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Lost in Beijing: Social Unfairness Is Mainly Caused by Class Discrimination or Gender Discrimination?

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Lost in Beijing: Social unfairness is mainly caused by

class discrimination or gender discrimination?

As a reflective film describing the dark sides of human in the prosperous Beijing, Lost in Beijing seemingly depicts how migrant workers are being exploited in terms of career and love relationship in the city. While many people believe that the social inequality presented in the film is the result of discrimination against migrant workers in the city, this essay will argue that the unfair social events are, in fact, attributed to the Chinese deep-rooted belief of patriarchy, which leads to gender discrimination. It is suggested that even though there is no formation of new class in the city, discrimination will still exist in the form of gender inequality. In the following, it will explain how Lost in Beijing reflects the problem of gender inequality in Chinese society and prove that it is the traditional preference towards men, but not the class discrimination, leading to a series of unfair social issues in the film.

In the context of career development, women are designed to engage in private service industries that mainly target men whilst men are usually portrayed as more professional and successful. The Director, Li Yu, seems to create the contrast to show that Chinese women, in general, are viewed as subordinate to men and have to serve men in order to earn money but not directly focusing on the contrast between urban citizens and rural migrant workers. Take Liu Pingguo (Fan Bingbing) and her friend Xiao Mei (Zeng Meihuizi) as examples. Liu Pingguo works as a masseuse who washes the feet of businessmen and Xiao Mei is a hooker who satisfies the sexual desires of many unknown men. The abovementioned two manual works are designed to fulfil men’s physical desires, representing a lower social status of women who are doomed to serve men. As shown in the film, the Massage Parlour requires their staff to be unmarried young women, implying that one of the job duties of their staff is to provide sexual services and satisfy the visual and physical enjoyments of male clients. The idea is proven by Wang (2011) saying that in the market, female body carries double values, which are labour and sex. On the contrary, men in the film are usually wealthy, for example, Lin Dong (Leung Kafai) is a self-employed rich man who owns the massage parlour that serves middle-class businessmen. It is worthwhile to notice that both Liu Pingguo and her husband, An Kun (Tong Dawei), are migrant workers. Though An Kun is not as wealthy as other men, he does not have to sacrifice his body in return for money as what the women do. As a high-rise window cleaner, An Kun sells his strength and effort in public areas while his wife provides bodily service in a private parlour. In addition, the director does not assign any scenes to describe the unfair treatments encountered by An Kun in the workplace. However, his wife, together with other female colleagues, are told to endure sexual harassments by their male customers. If the class discrimination and the uneven modernization patterns between urban and rural areas had been the major reasons contributing to the workplace inequality as suggested by Ho (2015), the director would have spent more time filming the unfair treatments encountered by both An Kun and Liu Pingguo instead of only emphasizing the incidents happened to female workers, who have little power in their job positions, objectify their bodies to exchange dignity for money in the workplace. The abovementioned idea is supported by Wang (2015) who believes that the gender difference in the workplace is due to the traditional Chinese culture which encourages discrimination against women’s working ability and intelligence. Therefore, it is more reasonable to say that due to the traditional mindsets of Chinese people, women, in general, have limited choice in their career path and have to earn power and money through men while men are perceived as more self-sustained. By the virtue of their higher social status and financial ability, men are inclined to exploit women in the context of career. As a result, it is believed that workplace inequality shown in the film actually exists in the form of gender discrimination against women in China but not solely because of the differences of identities and classes in the city.

The unfair issues are not only filmed in the workplace, but also in the contexts of romantic relationship and marriage. Lost in Beijing takes place in an era when patriarchy is prevalent and men are more socially acceptable to privatize women and their bodies without caring much about their psychological needs. In the following, three sequences in regard to the gender unfairness in the love relationship and marriage will be discussed.

Men tend to use money to solve moral problems

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