Feminism, both as theory and praxis, has long grappled with the dilemma of sex difference—whether to celebrate women’s “difference” from men as offering a more emancipatory potential or to challenge those differences as man-made in the process of delineating modern sexed subjects. While this debate may be familiar within contemporary feminist discourses, communist feminisms that stretched across the Cold War divide were no less conflicted about what to do with sex difference, most explicitly represented by sexual violence and biological motherhood. Even as communist states implemented top-down, often paternalistic measures, such policies were carried out ostensibly to elevate women’s status as a form of state feminism professing equality for the sexes. Comparing North Korea with China, this article explores how communist feminisms attempted to tackle the dilemma of sexual difference. Through an intertextual reading of two of the most popular revolutionary operas in 1970s communist East Asia—The Flower Girl from North Korea and The White-Haired Girl from China—it attends to the diverse strategies in addressing the “woman question” and the possibilities as well as limits opened up by communist feminisms.

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