Female Labor, the Third Sex, and Excrescence in Yan Lianke’s Tamen

Yijiao Guo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


In his 2020 nonfiction Tamen 她們, Yan Lianke conducted an introspection on rural women’s predicaments and the effaced female labor in the Great Leap Forward campaign (1958–1960). Yan argued that rural women, as the third sex in the PRC, suffered from dual exploitations both inside and outside the domestic space. His proposition of excrescence, in particular, unraveled the paradox that females and femininity were inclusively excluded and consequently suspended in the patriarchy-dominated writing about history. By depicting rural women’s disregarded talks-and-chats, life experiences, and social contributions, Yan reengaged the socialist history with a gender perspective, disclosed the amnesia scheme in the national narrative, and underscored the female subjectivity in history. Consequently, Yan’s enriching corrections to the whitewashed history can be seen as a historical-narrative rhizome in-formation that opens the prescribed gender discourse and connects females and femininity to other historical and narrative agencies.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to Yan Lianke
EditorsRiccardo Moratto, Howard Yuen Fung Choy
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781003144564
Publication statusPublished - 11 Mar 2022


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