Undressing women: What has Ivanka Trump got to do with Chairman Mao’s revolution?
The onetime model, who has her own fashion label and is a mother of three white babies, has recently also become reputed for her controversial c*nt (“Feckless” but otherwise “has neither the warmth nor the depth”).
A woman’s body has never ceased to be part of her political profile.
In one of her biographies, Coco Chanel who helped forge the idea of modern woman and revolutionized her looks in post-war Europe was quoted saying: “All too often I forgot that [I’m a woman].” Except: Coco didn’t. How could she? As one of the 20th century most influential heroines, Mademoiselle Coco left nothing to chance and used everything to become successful, including fraternizing with the Nazi. In human terms, Coco Chanel’s life journey offers a personal yet universal mapping of a woman’s desire, rich and complex like her best selling perfume of all time, while Ivanka Trump is determined to stay daddy’s little girl one hundred years later.
In China, the first daughter of USA is greatly, and perhaps a tad blindly, admired for her image of a successful businesswoman and mother as well as for her ladylike beauty and polished New York City style. In the socialist country with Chinese characteristics, Ivanka has not been revered for her rebellious and progressive style: Ivanka is praised because of her quality of being endlessly supportive to her father’s policies (just like the Harvard degree holder and daughter of China’s president Xi).
My mind coasts to China’s only radical fashion icon, the woman behind Mao’s Cultural Revolution (1966–1976): Comrade Jiang Qing, a.k.a Chairman’s bad wife. Jiang is probably the most unloved, hated woman in China’s entire 3000 years history. However, in this article I would like to repair her name a bit by recounting what she has achieved — as a woman.
American journalist Roxane Witke wrote in her biography Comrade Chiang Ch’ing (1977): “In Shanghai, Wang Guangmei (wife of China’s then president — O’yang) gave a 70,000-word speech…[in] the same week that Jiang gave her speech at the Peking Opera Festival. As Wang told agricultural officials what kind of fertilizer she thought best for Hebei’s difficult conditions, Jiang was telling actors how to wear a pistol in such a way as to avoid damage to the penis. ”
Comrade Jiang Qing was a punk perfectionist and the Mistress of Arts.
The reform of traditional art was kicked off after the founding of the PRC in 1949; these reforms also included the opera. In the early 1960’s, Chairman Mao Zedong complained that China’s stage was still dominated by “emperors, kings, general, chancellors, literati and beauties”, instead of the proletarian heroes of the working class. One woman understood him. And she was to bear the responsibility for the nation’s unpleasant, untoward memory of its leader of the mass revolution.
Famous painter Liu Haisu — who started using nude models at academies — wrote about Jiang Qing: “I returned from Europe in the summer of 1935. [She] was already famous in Shanghai for her role as Ibsen’s Nora. She was a talented artist, and whatever you tell her, she just understands.”
Mao’s call for a new revolutionary art form seemed to inspire her and give her new impulses to create. Jiang Qing started her crusade to dominate the arts world, leaving a unforgettably blameworthy but unforgettably impressive mark. As one intellectual recalled, a nation of 800 million people had just eight approved revolutionary plays. Why is that? Because the heroes and the heroines were gao (lofty), da (glorious) and quan (complete), the Chinese version of Übermensch, although I doubt that Jiang has ever studied Riefenstahl. Admittedly, the effects of the eight model stage works by Comrade Jiang Qing on the Chinese collective memory were increasingly strengthened by the publication of many posters reproducing key scenes from the plays. They were instant classics, bold and refreshing in their fearless use of elements borrowed from Western art. For example, the entire Western orchestra was introduced into traditional Peking opera as well as elegant ballet dancers on light satin slippers who turned and leaped among soldiers waving guns and swords and doing Kungfu moves. The colors of the stage design even had the magnetism à la Warhol.
On November 20, 1980, a proud, lonely woman stood at the bar to face a battery of 35 judges, many of them once her victims. Jiang Qing was brought to trial before a special court, looking composed and conscious that she was the star of the occasion as she entered the crowded courtroom. She was dressed simply, in a black Mao suit, her jet black hair combed straight back. In the cultural and literary fields, her tastes ruled China. It’s also worth mentioning that the Jiang Qing skirt — her signature design — legitimated skirt wearing in Mao’s China. For a decade Jiang Qing’s China chic, a silk shirtwaist dress that incorporated characteristics of Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasty women’s wear, has found home in every Chinese woman’s revolutionary mind. “Make the past serve the present,” Jiang said. “No worshipping Western style dressing.”
Jiang was a die-hard follower of Mao as she claimed at the end of her trial: “I am Chairman Mao’s dog. Whoever he asked me to bite, I bit.”
Three paths of horizontal collaboration in the vertical male politics, but altogether an intimate narrative history of c*nt, either warm and deep or cold and shallow. They have thoroughly understood the importance of being “c*ntable”.
[Julie O’yang’s new political book on China will be launched in coming July. Stay tuned for more info.]