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Chinese Discourses on Happiness$
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Gerda Wielander and Derek Hird

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9789888455720

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789888455720.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM HONG KONG SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.hongkong.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Hong Kong University Press, 2021. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in HKSO for personal use.date: 20 September 2021

“Happy Housewives”

“Happy Housewives”

Gender, Class, and Psychological Self-Help in China

Chapter:
(p.129) 6 “Happy Housewives”
Source:
Chinese Discourses on Happiness
Author(s):

Jie Yang

Publisher:
Hong Kong University Press
DOI:10.5790/hongkong/9789888455720.003.0007

This chapter analyzes representations of “happy housewives” in popular psychological self-help media in order to examine the relationship between gender, psychology and privatization in China. Through analysis of media and ethnographic data, I demonstrate that while both gender and psychology are represented as sites of regulation and value extraction, the heart of the housewife is the true space of commodification, where emotions, value, and virtue are all generated. This felt space of possibility and potentiality, constructed by media in concert with state interests, intensifies women’s attachment to commodities and to the world, and enhances consumption and entrepreneurship. Happiness promotion, of which the figure of the happy housewife is a key part, not only objectifies women and renders invisible their complex subjectivities, but downplays the intensified gendered exploitation and class stratification since the mid-1990s when privatization began. In this context, I argue that unhappiness or anger can constitute a repoliticizing process that reinvigorates discussions of class as both an analytical and political category in China.

Keywords:   China, Happiness, Housewife, Heart, Privatization, psychological self-help

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