Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Rhetoric, Theory and Culture (PhD)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Humanities

Advisor 1

Jennifer Daryl Slack

Committee Member 1

Patricia J Sotirin

Committee Member 2

Ketty Thomas

Committee Member 3

Sarah A. Green



This dissertation addresses the gendered implications of science and technology in the era of reforms. It argues that in this era, which began in 1978 and continues today, science and technology are highly romanticized as nearly omnipotent. This results in its being embedded not only into ordinary Chinese people’s lives, hoping to bring them positive changes, but also into the Chinese government’s political practices, hoping to achieve its political purposes through science and technology. It also points out that in the era of reforms, Chinese women’s lived experiences are full of tensions, struggles, and conflicts, as evidenced by the expectations for them to become virtuous wives, caring mothers, and, at the same time, successful professionals. The veneration of science and technology in Chinese culture and the Chinese government’s strict control over science and technology further complicate Chinese women’s experiences.

To illustrate these points, I mainly use the analytical methods “articulation” and “mapping” from cultural studies to explore the impacts of Chinese myth, Confucianism and Daoism, Chinese language, Chinese political practices, and media and popular discourses to explain the status of science and technology and the living situation of Chinese women in the era of reforms. I analyze the cases of the development and use of science and technology: to promote marriage and family, for population control and family design, to promote the discourse of the super mother, and to help women gain independence and fight against sexual violence. I focus on the gendered implications of some specific scientific and technological artifacts, including dating websites, in vitro fertilization (IVF), breast pumps, social media, and many others.

This dissertation contributes to understanding Chinese women and science and technology in contemporary China. It reveals that although Chinese women’s living situations have improved significantly, many of them are still trapped and subordinated. Science and technology, which are always articulated with other elements, especially the Chinese government’s politics, the traditional patriarchal culture, and many Chinese women’s demands for gender equality, aggravate many women’s suffering while also offering some of them extra job opportunities and access to virtual spaces to engage in social activism.