All of us (Americans, as well as most of the world) have heard the shadowed stories of China’s “one child per couple” policy. But, maybe because of willful ignorance, or just not being emotionally or mentally prepared for the details of that policy, we didn’t dig too deep into it. Then there’s also the what the communist country would even allow to get out into the public. Lucky for us, Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang had the guts to do what many filmmakers would never even dare do, which is risk imprisonment, and even death, to get this story heartbreaking story out there for the world to see in their new documentary, One Child Nation! (And I say this with no exaggeration. China has very strict laws about information that gets out of the country without their approval.)
The “one child” law came into effect around 1979 and continued all the way through 2013. And was set in place by government officials to control the over-population of China. Which, based on its premise alone isn’t that bad. But like most government “policies” regarding women’s bodies, it’s never that simple. The culture in China is, and always has been, steeped in misogyny. And above all else, little boys are praised as the pride of their family, where little girls are an afterthought. So when China began its “one child” law, it made it that much more dangerous for little girls in that country.
Wang and Zhang document specifically the remote village of China where Wang was raised. And she shares stories of growing up being shamed because her family had the audacity to have two children instead of one. But her being ridiculed in school was the least traumatic part of her story. She was made to participate in “one child” propaganda musicals at school. She was bombarded with imagery everywhere of couples with only one child. But this is very mild, very… “on the surface” stuff she’s revealing. But the more she digs, the darker this story gets.
“…little boys are praised as the pride of their family, where little girls are an afterthought.”
We start to hear stories of women being forcefully sterilized. Women being kidnapped in vans and held down in unsafe and unsanitary locations while doctors performed forced abortions. Even killing the babies while they are still alive. And the way most people in China lived themselves after doing such horrendous acts was to hide behind the fact it was “policy” and they had no choice. Some even went as far as to convince themselves that they were “honoring their country” by doing so and that China is somehow “blessed” for their sacrifice?