Women’s Bodies: Propaganda Goes Two Ways

During the Maoist regime the fashion choices of Chinese citizens changed drastically. The unofficial uniform of the public was a Mao suit, a buttoned, neutral shirt with utilitarian pockets. These became the collective outfits of the people and they were worn by men and women alike. As time went on the Mao suit became a cultural icon for the Maoist regime and was equated with both support of the Republic and Mao himself. As such, the Mao suit morphed not only into a piece of clothing, but a symbol used in posters, art, and theater. In this analysis, I examine two images of women’s bodies that are shown wearing a Mao suit to support the Communist government, but in very different ways.
define “women’s bodies” and make a critical claim

In this first example here, we see a poster of a woman operating a tractor or some other large  Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 5.20.02 PM

agricultural machine. She is smiling and happy in her work, wearing comfortable and practical clothing. Here the Mao suit she wears is used as a tool to universalize her to the Chinese viewers of this poster. As the focus of this image, her female body is the most prominent aspect of the art. Interestingly, her body is draped in the baggy Mao suit fabric in a way that intentionally does not show off any curves she might have. We as viewers of this poster are not meant to think of her as sexual but instead as a worker. Her purpose as a supporter of the Communist regime is much more than as a reproductive female body, it is important also as a farmer working to support the country. how about the idea of gender/sexual erasure as the topical sentence?

In the following image, we see a group of ballerinas performing in the ballet The Red Detachment of Women in 1971. These women of the Red Guard are holding guns and wearing the traditional Mao suit with a red armband. In stark contrast to the photo above, the women here are wearing a skin tight version of the same clothing. They are clad in short shorts and Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 5.04.06 PM

high socks that accentuate the thigh and leg. Furthermore, their hair is all immaculately pulled back into a cap and they are gracefully posed within the painting. Their chest is forward and their legs in full view. This image, is intended to show off the female body as distinctly female far more than the other image we see. any connotations regarding this image?

While both these images of women wearing the Mao suit are meant to support the party’s cause, the reasoning behind each is very different. In the first image, it is about the physical power and ability of the woman to be a worker. This is meant to appeal to women who want to work and be productive members of society. The second image is meant to appeal to the desire for beauty and grace. Each is meant to support the Maoist regime, however, they use women’s bodies to do so in very different ways.

female body concealed in working uniform and female body exposed through military uniform: what do the images suggest?