Ting Guo https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/23744/all cached version 08/02/2019 22:31:30 en Cyber-feminism in China: between expression and oppression https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ting-guo/cyber-feminism-china-expression-and-oppression <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p lang="en-GB"> In early 2017, a young woman's experiences of violence went viral on Weibo. Her case demonstrates the paradox of social media in China.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Wushan June Snow Story crop.png" alt="Wushan June Snow’s Weibo post about her story. Source: Weibo." title="Wushan June Snow’s Weibo post about her story. Source: Weibo." width="460" height="377" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Wushan June Snow’s Weibo post about her story. Source: Weibo. </span></span></span></p><p>On the surface, 2017 looked set to be a good year for gender equality in China. In early March, for example, <a href="http://www.ecns.cn/2017/03-08/248341.shtml" target="_blank"><span>Fu Ying, spokesperson for the People's Congress</span></a> called at a high-profile press conference for stronger protection of women's rights. </p> <p><span>She acknowledged issues including gender discrimination at work and </span><a href="http://www.womenofchina.cn/womenofchina/html1/people/officials/1703/1828-1.htm" target="_blank">told journalists</a><span>: “It is important for people to change their mindset, and respect women's employment rights. We need to be aware that women and children are the future of our country.”</span></p> <p><span>This seemed like a significant step for the establishment, compared to previous gestures to award honorific titles to women of extraordinary achievements “on various fronts of socialist construction,” for example, while neglecting the struggles and demands of ordinary female workers.</span></p> <p><span>All is certainly not well, however.</span></p> <p><span>The Weibo account “Feminist Voice” 女权之声 has played a huge role in promoting women’s rights in China and has in doing so become well-known internationally as well, for example. But it was censored—blocked from posting updates for a month from 21 February, </span><a href="http://weibo.com/1740974192/ECcqHtEq0?from=page_1005051740974192_profile&amp;wvr=6&amp;mod=weibotime">allegedly for reporting the Women’s March in the US</a><span>.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Earlier this year a young woman who shared her experiences of violence on the Weibo social media platform was also allegedly <a href="http://weibo.com/6010658056/EBLyWDEA4?from=page_1005056010658056_profile&amp;wvr=6&amp;mod=weibotime"><span>put under surveillance as a result</span></a><span>.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Born in a rural village in the Wushan area in 1988, Ma Panyan <a href="http://weibo.com/6010658056/Ewesl7gD9?from=page_1005056010658056_profile&amp;wvr=6&amp;mod=weibotime"><span>said on Weibo that</span></a><strong> </strong>she was sold by her relatives along with her sister, as a child bride. Then, she said she was raped and beaten, and gave birth to a girl at the age of 14.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>In 2016 the Ministry of Civil Affairs acknowledged her forced marriage upon her request for a divorce, but <a href="http://weibo.com/6010658056/EBMhG9FED?from=page_1005056010658056_profile&amp;wvr=6&amp;mod=weibotime"><span>has not even investigated</span><strong> </strong>those involved in her abuse</a>.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Ma’s experiences went viral on Weibo, where she also recounted that there was no proper facility or care during her labour, and a simple blade, rather than a medical knife, was used to perform a c-section. She said she would have chosen to end her own life had her sister not been by her side.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Wushan June Snow_2.png" alt="Ma's profile image on Weibo" title="Ma&#039;s profile image on Weibo" width="160" height="161" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ma's profile image on Weibo.</span></span></span>Her story prompted nationwide sympathy and outrage in China, particularly from other women her age, including myself, who have had better luck and are living comfortable urban lives. The absence of anything close to sufficient institutional support or justice for Ma has further fuelled anger over her case.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>However, a few days after her story first emerged, she stopped updating her Weibo account. Later, she posted to say four men seemingly sent by the authorities to watch over her 24/7.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>On 31 March, Ma suggested on Wechat that it was because of the timing of her case, alongside the high-profile political Two Meetings, that local cadres were watching her.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>A 2 April report in the <em>Chinese Women's Newspaper </em>published by the All-China Women's Federation <a href="http://weibo.com/2606218210/ECFAG65jd?type=commen">criticised past </a><a href="http://weibo.com/2606218210/ECFAG65jd?type=commen">police</a> handling of Ma's case. A 5 April report from the official party mouthpiece <em>Global Times</em> references police responsibility as well, but also exposes a relationship Ma had with another man after she ran away, in 2008, from her abusive home.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Ma gave birth to a girl with disability (cerebral palsy and autism) from that relationship, and is also <a href="http://weibo.com/ttarticle/p/show?id=2309404093128763150879"><span>seeking help online</span></a> for her daughter to receive medical treatment.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Ma's username on Weibo, Wushan June Snow, refers to a famous tale in classical Chinese drama&nbsp;<span>written by Guan Hanqing 關漢卿 (c. 1241–1320) during the Yuan dynasty about a young woman, Dou E 竇娥, who was sold as a child bride and later wronged by her in-laws and sentenced to death by beheading by the governor.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>As the tale is so well-known in China, Ma's username vividly communicates the message of injustice and grievances to thousands of Chinese netizens who were touched by her story and her courage to speak out.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p> Her case also reflects a paradox of social media in China: that despite censorship, it remains a powerful means by which messages can be conveyed to millions of people. Despite the existence of the almighty “Great Firewall,” Chinese internet users are able to communicate with people across the country and even beyond, allowing voices to be heard and receive support from major international media, scholars, reporters, and even world leaders.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ting-guo/blood-brides-feminist-activists-cracking-chinas-patriarchal-order" target="_blank">Two years ago</a></span>, China’s “feminist five” pulled street stunts including Blood Brides (against domestic violence) and Occupy Men’s Toilets (to increase the size of women’s public toilets and equalise wait times for men and women). They also placed stickers to raise awareness of sexual harassment on public transport, catching the eye through social media of major international outlets like The Guardian and CNN, and received a personal endorsement from Hillary Clinton.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Some netizens have remarked that fan groups for celebrities, commercial online shops, and writers and public intellectuals’ Wechat accounts, for instance, can be seen as a successful examples of civil mobilisation and self-organisation.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>But the threat of state surveillance remains omnipresent and those fighting for women's rights and civil liberties are unlikely to forget this. Clear political demands that challenge ruling ideology will still be censored and silenced.</p> <p>A few years ago on Weibo, there were a number of opinion leaders known as ‘Big Vs’ (short for Big VIPs) who provoked public debates on social issues. Today, none of them are still active or even visible on the internet.</p> <p>Xue Manzi, a prominent commentator, disappeared from the online public eye in 2013 after he was arrested for soliciting a prostitute by Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau. (<a href="https://muse.jhu.edu/article/623609" target="_blank"><span>Some suspect that his real offense was sharing comments about corruption and political reform with his more than 12 million followers on Weibo</span></a>).</p> <p><a href="http://cn.nytimes.com/china/20130821/c21weibo-ap/en-us/" target="_blank"><span>Murong Xuecun, a writer with almost 4 million followers, also disappeared suddenly from the internet world in 2013</span></a>. The official party newspaper, People’s Daily, meanwhile published <a href="http://media.people.com.cn/BIG5/n/2014/0225/c376538-24459493.html" target="_blank"><span>a piece on how those Big Vs should spread “positive energies” on the Internet</span></a>.</p> <p>There is a popular idea among foreign policy and tech industry elites that laptops and smartphones can function as “liberation technology” in the hands of people challenging authoritarian regimes.