For some designers, gendered robots become “a male project of artificially creating the perfect woman,” says Lucy Suchman, a professor of anthropology of science and technology at Lancaster University. Take Jia Jia, a surprisingly human-looking robot unveiled last April by designers from the University of Science and Technology of China. With long wavy dark hair, pink lips and cheeks, and pale skin, she kept her eyes and head tilted down at first, as if in deference. Slender and busty, she wore a fitted gold gown. When her creator greeted her, she answered, “Yes, my lord, what can I do for you?” When someone pulled out a camera, she said: “Don’t come too close to me when you are taking a picture. It will make my face look fat.”
During Chinas long revolutionary years the state both promoted and negated new roles for women. The most severe reaction against female activism was the Guomindangs counter revolution, called the White Terror (1927 - 1928), when female activists were accused of being instigators of societal chaos. During Chiang Kai-sheks relentless hunt for Communists, thousand of women were murdered and raped, including those who had simply bobbed their hair. The Communists, for their part, turned away from what they saw as bourgeois feminist reforms to attack the socioeconomic conditions they perceived as the source of all female oppressions. The idea was that once gender difference was erased, women would be freed to help spearhead the new society. Mao Zedong coined the phrase Women Hold Up Half the Sky, and set in motion a campaign to get women out of the home and into the work force. Selections from oral histories collected during the period illustrate his attempts to mobilize the lowest in society, the female peasant, so she could confront feudal fathers, husbands or landlords.