Rural China’s Invisible Women: A Feminist Political Economy Approach to Food Security


  • Lanyan Chen



From a feminist political economy perspective, this article examines two recent trends in agricultural production in china likely to exacerbate gender inequalities that have been growing since the 1980s economic reforms. First, rural women are looking after land contracted to the family to grow food for the family while men are engaging in trade, marketing agricultural products and/or employment in cities. Second, some men have found opportunities, opened up by the government’s land transfer policy, to create agricultural farms by contracting land from other villagers. Women work for these farms as wage laborers. These trends reinforce male-dominated systems of food provision and pose threats to “food security” in China’s countryside, meaning inadequate access to diverse, valued foods that promote good health. These threats are particularly acute as gender disparities in rural areas increase. I conclude that existing examples of agricultural workers' cooperatives are important prefigurative practices. Such cooperatives could serve as places where women cooperators’ voices are strengthened against patriarchal policies in the household and in communities. This has important implications for food security.