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>At the same time, as <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/29/books/review/free-speech-ten-principles-for-a-connected-world-by-timothy-garton-ash.html" target="_blank"><span>Edmund Fawcett writes in the New York Times</span></a>, most of us are somewhat stunned by the scale and complexity of the forces in play, be they government surveillance, and China’s Great Firewall, or the violent cyber-propaganda of militant Islam.</p> <p>How social media can be used and abused has become a pressing question globally. It has also become a framework for examining the nature of power in the circumstances in which powerless people operate.&nbsp;<span>And in patriarchal societies, women are often the least powerful among the powerless.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Wushan June Snow Timeline.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Timeline of Wushan June Snow’s story. Source: New Media Women, Weibo."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Wushan June Snow Timeline.png" alt="Timeline of Wushan June Snow’s story. Source: New Media Women, Weibo." title="Timeline of Wushan June Snow’s story. Source: New Media Women, Weibo." width="412" height="594" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Timeline of Wushan June Snow’s story. Source: New Media Women, Weibo. </span></span></span><br /></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ting-guo/blood-brides-feminist-activists-cracking-chinas-patriarchal-order">Blood brides: feminist activists cracking China’s patriarchal order</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Internet Continuum of Violence 50.50 newsletter Ting Guo Mon, 10 Apr 2017 21:00:00 +0000 Ting Guo 110022 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Ting Guo https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/ting-guo-0 <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ting Guo </div> </div> </div> <p>Ting Guo&nbsp;received her PhD in Religious Studies from the University of Edinburgh and has worked for the European Studies Centre, University of Oxford and the Center on Religion and Chinese Society, Purdue University. She writes bilingually and is the feature editor for <a href="http://sobooks.tw" target="_blank">sobooks.tw</a> and contributor for Los Angeles Review of Books. She can be reached at @tingguowrites and <a href="https://ting902.com/" target="_blank">https://ting902.com/</a>.</p> Ting Guo Mon, 27 Mar 2017 17:53:51 +0000 Ting Guo 109704 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The first transgender celebrity in China and her sexist dating show https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ting-guo/first-transgender-celebrity-in-china-is-now-hosting-sexist-dating-show <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Jin Xing is a progressive icon, and the first person to openly undergo gender reassignment surgery in China. Why is she now hosting a show that helps parents select docile daughters-in-law?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Chinese DAting.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Chinese DAting.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="283" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A still from ‘Chinese Dating’ shows host Jin Xing (left) introducing a female guest. Credit: Chinese Dating's Weibo account</span></span></span></p><p>Jin Xing is the first transgender celebrity in China, and a progressive icon for many. She enjoys many titles: an accomplished dancer, founder of a modern dance company, a single mother of three adopted children, a talk show host, a business woman, and a wife of an interracial marriage. Now, she is once again under the spotlight for hosting a new dating show: one that features parents choosing potential daughters-in-law for their sons.</p> <p>The first episode of <em>Chinese Dating </em>aired on Christmas Eve, and caused a storm of outrage on the internet that still continues. In the show, parents sit on chairs that move forward when they approve of one of the single girls on stage. Emphasis is put on youth (under 30), good looks, simple past relationships, a good career, a gentle attitude and family-centered values. And for men, wealth. When a girl with a doctorate degree stepped on the stage, the following caption appeared on screens: “but where’s the good looks that we agreed on?”&nbsp; The chauvinistic comments and the patriarchal, misogynistic standards led Quartz News to publish a video titled: “<a href="https://www.facebook.com/qznews/videos/369126170133460/?pnref=story.unseen-section">A new hit Chinese TV show proves sexist ideas still persist there</a>.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/houswork.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/houswork.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="288" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A still from the show 'Chinese Dating' with subtitles by Resonate @resonatevoices.</span></span></span></p><p>Yet Jin Xing has told the audience that she is proud of the show: “I told you, I don’t host average shows”, and presented it as in line with her harsh but fair attitude. (She once told <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/09/jin-xing-transgender-china_n_7034270.html">the Huffington Post</a>: “My words aren’t like massage oil — they’re like acupuncture needles, they go right to the nerve and twist it.”)</p> <p>What has happened to Jin Xing, once an icon of progressive attitudes around gender and sexuality?&nbsp;</p> <h3><strong>The military male dancer turned woman celebrity</strong></h3> <p>Jin Xing was born in 1967 in Shenyang in northern China. Her father was a staff officer in the People’s Liberation Army, a highly privileged position in China, and her mother a translator. This background allowed Jin to enjoy many privileges. By age nine, she was admitted to a prestigious troupe and trained in traditional dance and acrobatics. Both are considered strong propaganda tools in China.&nbsp;</p> <p>With her dancing talents, Jin quickly rose to the high ranks in the military. However, her ambitions and visions for life were beyond the confines of the army. In 1988, she received a scholarship from the Asia Society and left for New York to study modern dance and improve her English. In 1994, after returning to China at the age of 26, Jin once again joined the establishment: she was hired by the Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>So far, it might seem that she had chosen a life of mainstream success in the People’s Republic. However, Jin then felt increasingly uncomfortable in her own skin, and eventually made a decision: to have gender confirmation surgery and become a woman. In 1994, Chinese doctors had almost no experience with such operations, but she still she felt a pull to make the change at home. “I need the chi, I need the earth. I need them to protect me,” she said <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/09/jin-xing-transgender-china_n_7034270.html">at the time</a>. “In a Western environment maybe the technology is there, but my soul is too lonely.”&nbsp;</p> <p>The news that Jin was to be the first person to openly undergo gender reassignment surgery became a national sensation in China. This is no easy task in any country, in particular Chinese society where one’s marital status is a dinner table topic and family is at the core of social values. Luckily, her parents were supportive, which she has said became the backbone of her confidence in her new life. However, a lack of oxygen to one of her legs during the 16-hour surgery put her whole career in jeopardy. The doctors were adamant that Jin would have trouble walking again, let alone dancing. They even signed her disability papers. In an interview with <a href="http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/features/meet-oprah-china-who-happens-be-transgender-942750">Hollywood Reporter</a>, Jin described this period as the most difficult of her life: “I almost committed suicide. I wanted to become a woman, but I didn't want to be handicapped. I didn't want to lose my leg… Maybe I needed to sacrifice more to get to what I wanted. It's not that easy to get what you want. If it was so easy, everyone would do it.”</p> <p>Her military experience proved to be useful and her own resilience paid off: after being released from the hospital in 1995, Jin immediately began intense physical therapy. Over the following year she made a full recovery and eventually — and rather miraculously — returned to the stage as a woman.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/PA-1861404.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/PA-1861404.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="301" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jin Xing at rehearsals of her show 'Shanghai Tango'. Credit: ABACA PRESS /PA Images. </span></span></span></p> <p>A recovered Jin went through a re-incarnation. She founded her own modern dance troupe in Shanghai, and her story brought her nationwide fame. She was invited to be a judge on a local version of the show ‘So You Think You Can Dance’. Her sharp-tongued comments often brought aspiring performers to tears, which earned her the title of Poisonous Tongue and made her an even more beloved TV personality. Her popularity eventually led to her own show, the ‘Jin Xing Show’, a wildly successful programme featuring dance competition and viewed by an estimated 100 million every week.