Sexuality, domesticity, and citizenship in the Chinese media: Man's needs, maid's rights

Publication Type:
Journal Article
China Information, 2008, 22 (2), pp. 221 - 244
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The widespread phenomenon of outsourcing domestic work has profoundly altered the household life styles of urban families and reworked the division of labor at home. However, the extent to which urban consumers depend on the labor and service provided by the rural migrant women is by no means indicative of the degree of "harmony" and civility between the two groups. While the Chinese news media, with its urban and middle-class clientele base, see little chance of selling pictures or headlines featuring the everyday struggles of disenfranchised social groups such as rural migrant women who are employed as domestic workers, they have exercised unprecedented freedom in publishing stories about criminality and sexuality. With the figure of the maid becoming increasingly ubiquitous in urban households, urban consumers of paid domestic work also get a regular dose of "maid stories" in their everyday media consumption. Combining ethnography with detailed media analyses, this article examines the range of gendered positions and modes of sexual subjectivity which have been articulated in these stories. It shows that in a number ways the emergence of a new sexual sensibility for urban, middle-class men is contingent on the exclusion of subject positions for, and the derogation of, the "other" woman-the "intimate stranger" at home. Copyright © 2008, The Documentation and Research Centre for Modern China.
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