Consuming femininity: nation-state, gender and Singaporean Chinese women

Wendy Chew

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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My research seeks to understand ways in which English-educated Chinese women in cosmopolitan Singapore bolstered their identity while living under the influences of Confucian values, patriarchal nation-building and racial concerns. My thesis examines women who have themselves been lost in translation when they were co-opted into the creation of a viable state after 1965. Often women are treated as adjuncts in the patriarchal state, particularly since issues of gender are not treated with the equality they deserve in the neo-Confucian discourse. This thesis takes an unconventional approach to how women have been viewed by utilizing primary sources including Her World and Female magazines from the 1960s and 1990s, and subsequent material from the blogosphere. I analyze images of women in these magazines to gain an understanding of how notions of gender and communitarianism/race intersect. By looking at government-sponsored advertising, my work also investigates the kind of messages the state was sending out to these women readers. My examination of government-sponsored advertisements, in tandem with the existing mainstream consumer advertising directed at women provides therefore a unique historical perspective in understanding the kinds of pressures Singaporean women have faced. Blogging itself is used as a counterpoint to show how new spaces have opened up for those who have felt constricted in certain ways by the authorities, women included. It would be fair to say that women's magazines and blogging have served as ways for women to bolster their self worth, despite the counter-argument that some highly idealized and unhealthy images of women are purveyed. The main target group of glossy women?s magazines is English-educated women readers who are, by virtue of the Singapore?s demographics, mostly Chinese.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2007


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