</p> <h3>A single mother who found a loving husband&nbsp;</h3> <p>In addition to her stage success, Jin also became well-known because of her adoption of three children as a single mother. In China adopting children and being a single mother are both rare, and Jin is considered exceptionally courageous.&nbsp;</p> <p>As<a href="http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/asiapcf/06/13/talkasia.xing.scirpt/"> Jin herself explained</a>, “I'm full of love. Of course I have love in my dancing, on the stage. But still I have too much love to give. I was deeply appreciative, I love kids. So I have no problem adopting.”&nbsp;</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/PA-1861401.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/PA-1861401.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="377" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jin Xing, 2004. Credit: ABACA PRESS /PA Images</span></span></span>Her family once again stood by her choice. When she adopted her first child, Leo, now 10, her mother was there to help look after him. And the family was soon joined by Vivian and Julian, now 8 and 7, respectively. In an interview on CNN, Jin said: “Children immediately centered me, grounded me. Wham! In one decade I became very family-oriented. No more wild party girl.”&nbsp;</p> <p>And then on a long transcontinental flight, she met a German businessman in the seat next to her in first class who is reported to have immediately fell for her, and later accepted both the fact that she was once a man, and that she was a single mother of three children. Upon recalling their encounter, Heinz-Gerd Oidtmann, who is now her husband, told the media that he was “swept away by the fantasy that was Jin Xing.” Although he was stunned by her “big package of the past”, after spending some time on his own, he went back to her and made ready to spend their lives together.</p> <p>What adds more flavour to this apparently fairytale story, is how open and confident Jin appears to be about her past and the nature of her parenthood, sexuality, gender, and family. <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/asiapcf/06/13/talkasia.xing.scirpt/">As she once told CNN</a>, when her oldest son asked her “Who is this boy?” while looking at her old photo album, she replied, “That's mommy before”. And her son remarked, “Oh mommy so cute”. “Yes, mommy was a cute boy.” Jin followed the story with the comment:</p> <p>“I think it's very natural, I tell him the family how different...each family is different; the construction of family idea and parenthood is different.”</p> <h3><strong>The new dating show: “</strong><strong>I’m in charge of a good match for my son”</strong>&nbsp;</h3> <p>Why has Jin now become the host of <em>Chinese Dating</em>? And how has modern Chinese society produced a show whose very <a href="https://qz.com/874908/the-new-hit-chinese-dating-show-lets-parents-pick-partners-for-their-kids/">first episode</a> included parents grilling the single girls with questions like “Can you do housework?” and the brutal rejection of a 40-year-old divorcee and single mom?</p> <p><em>Chinese Dating</em> has been slammed by critics both <a href="http://www.sixthtone.com/news/bachelorettes-vie-parental-approval-new-dating-show">within</a> and <a href="https://www.asia-wife.net/2016/12/family-involvement-in-dating-show-stirs-people/">beyond China</a> as a revival of outdated arranged marriages. Chinese netizens also expressed mixed reactions on social media, with some using the word “disgusting”, while others simply enjoyed the entertainment.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Cold womb.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Cold womb.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="288" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A still from the show 'Chinese Dating' with subtitles by Resonate @resonatevoices.</span></span></span></p><p>The show has been referenced in an ongoing discussion in China about the “Giant Infant” culture described by popular psychologist <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Giant-Baby-Nation-Chinese/dp/7213076825">Wu Zhihong in his recent book <em>The Giant Baby Nation</em></a>. In the book, Zhihong attributes the psychological and social problems in contemporary China to collectivism and blind filial piety. &nbsp;In interviews he has also highlighted the problem in the government’s decades-long experiment: the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ting-guo/end-of-china-s-one-child-policy-right-to-reproduce-and-right-to-live-well">one-child policy</a>. According to Wu, for over three decades, such nation-wide population control, the restriction of only allowing one child in a family, has led to cosseting and too much intervention by the family into the child’s adult life, including around marriage, career, and other major life choices. Subsequently, the single child often appears to be overly self-centred and dependent on family support, and often suffers from paranoia and insecurity. We might think of the male participant on&nbsp;<em>Chinese Dating</em>, aged 23, who rapped that, “I’m a childish guy, I enjoy Disneyland, I lacked calcium as a kid and I didn't get enough love after I grew up.”</p> <p>Sun Peidong, sociologist and author of <a href="http://ceas.yale.edu/events/son-also-risesstratification-personal-reading-among-educated-youth-during-cultural-revolution"><em>Who Will Marry My Daughter?</em> <em>Shanghai Parental Matchmaking Corner in the People’s Square of Shanghai</em> (2012)</a>&nbsp;insightfully describes the curious phenomenon that has been happening for over a decade, where hundreds of anxious parents gather in a public space—a large park in central Shanghai—holding the profiles of their kids to find marriage partners for them. The chances of finding a good match at the park itself are low, but the parents – who grew up in the Mao era (many of them were sent down to the countryside) and missed many life opportunities themselves&nbsp; –&nbsp; use the opportunity to share their worries with others who are in the same situation through regular meetings and thus get a special kind of social support. Sun points out the deeper social and political reasons underlying the over-involvement and intervention by parents into their children’s personal lives. People born in the 1950s share a collective anxiety as they once experienced great social instability. Therefore, Sun says, they hate the uncertainty of the future and are afraid that their children would pick the wrong person to marry.</p> <p>Curiously enough, <em>People’s Daily</em>, the official mouthpiece of the government, <a href="http://media.people.com.cn/n1/2016/1230/c40606-28987992.html">published an article defending the show</a>, in which the producer explained that their purpose was simply to facilitate good matches and to improve inter-generational communications. Jin Xing also told the reporter that she agrees strongly with the matchmaking mentality, because “marriage is different from dating, it concerns two families”, and that she has seen enough marriages of “successful elites” around her broken due to the fact that they were “unclear about what marriage is”. She even stressed that “having equal social and economic status is crucial for a marriage, for marriage is not a <a href="http://www.china-embassy.org/eng/zt/bps/t944138.htm">Poverty Reduction Programme</a>”.</p> <p>This attitude might go some way to explain why Jin Xing, someone who has been considered a progressive figure of family and gender in China and abroad, would agree to host a show that brands itself with conservative and reactionary gender and family values.</p> <p>Jin’s courage and resilience are certainly admirable, but she is also privileged in many ways. Born into a family of high-ranking military officials, she was part of the establishment, while at the same time someone who saw opportunity and was able to grasp it, with an outstanding ability to adapt to new and ever-changing environments. When she realised that she could no longer be a top dancer, she transformed and reinvented herself as a TV celebrity and a businesswoman. Together with her husband, she now overseas a transnational corporation, the Purple Star Culture and Communication. Her surgery and the public’s reaction to it were, by all accounts, extremely painful, but it also occurred at a time when China, in particular the entertainment industry and the major cities of Beijing and Shanghai where Jin has been residing since returning from the US, were becoming increasingly open-minded and hungry for change. The society at large might not have accepted her, but the social circle that she is part of has.</p> <p>Therefore, it might be useful to examine how progressive Jin’s story really is. She indeed represents many marginalised voices and disfranchised groups, but she herself has enjoyed many privileges by upbringing and by career. Hence, her success and the glamourised image of a transgender celebrity, could not and is not intended to speak for those who struggle with their gender identity but cannot afford the surgery or being open about it, or the single mothers who struggle to make ends meet and to bring up kids on their own, or young kids with artistic talents but without the necessary access to resources or opportunities.</p> <p>It is understandable that people tend to speak about issues from their own experience and backgrounds, just as political activists do not always value the same reforms, nor always agree on the nature of the problems at hand. