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Women hold up half the sky.

This is an old Chinese saying. I wonder what hold up mean here. hold up is a phrasal verb, meaning *to remain strong or successful. Nevertheless, in the example, this sense does not seem to work. Perhaps we do not have a phrasal verb here. What does the sentence mean exactly?

P.S.

In Macmillan Dictionary, there are five senses for hold up:

hold something high
prevent someone/something from falling
cause a delay
steal by threat of violence
stay in good condition

I think in this context the sense prevent someone/something from falling works flawlessly.

  • You should ask it in the Chinese section. – Zhang Dec 20 '18 at 8:48
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I think that in this sentence hold up means the same as support, carry or shoulder the weight. The sky is above us and it takes, metaphorically, a lot of work to keep it up there.

Compare with Atlas from Greek mythology, condemned to hold up all of the heavens by himself.

Mao used this saying in one of his speeches, commending women for their role in building/running the society. Anyway, the meaning is just that. Women amount to half the population and hence half the workforce. People entertaining traditional gender roles may occasionally forget this, and this saying is an eloquent reminder.

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    What an excellent answer. Additional, there is a Chinese idiom 顶天立地 (stand on the earth and hold up the sky). and there is an old saying in the traditional Chinese culture: 男儿应该顶天立地. Man should stand on the earth and hold up the sky. – Zhang Dec 20 '18 at 8:58
  • From Wikipedia: "In Greek mythology, Atlas (/ˈætləs/; Greek: Ἄτλας, Átlas) was a Titan condemned to hold up the celestial heavens for eternity after the Titanomachy." – Juya Dec 20 '18 at 9:02
  • What do you mean by entertain in "People entertaining traditional gender roles may occasionally forget this, and this saying is an eloquent reminder."? – Juya Dec 20 '18 at 9:32
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    @Juya Meaning 3A here. Somewhat archaic. I think it is correct. You may want to wait for an educated native speaker of English for a confirmation :-) – Jyrki Lahtonen Dec 20 '18 at 9:36
  • Found a WP-link. Looks like that collection of links gives more than enough material. – Jyrki Lahtonen Jan 25 at 13:46

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