find a pretty sweetheart.’ But in other situations they are lectured at: ‘Damn it, you look down on us old cadres and say we’re country bumpkins. But if it wasn’t for us country bumpkins, you wouldn’t be coming to Yenan to eat millet!’ But women invariably want to get married. (It’s even more of a sin not to be married, and single women are even more of a target for rumours and slanderous gossip.) So they can’t afford to be choosy, anyone will do: whether he rides horses or wears straw sandles, whether he’s an artist or a supervisor. They inevitably have children. The fate of such children is various. Some are wrapped in soft baby wool and patterned felt and looked after by governesses. Others are wrapped in soiled cloth and left crying in their parents’ beds, while their parents consume much of the child allowance. But for this allowance (25 yuan a month, or just over three pounds of pork), many of them would probably never get a taste of meat. Whoever they marry, the fact is that those women who are compelled to bear children will probably be publicly derided as ‘Noras who have returned home’.footnote Those women comrades in a position to employ governesses can go out once a week to a prim get-together and dance. Behind their backs there would also be the most incredible gossip and whispering campaigns, but as soon as they go somewhere they cause a great stir and all eyes are glued to them. This has nothing to do with our theories, our doctrines and the speeches we make at meetings. We all know this to be a fact, a fact that is right before our eyes, but it is never mentioned.