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/mar/31/gender-pay-feminism-working-class">A recent study</a> from the UK has shown how feminism has failed working-class women in Britain by focusing too much on gender equality in high-profile roles. The break the glass ceiling approach that simply promotes women in the boardroom has not been as successful in changing family-friendly working culture or providing opportunities for other women to advance. Gender still has a strong independent impact on women's earnings prospects – but class, education and occupational backgrounds are stronger determinants of a woman's progression and earnings prospects.</p> <p>It takes time and effort for any changes concerning social issues to occur, and we tend to focus on, and even glorify and glamourize, key figures who are seen as leading progressive movements or representing a recognised agenda. Meanwhile, the more ordinary stories and struggles are often ignored. The problem comes, as with Jin Xing today in China, when those figures become part of the forces that neglect grassroot-level issues, helping to prevent real change from happening.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 50.50 newsletter Ting Guo Fri, 13 Jan 2017 09:54:06 +0000 Ting Guo 108083 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Questioning rape in China https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ting-guo/question-of-rape-in-china <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>China is witnessing more and more spontaneous protests and online discussions against rape and the deeper structural issues that lie behind questions of sexuality. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/1tingguo_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/1tingguo_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></em><span class="image-caption">Screen capture of the Wechat conversation between the offender and the victim, 4 August 2016. Credit: <a href="http://bowenpress.com/news/bowen_110695.html">Bowenpress.com</a></span></p> <p>In June 2016, a case of rape sparked <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-36674120">rage and controversies on social media in China</a>, though the discussion quickly dropped from the public eye. Two factors might have contributed to the uniqueness of this case and why it caught such attention: first of all, the offender is a senior journalist of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanfang_Daily"><em>Southern Daily</em></a>, one of the most liberal newspapers among the very few in China; and two, the victim, an intern at the newspaper, stated that she “did not realise it was rape”. </p> <p><strong>“All victims have something to be despised” vs the crime of rape <br /></strong></p> <p>On 27 June 2016, the young woman at the centre of the case, university senior H, contacted Cheng who was her mentor (<em>laoshi</em>) when she interned for <em>Southern Daily</em>, and asked him to confirm her internship. He responded first by flirting with her, and then demanded a relationship. As H was not aware of the fact that he was concealing the fact that he was married she did not protest, although she did feel that it was inappropriate, and agreed to go out with Cheng after their meeting. All of a sudden, Cheng asked to see H’s ID, grabbed it from her purse and used it to get a hotel room, and demanded that H come upstairs to talk to him. </p> <p>A confused and scared H asked for help from her best friend on Wechat (Chinese version of Whatsapp with some Facebook features, one of the largest standalone messaging apps in the world by monthly active users), and her friend suggested that she call the police and film this on her phone as evidence. However, H felt it would be alright if they were just to talk, and went to the hotel room without notifying anyone else. Before she could react, she was forced into bed by Cheng who stated that he would pay her afterwards. Amongst all the disasters, he ejaculated in her vagina. H described the process as “confusing”, as she did not feel that he was hard at all and the process only lasted for about three minutes. Out of shock and reverence for Cheng, someone she had looked up to and respected as a mentor, H did what he asked of her: she went to the bathroom and washed herself (though later the police still managed to trace Cheng’s semen in her). </p> <p>H’s friend insisted that they report this to the police, and took the liberty of publishing this story on Weibo, the most popular social media in China. Thus the case became known to the public and quickly went viral on the Internet. </p> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/against rape 2_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/against rape 2_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="246" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></em><span class="image-caption">Screen shot of the story published by the victim’s friend on Weibo which went viral. Credit: <a href="http://chuansong.me/n/396353941284">chuangsong.me</a></span></p> <p>The public reaction was mixed; while many criticised <em>Southern Dail</em>y’s hypocrisy of subscribing to progressive and good professional ethics and at the same time allowing such injustice happen to a young woman, many questioned her naiveté: how could she follow Cheng into the room knowing there was danger ahead? Why didn’t she resist? H answered in <a href="https://theinitium.com/article/20160626-dailynews-china-sexual-assault/">an interview</a> afterwards: “I thought only violence in a dark alley by a stranger was rape; I didn’t know being forced to do it with someone you know could be rape too.” But she certainly regretted her decisions, and kept blaming herself. </p> <p><strong>Mentorship vs submission under patriarchal pressure </strong></p><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/against rape 3.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/against rape 3.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women in China shared photos of themselves in support of the Stanford sexual assault victim. Credit: Buzzfeed.com </span></span></span><br /></strong></p> <p>Cheng is H’s senior and mentor at the paper. Mentorship, or simply reverence for one’s senior occupies a special place in China (and other Confucian societies such as Korea and Taiwan) where teachers and seniors are highly respected -&nbsp; since Confucius was foremost a legendary teacher. Despite the interruption of the Cultural Revolution when formal Confucian rituals and teachings were abolished, the tradition of revering and valuing teachers persists. For instance school education is still operated in a strict and harsh way compared to that of the West (though with statistically outstanding academic performance, see the controversial BBC documentary <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b065661d">Are Our Kids Tough Enough? Chinese School</a>). And seniors in many professions - including journalism - are referred to as <em>laoshi</em>, teachers, showing the position of mentors and the custom of revering professional seniors. </p> <p>Confucian teachings also foster patriarchy, where traditionally women obey their husbands and grown sons in the family, and the boundary of their activities in this tradition, though long criticized and abolished, nonetheless constitute a particular form of patriarchy in modern occupations. It means that women in particular feel obliged to obey seniors in their professional life. <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/591019">Gary Hamilton (1990)</a> remarks that Chinese patriarchy fundamentally differs from that found in the West, and the nature of this difference, to put it in an overly simple way, is that Western patriarchy emphasises the ultimate supremacy of persons, whereas Chinese patriarchy emphasises the ultimate supremacy of roles. </p> <p><a href="http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/00483480210438780">Studies on Chinese professionals</a> also found that the career advancement of men and women was related to some form of favoritism, which was widely seen as directly linked to a cordial relationship of the manager with seniors. This kind of political behavior in Chinese culture serves in gender power relationships, as data shows that women associate themselves with disappointment and “feminised” positions. Professional woman in China often suffer double pressure in professional situations. </p> <p><strong>“One of the most liberal newspapers in China” vs sexism in the newsroom <br /></strong></p> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/nanzhou.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/nanzhou.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></em><span class="image-caption">Southern Weekly readers' signs against censorship, 6th August. Credit: <a href="http://nanzhouxianci.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/blog-post_2143.html">nanzhouxianci.com</a></span><strong> </strong></p> <p>In 2014, when the original New Year's special editorial criticising society by <em>Southern Weekly</em>, (another famous newspaper of Southern Media Group), was changed significantly under the pressure from the propaganda officers, readers showed solidarity by offering signs against censorship.