invitations to the cinema, to Pizza Hut, and other places she had never been. After they registeredtheir marriage, Zhou moved into the apartment where he lived with his widowed mother, hisdivorced sister and the sister’s son. Despite her husband’s seniority in the family as the only son,Zhou was often at the mercy of her mean-spirited new relatives, who called their marriage asham and accused Zhou of marrying for money. When Zhou became pregnant, she confided tome retrospectively, she considered abortion and even divorce, but stayed in the marriage becauseof her feelings for her husband. ‘He is good to me’, she explained.640A. GaetanoDownloaded by [Chinese University of Hong Kong] at 19:02 10 February 2014
Changing patterns of courtship among rural migrant women are shaped by their mobility.Raised expectations of the future and demands for a partner with good conditions reflect theirincreasing sense of self-worth and achievement compared with non-migrant peers and villageelders. These factors also manifest these women’s ambition to make something of themselves bytaking advantage of the opportunities provided by their distance from home and by the urbanenvironment. Their emphasis on feelings could be interpreted as providing a moral frameworkwithin which to justify both their desire for material betterment and the behaviors necessary toattain that goal (Farrer 2002). It may also have insulated them from the urban stereotypes of ruralmigrant brides as purely mercenary. These changes in turn challenged parental authority anddemonstrated rural women’s independent agency in marriage. My preliminary findings furthersuggest that migrant women who enter freely chosen love marriages may experience morecontrol over their post-marital household and family. Those who marry up, however, continue toexperience discrimination on the basis of gender and rural origin. For my key informants,heterosexual marriage and the nuclear family ideal are important anchors both for theirsubjectivity and for their social and economic security. In this regard, changing patterns ofcourtship do not result in a radical restructuring of sexuality, gender or kinship. Yet themarriages described here are a practical means for rural women to fulfill their own aspirationsfor a better future.Migration, sexuality and social changeIn this article I have used ethnographic methods to explore the subjectivities and experiences ofrural-to-urban migrant women in Beijing as they negotiated gender identity and marital practicesin diasporic space. Rejecting rural identity and all that it signifies, they embrace a moresexualized, urban femininity. In so doing, they reproduce a discourse of ‘eating spring rice’Figure 4.Zhao looking at her wedding photo album. (Photo Arianne Gaetano, 2002.)Gender, Place and Culture641Downloaded by [Chinese University of Hong Kong] at 19:02 10 February 2014
that obscures their real contributions to the economy and rationalizes gender discrimination inemployment, as well as reproducing ideas ofsuzhithat reinforce urban cultural superiority andhence perpetuate social hierarchy. Pursuing freely chosen love matches, young migrant women
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The Land, Human migration, Beijing, Migrant worker, migrant women