I like to look into the mirror. I remember when I was a little girl, I often stood on my toes, trying to find my face in the mirror of the dressing table, which was nearly as high as I was. Now I still like to look into the mirror. Only now, the dressing table is too low for me. As I bend down, I see the face of a young woman, glowing with maturity, confident in her future and fascinated with her own reflection.
The fact that I like to look into the mirror has to do with my granny with whom I spent most of my childhood. I remember clearly that one night I heard her murmuring, "Women can't be seen. Women can't be seen." I was so confused as to look into the mirror the next morning to check if I could indeed see myself. Only now as a young woman myself, can I understand that it was not physical visibility that granny had on her mind.
Granny spent all her life taking care of the family, day in and day out. She cooked for her husband and 10 children. But whenever guests came, she and other female family members had to eat by the stove in the small kitchen. At family discussions, she was never asked for her opinion. After grandpa passed away, she had to listen to my uncle, her eldest son, fulfilled her duty as daughter, wife, and mother; yet as a person, she remained little noticed. Even though she could see herself in the mirror of the dressing table, she was never visible in the mirror of society.
I have been living a different life. At home, I make decisions together with the rest of the family. In school, I often take charge of various activities the same as other boys and girls. Not only that, I can see something granny could not have dreamed of─making decisions for my own future. My life has been a series of decisions. I could choose from several universities as I came out of high school. At university, I could choose from a range of subjects from English literature to business law. And now upon graduation, I am again faced with decisions─to further my study or to go to work; to stay in China or to go abroad; to get married right away or to remain single for a bit longer.
It does not matter whether or not I will become famous or rich, but I will treasure the chance to demonstrate my potential and to help other women demonstrate theirs as full members of society, fully visible in the mirror of history. I will treasure it because the abundance of choice that I enjoy came only after decades of efforts made by my granny, my mum, and millions of other Chinese women.
However, the choices to be made by me and others of my generation are a great challenge. The misconception that men are superior to women is still dominating many people's minds. While men are encouraged to compete and to assert themselves, we are expected to be quiet, loyal and obedient. This is not very different from what is expected of us as good wives and good mothers. The challenge we face calls for a higher level of our personal development and self-determination.
The story of my grandmother and myself mirrors the lives of millions of other women in China and perhaps in the world. Many of them still lead the life of my grandmother. Their worth is not yet recognized. It is the responsibility of a young person like me to work hard and struggle hard so that they too will see themselves and will be seen in the mirror of society.
This is my dream. This dream, I believe, is not only shared by our grandmothers, mothers and sisters, but also by many of our fathers, brothers, husbands and male colleagues.