What Should I Become? Proposing a Chinese Female Identity from a Study of Selected Contemporary Chinese Self-help Literature

By Amy W. S. Lee.

Published by The International Journal of Critical Cultural Studies

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: June 20, 2014 $US5.00

A number of prominent studies have been conducted regarding the proliferation of self-help literature in American society since the 1960s. These studies, usually from a feminist perspective, ascribe the genre’s widespread popularity to the growing financial and social independence of women who, as a result, seek to gain greater control over various aspects of their lives. What these studies make clear, however, is that this self-help literature, whether unthinkingly or by design, is itself significantly prejudiced by the power of consumer marketing, whose aim is to sell goods and services irrespective of any actual benefits accruing to those women who are induced to purchase them. Self-help literature of this kind trades off an already established image of the female subject, and thereby tends to reinforce and perpetuate it. It does not attempt to create a diagnostic approach to the prevailing image, let alone alert its readers to the possibility that there might be other, more enduring achievements to which they could aspire. A similar proliferation of self-help literature in Chinese, especially from Taiwan, emerged in the 1990s, which has in turn stimulated an interest in self-help literature in Hong Kong. This paper aims to study a selected number of such literature, to analyze the "female self" it both reflects and underpins through the advice given and the ideas idiscussed. These manuals cover a range of topics relating to urban women's life and work, including relationships, appearance, lifestyle, spiritual growth, finance, health, and so forth. Taken together, this provides a broad grasp of the fashion in which the female subject and her needs are perceived. This paper will subject this perception to a thorough critical analysis with a view to evaluating its role in popular culture.

Keywords: Chinese Self-help Literature, Female Identities, Female Well-being, Gender Stereotypes

The International Journal of Critical Cultural Studies, Volume 11, Issue 4, October 2014, pp.1-10. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: June 20, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 433.619KB)).

Dr. Amy W. S. Lee

Associate Professor, Department of Humanities and Creative Writing, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong, Hong Kong