Femininity in Flux: Gendered Virtue and Social Conflict in the Mid–Qing Courtroom

Janet M. Theiss

in Chinese Femininities/Chinese Masculinities

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2002 | ISBN: 9780520211032
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520935303 | DOI:
Femininity in Flux: Gendered Virtue and Social Conflict in the Mid–Qing Courtroom

Show Summary Details


This chapter explores the significance of chastity-centered virtue in the definitions of femininity and, sometimes, masculinity by examining contentions over female virtue in social conflicts that resulted in criminal cases during the Qianlong reign (1736–95). Chastity discourse did not monopolize the construction of femininity in the Qing, but chastity lays at the heart of the paradigm of virtue that informed notions of gender difference and norms of proper behavior in mid-Qing China. It traces the theme of female virtue through some of the many variations of femininity manifested in vignettes of social practice: as a component of self-identity, as the fulfillment of a familial role-type, and as an attribute of reputation and source of social leverage. It also examines interpretations of unfemininity, or shrewishness, as a form of resistance to dominant gender norms and as a useful stereotype in social and legal discourse.

Keywords: chastity; female virtue; Qing; unfemininity; shrewishness

Chapter.  9382 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Anthropology

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.