by Siyuan Luo (Bryn Mawr College '17)
"HC2016-577: ge ming hua bao : 'san ba' te kan" 革命畫報: '三八'特刊, “The Special Issue of March 8 of the Revolution Poster” (1927) addresses various aspects regarding women’s liberation. It is a monochromatic poster printed in orange and is divided into four registers of identical size. The first register (upper right) points out that the miserable condition of women and their oppression has two roots: it is caused by foreign imperialism and traditional Chinese patriarchy. A woman lying on the ground with a baby in her arms has the words “man’s appendage” indicated on her leg. She is being subdued by a stiff and sage-like statue in traditional Chinese robes holding a coronet and scepter that reads “rituals that enslave women.” Her husband, marked by the characters “oppressed man” on his clothes, is trapped by the colossal coin representing “imperialism;” his upper body is forcibly pulled backward, causing the massive coin to fall on the woman.
The second register (bottom right) represents how capitalism and landlordism utilize female workers to exploit them for their own interests. The figures of (a metaphorical) capitalism and a landlord — two heavyset men sitting in a chaise — form a combined weight causing the branch to be pulled downward and crush the women workers whose dripping blood transforms into coins dropping down into the pockets of the two men.
The third register (upper left) depicts two contrasting worlds: a bright world in which “gender equality in education” has been achieved, “women fleeing the oppression of forced marriage” are being protected, and “freedom of love” is encouraged; and a dark world in which religious beliefs are considered “superstition,” and “abusing the child-bride,” “concubinage,” and “forced marriage” still exist.
The last register (bottom left) is divided into two parts. On the right, a desperate couple are chained to a massive coin which reads "imperialism." The chains are attached to the necks of the man and woman. On the left, we see a scale with a woman and a man on each side. Two hands, one representing “warlords” and the other “imperialism” are pushing the man’s side down. A huge bare-chested woman, whose arm reads “Revolutionary women of the world, unite!”, brandishes a long sword (“power”) that hacks the two wrists of warlord and imperialism, manifesting the strong determination to eliminate gender inequality.
Despite the fact that political and cultural campaigns had raised the issue of women’s equality in China since the 1910s, the majority of the Chinese women in the early 1920s were still living in greatly inferior conditions. The lack of education, forced marriages, and concubinage were haunting both urban and rural women. The poster metaphorically epitomized a tragic history of Chinese women being oppressed and exploited by traditional ethical codes, imperialism, capitalism, landlordism, and warlordism, and proposes that only by partaking in the National Revolution and eliminating the power of warlords and imperialist forces, could women achieve gender equality and their liberation. The Second National Congress of Guomindang (KMT, Kuomintang, Nationalist Party) mentioned in the poster was held in January 1926, and it approved “The Resolution of Women’s Movements,” which was the party’s first independent resolution for women's liberation. The purpose of the resolution was to grant benefits offered by laws and policies that could promote women in an effort to gain their support for the National Revolution and the party. The Guomindang believed that the power of women who made up half of the Chinese population could not be ignored if they were to achieve a National Revolution, thus the propaganda strategy stressed a strong connection between the realization of women’s interests and the success of the National Revolution.