First, victims of sexual violence were predominantly depicted as women of Han ethnicity, the Chinese majority ethnic group, ignoring ethnic minorities. Furthermore, resistance to Japanese imperialism was often framed as Chinese men saving "their" women from Japanese men, constructing Chinese women as vulnerable and passive. Notably, some Chinese writers considered rape by Japanese men as a “punishment” for “promiscuous” Chinese women, agreeing that only “well-behaved” women could qualify as victims. Moreover, by equating Japanese men with perpetrators, sexual violence against Chinese women conducted by their countrymen was trivialized. Therefore, criticism of sexual violence became only possible from the standpoint of nationalism, while justice for victims could only be achieved within the nation-state. I hold that portrayals of “sexually assaulted Chinese women” were simultaneously Han-centric, patriarchal, and nationalist. I argue that a feminist understanding of historical trauma must be critical of imperialism but wary of nationalism, and I hope to explore an alternative means of understanding and telling the narrative of sexual violence against women in modern Chinese history.
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