&nbsp; </p> <p>Journalism, the occupation involved in this case, is not the most glamorous job in the world. Being a female journalist in China has all the problems more pronounced because all media in China are state-owned and heavily censored and regulated - in addition to being subject to patriarchy. </p> <p><em>Nanfang</em> media (Southern media), despite being the official <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guangdong">Guangdong</a> Communist Party newspaper, is part of the Southern Media Group which is often considered to be a rare exception. This Guangzhou-based family of papers are known to produce superior reporting, and higher levels of frankness than many PRC mainstream press outlets. Resisting censorship and reporting from social and professional conscience. For instance, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun_Zhigang_incident"><em>Southern Metropolis Daily </em>reported a story against the irrationality and injustice</a> generated by the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hukou_system">hukou system</a> in 2003, the practice of forced repatriation that had victimised a migrant who was actually an urban resident, resulting in the abolition of the Custody and Repatriation system (C&amp;R) by the national government. Cheng himself was famous for speaking up for the under-represented groups. Hence it was particularly disappointing to many that someone from the Southern Media group was exposed as a bullying figure, which resulted in many ironic titles such as “reporter of rape cases reported to be a rapist”. Several more female employees of the <em>Southern Daily</em> also took a stand and stated that they had been harassed by Cheng too, which generated criticisms against <em>Southern Daily</em> as a model for integrity and professional ethics, and reflections on the media industry in China more broadly. In particular, the issue of gender inequality is now higher profile following this incident. </p> <p>In response, the independent platform, <a href="http://cnpolitics.org/2016/07/naked-swimmers/">CNPolitics</a>, pointed out the damaging gender inequality in Chinese media industry. It referred to Haiyan Wang’s work <em>Medias, Culture &amp; Society</em> and an earlier paper in which she refers to female journalists as “<a href="http://mcs.sagepub.com/content/early/2016/04/10/0163443716643148.full">naked swimmers</a>”. While accounting for more than 40% of the labor force in journalism, women still tend to occupy roles with lower pay and less power, and generically speaking they face three sources of gender inequality: women-unfriendly job contracts and salary systems, weak women’s organizations and trade unions, and the prevalence of a sexist newsroom culture. </p> <p>Wang remarks that with the expansion of media outlets, the employment opportunities for media professionals have substantially increased, and women, who are now better educated than before, are obvious beneficiaries of it. Due to fierce competition between different media outlets, journalists are required to work longer hours, and this makes it more and more difficult for female journalists to obtain a good work–family balance. The working environment tends to be more unfriendly and exploitative to women than men, in the sense that women are usually the ones who are expected to take care of family and children after work. In addition, although <a href="http://gaz.sagepub.com/content/66/6/553">media reform</a> has indeed brought about more job opportunities for women journalists and increased their economic independence, it has also introduced new sources of gender inequality.&nbsp; And yet the discussion of this case disappeared from public discussion very soon after the incident. Cheng was detained on 27 June, and <em>Southern Daily</em> issued this statement: </p> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/against rape 4 (1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/against rape 4 (1).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="474" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class="image-caption">Statement from </span></span><span class="image-caption">Southern Daily, ‘The internet-rumoured case of our journalist raping a female intern is now our top priority and an investigation is on its way. If indeed proven true, we will take it seriously without delay. Auditing department, Southern Media Group, 28 June 2016’. Source: Weibo.</span></p> <p>The media industry, which should represent a critical and reflective role of a fast changing society, seems to have failed to pertain a high moral standard for individual media associates. There was even a proud disclaimer that “well, most of us have not raped interns!”. Even without rape, an extreme case of violence, sexism and other forms of inequality are all over this industry. “Once you’ve become pregnant, you drop to the bottom of the career pyramid”, one female journalist remarked. </p> <p><strong>Political progressives vs social conservatives </strong></p> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/against rape 6.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/against rape 6.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></em><span class="image-caption">Women in China shared photos of themselves in support of the Stanford sexual assault&nbsp;victim. Credit: <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/krishrach/women-in-china-are-standing-in-support-of-the-stanford-rape?utm_term=.qekemov21#.qrlEj4o5k">Buzzfeed.com</a></span><span><span class="image-caption">&nbsp;</span>&nbsp;</span><strong> </strong></p> <p>There is a clear contrast between Cheng’s professional image of standing up for social justice and his abuse of power relations that demean female colleagues. This, unfortunately, does not stand alone as a single case: liberal intelligentsia of China - mostly male - are accused of not considering gender issues to be part of the political concern. For instance, in <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ting-guo/life-with-dissident-searching-for-horizontal-freedom">an earlier article</a> of mine I talked about how the radically leftwing house church in China holds a conservative view on marriage and gender. And <a href="http://www.cambridge.org/us/academic/subjects/history/east-asian-history/critical-introduction-mao">many historians</a> have written about how women were treated poorly in Yan’an during the height of Communist revolutions, under the slogan of sexual liberations and equality. To quote <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/41819642?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents">Australian sociologist Raewyn Connell</a>, if a revolution is dominated by one gender, then it is merely a control group of male power replaced by another group of male power, while the structural inequalities persist. </p> <p><a href="http://weibo.com/u/1927070524?topnav=1&amp;wvr=6&amp;topsug=1"><em>Kexuejiazhongtaiyang</em> (“Scientist planting the sun”)</a>, an author for <a href="http://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/1871736/simple-sience-news-website-guokrcom-takes-masses-educational">Guokr.com</a>, a platform for popularising scientific inquiries, published an article on the “male perspective on rape”, detailing the author’s experience of planning a rape which did not eventually happen. The intention of this article, as the author stated, was to warn female readers that “all males are potentially rapists, the best thing you can do is to protect yourself and leave nothing to chance with men.” This has angered both male and female netizens, as it misinterpreted a fundamental question regarding the issue of rape: rape is a form of violence that should not be solved by limiting the public space of anyone vulnerable to such violence. </p> <p>Guokr.com has always been regarded as a progressive and liberal platform that disseminates scientific knowledge to the general public. To a certain extent, it is regarded as an authority in discerning popular rumours with systematic and scientific inquiries. This article however, showed a blind spot in its ideology. </p> <p>Behind this case of rape - all the criticisms towards H, her inferior position at work and submissive attitude to her mentor, and the remarks that a women should protect herself to avoid rape - we are dealing with a system of privilege and exclusion. Because male and female individual identity is formed in relationship to society which gives meaning to social relations, and certain kinds of gender relations strengthen the power and inequality, the revolutionary system in China should respond and change this system.<strong> <br /></strong></p> <p><strong>Pioneer of sexual liberation vs opportunist under patriarchy</strong></p> <p>The story took a surprising turn when <a href="http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1137697,00.html">Muzimei</a>, the first woman in China to openly blog about her various sexual encounters, spoke against H. Muzimei first remarked that <a href="http://www.zhihu.com/question/48073331">“going to a hotel with a man and then calling then police is a badger game”</a>, and later&nbsp; remarked that “wearing a condom does not count as rape”. Feminists were outraged, and criticised her for being egoistic and opportunistic. Once a heroine of sexual liberation and equality, she then turned out to be someone who represses the very human rights of women. While Muzimei did represent a challenge to existing gender bias and taboos in a patriarchal society, she failed to recognise the deeper structural issues behind questions of sexuality and trod on the vulnerable groups, representing, in fact, her own surviving skill as a member of the vulnerable and disadvantaged in a patriarchal society. </p> <p><strong>Looking forward… <br /></strong></p> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/rape_protest9.