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Sample Personal Statement for Interdisciplinary Studies in Sociology

My mother was almost muffled to death by my grandparents the moment she was born, simply because she was a girl instead of a boy of the family. It was the sympathetic neighbors who came to her rescue seconds before she breathed her last breaths. Several decades later, the similar fate of being sexually discriminated occurred to her daughter: I was ordered by my parents to discontinue my education just as I was finishing my junior high school. To them, the fact that I am female in gender itself ensured that there could be no bright future for me, however well-educated I could possibly become. Even though, as time passed, I entered a prestigious university in my capacity as the top student of my county at the highly competitive nationwide entrance examination and even though I have made considerable achievements in my professional career after my graduation, I have largely been overlooked in a male-dominated world and I encounter much greater disadvantages in getting promoted than my male counterparts. What is especially outrageous is that one evening when putting up in a hotel during a business travel, one of my male colleagues attempted a sexual molest on me and when rejected, he spread rumors to damage my reputation. Even though I tried to defend myself, my colleagues refused to believe me and I had to undergo all the shame and humiliation. The reason was simple – I am female in gender. To a large extent, those bizarre experiences of mine represent in miniature the frustrations and the dilemmas of contemporary Chinese women.

As a senior journalist of Hunan Provincial TV Station, I have had too many opportunities to witness the dire conditions of Chinese women, especially in rural areas, and to deplore over their pathetic status. If a poor rural family cannot afford proper education to its children, it is always the daughter who is first forced to quit school, and there is no exception to this rule. Since the so-called reform and opening-up campaign of China over the past decades, the market economy, heavily tinted with a capitalistic nature, has produced both positive and negative effects on women’s lives. An increasingly number of women from poor rural areas have flown into cities, only to become prostitutes and frequently their families take this for granted, feeling comforted in the income that their daughters can bring. Moral standards are deteriorating especially rapidly.

All those indicate the particularly complicated nature of the status of contemporary Chinese women. In literature, a female character named Pan Jinglian in the classical novel Jinpinmei---A Story of Three Women has been interpreted in diametrically opposite fashions by critics over the past century, from the symbol of licentiousness to that of the warrior of women’s liberation with the rise of feminist criticism. According to one traditional Chinese concept, the low intelligence of women itself can constitute their greatest virtue. Traditional Chinese society’s prejudice against learned women has resulted in a vicious cycle: the less education women receive, the lower intelligence they develop, the more prejudiced the society becomes against them. Although in law women are accorded equal constitutional rights as men when the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949, Chinese women’s status since 1980’s has actually decreased with the worsening of inflation and unemployment. Apart from increasing prostitution, some economists even proposed that women should go home from their jobs to make room for the redundant male labor. As has been elaborated on by political economics in Marxism, the advanced mode of capitalist production has created economic improvement of the Chinese society, but it has also led to the alienation of human nature as embodied in prostitution. In this dehumanizing process, women are the greatest victims. In this regard, Marxism has already incorporated some penetrating criticism of the evils of capitalism. But I believe that more perceptive interpretations of the changing conditions of contemporary Chinese women can be developed from the perspectives other than Marxism.

All those fall into the category of gender politics (sometimes referred to as sexual politics) and to me those issues have been as puzzling as they are frustrating until I started reading works by Western scholars, including the pioneering research done by on sexual politics by Kate Millet in Sexual Politics and Kathleen Barry in The Prostitution of Sexuality. I find myself become increasingly enlightened by the refreshingly original ideas of those western authors, different from the doctrinaire education I have received so far within the conventional framework of Chinese education. The spirit of criticism, the in-depth scholarly insights, and unique research perspectives as represented by those western writers are what I myself would like to develop in my prospective program. I have eventually come to the realization that a proper understanding of Chinese women’s complicated status has to borrow the western scholarly research findings. In my future studies, I would like to examine the status of Chinese women from the perspective of western feminism and to put it into a theoretical framework, and try to seek some philosophical solutions to the issue. Another task for me is to discover the distinctive features of the problems facing contemporary Chinese women in this are of dramatic social changes, including their sense of disillusionment, displacement, and their desires. In addition, my unique background as a typical Chinese woman is what I can contribute to your interdisciplinary program.

I majored in Chinese Language and Literature as an undergraduate. As a student of humanities, I have also received systematic education and training in history and philosophy, both Chinese and Western. My scores in such courses as Social Psychology, History of Western Philosophy, History of Life Science, History of Natural Sciences, Theory of Marxism, are unusually high, as can be evidenced in my Academic Transcript. As a journalist, I have covered extremely wide ranges of social issues in contemporary China, with special emphasis on women’s status. This has allowed me to accumulate rich social experiences, develop ample empirical knowledge and gain insights into the problems in the real world. Those qualifications should prepare me perfectly for the interdisciplinary sociological studies in the Draper Program.

A tentative title for my Master’s thesis topic can be Gender Politics in Contemporary China. To develop myself into a woman scholar on gender politics, an area of pioneering studies in China, will be my academic goal and the interdisciplinary and intercultural trainings I shall receive in the Draper Program will properly enable me to arrive at my academic goal. I will follow a series of demonstrable, verifiable steps, using an objective method of analysis. By exercising the unique perspectives of a literary critic, a creative writer and a journalist, I wish to add to the understanding of the status of Chinese woman and contribute to the China’s feminist politics and to the feminist studies within a sociopolitical framework.

 


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