The Internet and the Rise in Self-Empowerment of Chinese Women: A Multi-Method Analysis of Women's Blogs

The Internet and the Rise in Self-Empowerment of Chinese Women: A Multi-Method Analysis of Women's Blogs

Xiao Han (University of Westminster, UK)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 31
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9773-7.ch001
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Abstract

Focusing on female Chinese bloggers, this chapter explores the potential of weblogs in the process of female self-empowerment by looking at self-actualisation, construction of social interactions, and the organisation of personal networks. The empirical data used is derived from features analysis of selected female blogs, social network analysis of the relationships between these blogs, and from in-depth interviews with seven female bloggers. This data is complimented by discourse analysis to investigate the communicative purposes of these blogs, and content analysis of selected comments written on the blogs. Overall, the findings show that weblogs help women to become social agents by bringing personal, private and intimate issues onto the public agenda, and by controlling the flow of personal information based on their subjective needs to project a particular identity. However, opportunities for networking between individual bloggers are limited. The processes through which women are empowered as individual actors are also constrained by commercialisation and by traditional norms and gendered cultural stereotypes.
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2. Using Power To Understand Empowerment In Relation To Individual Women

The basic meaning of empowerment is the ability of people to become autonomous, purposive and creative actors in their own choices and decision making (Kabeer, 1999, 2005, 2010; Lister, 2003; Rowlands, 1997). This definition points to an understanding that the fundamental tenet of empowerment is individualistic. Within the realm of development studies, in which the term ‘women’s empowerment’ was first introduced, research into the subject has unambiguously tended to use power – the root-concept of empowerment – as a conceptual tool to stress the individualistic aspects of the concept. In this respect, three models emerge in the depiction of power: (1) power to, (2) power with, and (3) power from within.

The first model, power to, refers to the processes through which individual women and groups develop a sense of agency to change normative rules that govern their lives, but not necessarily at the expense of other people in the broader social structure. Following that, the second model, power with, focuses on the development of “the ability to negotiate and influence the nature of a relationship and the decisions made within it” (Rowlands, 1997, p. 15). It is important to note here that this power with is consistent with an individualistic rather than a group-centred perspective.

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