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/rape_protest9.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="343" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class="image-caption">Women in China shared photos of themselves in support of the Stanford sexual assault&nbsp;victim. Credit: </span></span><a class="image-caption" href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/krishrach/women-in-china-are-standing-in-support-of-the-stanford-rape?utm_term=.qekemov21#.qrlEj4o5k">Buzzfeed.com</a></p> <p>Nonetheless, we are able to see some progress from this case : local police began their investigation out of public pressure from Weibo; so did <em>Southern Daily</em>, which issued its statement on Weibo too. We can see that despite the lack of a free press, existing social media in China has begun to make a social impact and influence public opinion and even decisions. </p> <p>As one Netizen remarked, rape will only stop at rapists, and there are certain social conditions and structures in need of change towards that end in the future. Very soon after this case, <a href="http://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/china-lawyer-07112016162107.html">Zhao Wei, a 24-year-old legal assistant who had been in secret detention for a year was reported to have been released and, raped during her detention</a>. Similar to H’s story, this was also widely discussed - to a certain extent - on Weibo and Wechat. Can these incidents generate more awareness of women’s rights and gender inequalities in China for both genders and beyond? While this question remains open, we are indeed witnessing more and more <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/09/reap-what-you-sow-families-of-seized-lawyers-send-public-warning-to-china">spontaneously organised protests and online discussions</a> about the issue of rape and on these issues more broadly.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ting-guo/blood-brides-feminist-activists-cracking-chinas-patriarchal-order">Blood brides: feminist activists cracking China’s patriarchal order</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ting-guo/china-s-leftover-women-and-left-out-system">China&#039;s &quot;leftover women&quot; and the left-out system</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ting-guo/end-of-china-s-one-child-policy-right-to-reproduce-and-right-to-live-well">The end of China’s one child policy: the right to reproduce and the right to live well</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Continuum of Violence 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter bodily autonomy feminism gender violence against women women and power women's work young feminists Ting Guo Fri, 12 Aug 2016 09:09:27 +0000 Ting Guo 104705 at https://www.opendemocracy.net China's "leftover women" and the left-out system https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ting-guo/china-s-leftover-women-and-left-out-system <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Can a skin brand “change your destiny” in a socially empowering way? A video titled ‘Marriage Market Takeover’ seems to have done a good job, but not without an underlying agenda.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/marriage takeover.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/marriage takeover.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="275" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Cosmetic company’s advertisement video “Marriage Market Takeover”. Source: bbc.com</span></span></span></p> <p>On 8 April, 2016, various social media beyond and behind China’s Great Fire Wall witnessed a wave of circulation of a video titled “<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=irfd74z52Cw&amp;app=desktop">Marriage Market Takeover</a>”. It is a well-made documentary. With dark green coloured background, the whole narrative seems heavy-toned but sincere at heart. A young woman shares the pressure from her parents who keep pushing her to marry (‘I won’t die in peace unless you’re married’), and eventually, the well-known catchphrase: “you are a leftover woman”, despite the fact that she has a good career and a life that she enjoys. She shared with the audience all sorts of pressures she received, and eventually broke into tears with a moving statement “maybe I am being selfish, I want to say sorry to them [parents].” In the end, she eventually went to the marriage market, and her parents, showing understanding and support, nodded in tears, “our daughter is beautiful.”</p><p><span>This video is part of the “</span><a href="http://www.sk-ii.com.sg/en/changedestiny.aspx">Change Destiny</a><span>” campaign produced by high-end Japanese cosmetic company SK-II, which has a large market in China targeting well-off women, and is made by Swedish advertising company Strobel. It tells of the struggles and pressures of China’s “leftover women”, a social group that has received increasing attention internationally as well as domestically as an increasing number of highly educated - yet single! - urban female professionals pose a challenge to the social structure, the imbalanced urban development and sex ratio, and the “harmonious society” that the government has been advocating since the last leadership - with a particular&nbsp; focus on </span><a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1116810/">birth control policy</a><span> as </span><a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1116810/">a fundamental part of the economic reform</a><span>.</span></p> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/woman crying.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/woman crying.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protagonist crying in the video. Source: bbc.com</span></span></span></em></p><p>“Heartbreaking”, “emotional”, “empowering”, “a skin brand bravely stood up for them”, “heart-wrenching”… Titles that spoke positively of this video appeared in major media reports including the BBC and <em>The Washington Post</em>. The following week this video went viral among netizens and was also widely reviewed by scholars of gender and Chinese studies. Female viewers who are in a similar position as portrayed in the video, including those from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other parts of Asia, shared this video online with great enthusiasm, commenting that it speaks directly to them too and they were touched and encouraged by the honest portrait of the reality for many single women in big cities.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/video narrative.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/video narrative.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Video narrative. Source: bbc.com</span></span></span></p><p><span>As the video narrates, “sheng nv” 剩女, which literally meansleftover women, refers to those who are over 25 and still aren’t married yet. And the age 25 is a largely accepted age upon which women are considered to have reached maturity and begun to decline in their biological compositions (and in particular, fertility in many Asian countries, hence there is a social consensus that women should marry and give birth before that. Indeed, women as such often are often a subject that people talk about among neighbours, relatives, and social relations… People might wonder what’s wrong with those single women, and would even consider their single lifestyle in some sense wrong, as it does not accord with the family-valuing tradition and the family-centered social structure. More importantly, as the government is campaigning for citizens with “better quality” (素質), well educated women share the responsibility to reproduce better citizens with the right men. Hence, being single over 25 in China is not only a personal or familial issue, but also social, moral, economic, and political as well. On this issue, Leta Hong Fincher’s book </span><em>Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China</em><span> (2014) most famously details a series of measures ranging from a media campaign to legal setbacks, all of which are ultimately aimed at deterring college-educated women from putting off marriage and family. By doing so, the Communist Party hopes to maintain social stability — </span><em>weiwen </em><span>— and raising the quality (</span><em>suzhi</em><span>) of its population. The prevalence of expressions such as “leftover women” in public discourses are not only demoralising, but also makes one wonder about their long-term damaging effects to Chinese women’s self-esteem and the country’s gender equality.&nbsp;</span></p> <h3>Start your own journey of change… with facial essence? </h3> <p>Fincher, as the consultant for this video, commented that it is about single women labeled as 剩女(see above) finding a way to fight marriage pressure and celebrate their independence. However, as I was watching this highly praised video, I couldn’t ignore SK-II’s iconic red label that persists in every frame in the right corner, and couldn’t help but wonder: are women taking over the marriage market, or is a large cosmetic company taking over our perceptions and understandings of a social issue that has larger, deeper structural constitutions? </p> <p>I was left curious as to how should a woman, then, change her destiny? As in the video the protagonist still ended up in the marriage market. So I went to SK-II website and searched for those magic keywords: #changedestiny. And the website tells me: Start your own journey to change, begin today: SKI-II facial essence.