Article Title

Cold War Femininities in China and America: National Ideals and Uncontainable Performances in Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire and Yang Lüfang's Cuckoo Sings Again


Zhang Ranran


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

In the Cold War period, femininity was often politically and economically bifurcated into two disparate types: capitalist and socialist. While the notion of capitalist femininity emerged from America's promotion of middle-class femininity as the reproductive center of a flourishing economy, the concept of socialist femininity derived from the Soviet Union's construction of working-class women as emancipated labor heroines. Scholars studying the construction of Cold War femininities have tended to focus on how these polarized femininities were propagated by the United States and the Soviet Union as ammunition for national contestation.1 However, the casting of Cold War femininity solely in terms of United States-capitalist women and Soviet Union-communist women overlooks the complex connections between women in different nations in favor of emphasizing the polarization between competing ideologies or affirming the homogeneity within each ideology. Recently, the complexity of women's existence in the Cold War era has been given more nuance in relation to specific national contexts and non-binary identities. This research has touched upon the constructions of femininity in West Germany and Japan under the co-influences of American and national discourses of femininity,2 the resemblance between the United States and the Soviet Union in their allegations of (dis)loyalty aimed at women in the Cold War era,3 women's political and social activism in the communist nation of Yugoslavia in the early Cold War era,4 and the formation of femininity in Finland under the co-influences of Sovietism and Americanization.5 However, little attention has been paid to how constructions of femininity in China during the Cold War period emerged in relation to those in the United States. This article seeks to address this gap through a comparative analysis of two Cold War plays: Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire (1947) and Yang Lüfang's Cuckoo Sings Again (1957). I interrogate the national fantasy of ideal femininities in both America and China, first, by examining how these femininities were constructed to support the socio-economic ideologies of each nation and, thereafter, by suggesting how Williams' and Yang's plays complicate those constructions through "failed" performances that exceed the containment of women's experiences in this period.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.