November 27, 2012 by bethanjthomas
* I am not pregnant, but am simply being feminist on behalf of pregnant women in China in this post.
When I first lived in China, I was 21 years old. Too young to have many friends who were getting married, pregnant or rearing young children. In actual fact, as I couldn’t speak Chinese when I arrived, the majority of my friends were laowai overseas students who were mainly interested in hooking up with local Shanghainese girls and avoiding any pregnancy related issues.
But now I’m back. I’m 29 and can speak Mandarin (to varying degrees on different days). And as a result, a lot of my friends are getting married, giving birth or at some stage in between these life changing moments. I am thus getting an education on some traditional Chinese customs.
And I am outraged.
Whilst I’d like to be culturally accepting, I’d also like to share with the wider world the bizarre discrimination that pregnant women and new mothers receive due to ancient folklore in the Middle Kingdom.
1. Pregnant women may not attend weddings – they are bad luck.
2. Pregnant women may not visit or see new born babies – this is linked to the awful bad luck they carry in their womb.
3. Once you give birth, you may not leave your house for 1 month. Just to reiterate, you may not step outside the walls of your home into the sunshine or fresh air for an entire month.
4. During this month you must eat one chicken (yes, a whole chicken) every day.
5. The aforementioned chicken will be cooked in rice wine and copious amounts of ginger, and you much eat it in its entirety and drink all the alcoholic soup.
6. You may not wash your hair for 1 month after giving birth – its bad for you.
Now, I love China and the friends I’ve been lucky enough to make here, but these customs seem outright archaic and discriminatory against pregnant women and new mothers.
I attended a good friends wedding and was saddened that her best friend couldn’t be there to celebrate due to being 3 months pregnant and thereby evil.
I was sad to see a friend’s wife almost going crazy 30 days into her 31 day lock in with her baby, as she desperately tried to gulp down the final third of her daily chicken and told me how she had planned her first day of freedom down to the final minutiae.
I think being pregnant and a new mother is probably tricky enough without these requirements essentially ostracising you from society.
And why must they do these things? According to a (male) friend, it’s because Chinese women will be unable to breast feed otherwise.
Words can not describe my inner feminist anger.