&nbsp;The website states: “the SK-II #ChangeDestiny campaign is inspired by the brand’s commitment to empowering women with the promise of ageless skin and the confidence to shape their best destiny.”</p> <h3>Femvertising: selling empowerment and equality? </h3> <p>Since last year, SKII has invited various celebrities around the world to talk about what it takes to be an independent woman. Their global Brand Ambassador, Cate Blanchett, launched the SK-II #ChangeDestiny campaign in New York City with the global premiere of the new short video, “#ChangeDestiny – Conversations with Cate Blanchett.”&nbsp; </p> <p>It’s not a new practice. As Nosheen Iqbal pointed out <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/profile/nosheen-iqbal">in her article for <em>The Guardian</em></a>, the advertising industry, once bent on selling us sex is now selling us its disgust with sexism. Dove’s decade-old Real Beauty campaign was&nbsp;then considered revolutionary for selling body moisturiser to&nbsp;<em>all</em>&nbsp;women. Later on, wising up to feminism “trending”, as it were, on social media, came c<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmmGClZb8Mg">osmetic brand CoverGirl with #GirlsCan&nbsp;</a>in February 2014. This campaign, said the company, was “about discovering, encouraging whatever it is that makes a girl take up the challenge; break those barriers and turn ‘can’t’ into ‘can’”. It was fronted, credibly, by Pink, Ellen DeGeneres and Janelle Monae. Which was almost enough to make you forget that CoverGirl spent 50 years telling young women “your personality needs layers, your face doesn’t”. However, the big success story of femvertising, and<a href="http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/always-girl-adds-2015-emmy-award-its-haul-trophies-166883">&nbsp;winner of shelves of awards</a>, remains #LikeAGirl from Always, makers of maxi-pads and the like. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/tang wei.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/tang wei.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Part of the #ChangeDestiny campaign, actress Tang Wei. Source: sk-ii.com</span></span></span></p><p><span>There is a commercial drive to sell young women empowerment through individual brands or projects. Likely ones with catchy slogans that can take off on Twitter and ignore any boring analysis of gender inequality in favour of feeling good. The idea that confidence and self-belief is what the debate and struggle is missing is seductive: it encourages sisterly encouragement – likes, shares and stories told in 140 characters are easily digestible, and a soft way to get adolescents, in particular, hooked on the movement – and, of course, your brand. Furthermore, as both women presented in the video and those who are targeted viewers of this video, they are all consumers in for this brand and consumers caught up in a larger global market of capitalism. As British sociologist Zigman Bauman, author of </span><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Consuming-Life-Zygmunt-Bauman/dp/0745640028"><em>Consuming Life</em></a><span>, most famously pointed out, being individuals in the liquid society does not simply mean being good consumers, but also being competitive goods in the global market.&nbsp;</span></p> <h3>“Blame yourself, not the system!” </h3> <p>More crucially, by asking women to take initiative to “make the change”, the responsibility falls onto women’s own shoulders, rather than the societal situations that they are situated within. It is true women should realise their own agency, however, as Cate Blanchette mentioned in her video, the kind of “change” depends where the woman is born, as there are different social constraints. In other words, this campaign’s own ambassador tacitly acknowledged the fact that this video presents the symptom of gender issues around the globe, such as the leftover women in China; at the same time, this campaign and this video do not provide us and those women with a truly empowering solution that does not merely tell a beatified story. </p> <p>That is because many of these gender issues are structural; by placing the choice in individual women’s hands, videos as such evade the responsibility of the system which produces those symptoms. Societal differences behind those stories presented by SK-II are skillfully ignored. Women are encouraged to use the slogan “#changedestiny” and think that it is their attitude that can make the change, ignoring the need for systematic reform that could solve the disheartening issues faced by themselves and many other people who are not selected to be featured in those videos. (Not to mention other ethical dilemmas that SK II is one the companies&nbsp;that&nbsp;run tests on animals, which is an enduring debate concerning the unintended consequences for involving celebrities in&nbsp;activist&nbsp;campaigns.) </p> <p>In all, it is definitely a much welcomed gesture from a cosmetic brand to show the independent spirit of morally-criticised single women (and any other misunderstood or marginalised groups of people who feel stressed by society) and to achieve the much needed reconciliation between different parts of society. However, we should always remember that this is not the priority of a commercial whose success relies on people’s affective response and ultimately, governmental support. The systematic responsibility to push forward structural changes should not be ignored, and that goes beyond consuming and sharing emotions. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ting-guo/blood-brides-feminist-activists-cracking-chinas-patriarchal-order">Blood brides: feminist activists cracking China’s patriarchal order</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ting-guo/end-of-china-s-one-child-policy-right-to-reproduce-and-right-to-live-well">The end of China’s one child policy: the right to reproduce and the right to live well</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ting-guo/life-with-dissident-searching-for-horizontal-freedom">Life with a dissident in China: searching for ‘horizontal freedom’</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> China </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 China 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick women and power gender feminism 50.50 newsletter Ting Guo Mon, 16 May 2016 07:27:33 +0000 Ting Guo 102056 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The end of China’s one child policy: the right to reproduce and the right to live well https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ting-guo/end-of-china-s-one-child-policy-right-to-reproduce-and-right-to-live-well <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>China's one-child policy fundamentally changed the most intimate aspects of Chinese lives. It's removal last month may have been more welcome if structural forces did not remain that continue to stifle the ability of individuals and families to build lives of their own choosing.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>On 29 October 2015, in wake of <a href="http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2015-10/23/content_22265057.htm">the fifth plenary session of 18th Chinese Communist Party central committee</a>, China announced to <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-34665539">demolish its mandatory one-child policy</a> that had been in operation for more than three decades.</p> <p>This breaking news on a policy that concerns the most intimate and essential aspect of human life—reproduction—did not seem to have met with enthusiasm from Chinese Netizens. As <a href="http://weibo.com/dyhtps?from=feed&amp;loc=at&amp;nick=%E5%8F%AF%E7%88%B1%E4%B8%8D%E5%8F%AF%E5%90%8D">some of them commented</a>, without an updated infrastructure and system that supports this policy that will change the lives of millions of women and families, the change of policy does not weigh much. More importantly, some families already began having more than one child, by attaining a different nationality or giving birth outside China—popular choices include Hong Kong, where one-child policy does not apply (which generated <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-17838280">heated tension between local HongKongers and those mainland ‘birth tourists’</a>&nbsp;<span>雙非</span><span>) and </span><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/01/china-us-birth-tourism_n_7187180.html">the US</a><span>, which inspired a box office hit </span><em>Finding Mr Right</em><span> (2013; 北京遇上西雅图, literally ‘Beijing Meets Seattle’). Others pay fines (</span><a href="http://baike.pcbaby.com.cn/qzbd/1008524.html">from 30% of household annual income</a><span>). And for couples who were both born after the 1980s as the only child, they have been made allowed to have two children according to </span><a href="http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673613625441">a policy introduced in 2009</a><span>.