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Queering the New Woman: Ideals of Modern Femininity in The Ladies’ Journal, 1915–1931

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This case study of Republican China’s most widely read women’s periodical, The Ladies’ Journal (Funü zazhi), argues that the New Woman remained a highly contested ideal throughout the journal’s publication from 1915 to 1931. Editors and contributors endorsed competing models of modern femininity that shifted over time, shaped by volatile political conditions and social trends. With a focus on sexual morality, this article subjects normative visions of the modern Chinese woman, as depicted in The Ladies’ Journal, to a queer reading. By exploring the tension between widely circulated heteronormative discourses and their inherent slippages that revealed and fostered subversion, this article demonstrates that, rather than advocating for a clearly defined and radically new icon of sexual liberation, The Ladies’ Journal presented a vision of the New Woman that was capricious, contested, and in some ways conservative.

Affiliations: 1: University of Michigan


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