Growing up in Ulanhot

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By: Amber Yang

I grew up in a small city called Ulanhot in China where I was expected to live by strict social rules. Where I am from, woman are not equal to men, they are expected to marry before the age of 30, to have children and to be content taking care of the family and laborious household tasks. I know some women who have been forced into marriage by their parents, including my big sister. 

These traditional ideas have been ingrained in people’s minds but from an early age I felt like this is not a life I want to have. I became a Feminist, before I had even heard the word.

I’m not sure if I always knew what I wanted and who I wanted to be, or if it was more like a seed slowly germinating in my mind. At first I was scared to perceive my feminism in this way, and still probably feel that way sometimes. I feel like some people live so peacefully they forget how to right for their rights. 

My mother is my biggest influence, yet she is also my greatest oppressor. She is the breadwinner in our family, which is unheard of. She showed me that women are able to be independent and can be stronger than men. Even though her example showed me an alternative to my society’s constraints she keeps telling me I have to follow them. That I shouldn't work hard, and that I should just find a husband and have a baby. 

I can remember once when I was 16 my mother finding an entry I had written in my diary. I wrote about my best friend, how we had held hands, and that maybe I had feelings for him. She made me tear up my diary in front of her and she grounded me. To her it was improper behavior, to me it meant I had nowhere to talk about my feelings. After that I built a wall and I stopped talking to my parents as much because I didn't feel like they could understand me. 

I moved to the UK and am studying Fashion Design. I enjoy my life here so much. I am working hard to prove I can live like I want, and can do whatever a man can do. I want other girls who struggle with societal restraints to know what you can be an independent girl. I hope that women have the right to pursue their own life.