</span></p> <p>The biggest irony is perhaps how this policy contradicts the current constitution; as dissident writer <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ma_Jian_(writer)">Ma Jian</a> writes on his <a href="https://www.facebook.com/MAJIAN1953/posts/10154391739528228?pnref=story">Facebook page</a>, that People’s Congress has not yet abolished or revised the <a href="http://www.gov.cn/english/laws/2005-10/11/content_75954.htm">Population and Family Planning Law of the People's Republic of China</a>, or deleted Article 18, which states “the state maintains its current policy for reproduction, encouraging late marriage and childbearing and advocating one child per couple.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/kattebelletje.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/kattebelletje.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>One Child Policy propaganda poster. Photo: Kattebelletje via Flickr.</span></span></span></p><p>Ma Jian may not be an expert on legal interpretation, but he speaks for two generations of women whose biological ability were subject to state regulations (<a href="http://www.jstor.org/stable/3401363?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents">Mao era’s ‘more people, more strength</a>’ policy, then the one-child policy in the 1980s). He further questions the rule by law in China and the Certificate for One-Child Parents by forcefully stating “those forcedly aborted babies still died for nothing, did those families receive compensation? Two generations of mothers who suffered from child-bearing policies, are now being repaid by other mothers’ ovaries. Let each family decide how to live their lives.” Hong Kong commentator <a href="http://www.ejinsight.com/author/wp_7155/">Joseph Lian Yi-zheng</a> also comments in his column for <a href="http://hktext.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/two-child.html"><em>Hong Kong Economic Journal</em></a> that the policies on reproduction reminds him of Nazi Germany, <a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=q7iOAwAAQBAJ&amp;pg=PA37&amp;lpg=PA37&amp;dq=nazi+germany+birth+control&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=8CuJtrBwkB&amp;sig=GdTEtuqqJ27FWTAoTH124xinh3o&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0CFcQ6AEwCWoVChMIrK2cnebwyAIVQ1oeCh2JDQO6#v=onepage&amp;q=nazi%20germany%20birth%20control&amp;f=false">where women’s self-determination was denied and biological role as childbearers was targeted</a>.</p> <p><strong>Family p</strong><strong>lanning in Communist China</strong></p> <p><a href="http://publishing.cdlib.org/ucpressebooks/view?docId=ft3q2nb257&amp;chunk.id=d0e32&amp;toc.depth=1&amp;toc.id=&amp;brand=ucpress;query=the%20question%20is#1">In their study on Chinese families in the post-Mao era</a>, Deborah Davis and Steven Harrell note that in the decade after the Communist victory in 1949, state orthodoxy created a new institutional and moral environment for Chinese families. The influence on Chinese families did not simply lead to destruction or promotion, but contradictions. On the one hand, it undercut the power and authority of patriarchs and destroyed the economic logic of family farms and businesses. On the other hand, it created demographic and material conditions conducive to large, multigenerational households with extensive economic and social ties to nearby kin. In short, Chinese families between 1950 and 1976 survived and reproduced within a paradoxical environment: the often repressive ‘egalitarianism’ of communism permitted more Chinese parents and children than ever before to realise core ideals of traditional Chinese familism, while at the same time the revolution eliminated many of the original incentives for wanting to realise those ideals.</p> <p>Although there is considerable disagreement about the fertility levels of the Chinese population before the early decades of the twentieth century, it is clear that from the 1920s through the 1950s virtually all Chinese couples considered it essential that they have enough sons to ensure that at least one would grow to maturity and continue the patriline. The government also encouraged families to have as many children as possible under the praise for “<a href="http://www.chinauncensored.com/index.php/real-china/267-chinese-call-to-end-one-child-policy-">guangrong mama</a>” (光荣妈妈 glorious mothers) and <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12281752">the slogan that that population growth would empower the country</a> against Western imperialism. Mothers who gave birth to more than five children were rewarded for their contribution to the nation. The national population grew from around 540 million in 1949 to 684 million in 1960.</p> <p>Realising the potential problems with an encouraging birth policy, <a href="http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMhpr051833">the government</a> saw strict population containment as essential to economic reform and began to promote birth control (first in cities) in the <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1550444/">1960s</a>, followed with nation-wide implantation between 1978 and 1980. Statistics show that urban fertility began to diverge from national trends (table 1.1); however, the impact of the one-child policy is not clear-cut. While researchers such as <a href="http://publishing.cdlib.org/ucpressebooks/view?docId=ft3q2nb257&amp;chunk.id=d0e21298&amp;toc.depth=1&amp;toc.id=d0e21298&amp;brand=ucpress;query=the%20question%20is#1">Hill Gates</a> have discovered a relationship between increased capital assets and decreased desire to have children among urban women in the 1980s, there are families, largely from <a href="http://search.proquest.com/openview/8b9c463c882d27fce37a34ca14f5e1b5/1?pq-origsite=gscholar">rural areas</a> (where approximately 70 percent of people live), for which a maximum number of sons are still desirable. Peasants with limited savings and without pensions needed children to support them in old age. As married daughters moved into their husbands’ families, a son was essential—and preferably more than one. Infant mortality had fallen greatly, but <a href="http://www.sup.org/books/title/?id=2426">in 1980</a> it was still around 53 per 1000 live births nationally and higher than that in rural areas.</p> <p><strong>The complexities of living and raising children in China</strong></p> <p>State welfare and other supporting systems have not been sensitive enough to the social changes that come with reproductive policies and economic reform. The cost of raising a child in China, an officially Communist country, might surprise many who have fantasies of free education and state welfare. <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-08-20/china-baby-boom-wagers-go-bust-on-child-cost-burden">Raising a child</a> from birth through to 18 years of age costs about 23,000 yuan ($3,745) a year, according to Credit Suisse Group AG, equivalent to 43 percent of the average household income in China. It has also led to what reporters refer to as a “<a href="http://time.com/4093392/china-one-child-policy-charts/">demographic crisis</a>” in China, as families that preferred male children would abort their female fetuses under the policy; as a result, gender imbalance has become a pervasive problem in China, with a <a href="http://wikistrat.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Chinas-Gender-Imbalance1.pdf">current ratio</a> of 117 boys to every 100 girls </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/vhines.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/vhines.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Photo: vhines200 via Flickr.</span></span></span></p><p>As some <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/china/2011/05/13/chinas-growing-problem-of-too-many-single-men/">observers have pointed out</a>, in a culture like China’s, where the mainstream societal expectation continues to put heavy emphasis on progeny, family network strength and family unit establishment as a benefit to status-building, for these one in four adult Chinese males, being single adds extra dimensions of undesirability. Deep personal anger and frustrations must inevitably be a byproduct of these societal pressures. Furthermore, if these single men will be found predominantly in a single demographic – namely rural, poor and uneducated men, we might see the emergence of a new class of potentially angry, frustrated, relatively poor and uneducated single men, which can mean serious threats to societal stability, if this group builds a class identity that feels antagonized by society as a whole.&nbsp; In regard to societal peace, <a href="https://www.academia.edu/277740/The_Trafficking_of_Women_and_Girls_for_Prostitution_and_Brides_in_China">studies</a> have shown the increasing number of crimes including sex trafficking — as a way to provide brides and carry on family lines--in China as a result of gender imbalance.</p> <p>And another demographic crisis is looming, as the population ages and there aren’t enough people in younger generations to care for the elderly. <a title="United Nations" href="http://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/publications/files/key_findings_wpp_2015.pdf">United Nations</a>&nbsp;forecast that China will lose 67 million working-age people by 2030, while simultaneously doubling the number of elderly.</p> <p>The one child policy has also unintended consequences for economic reforms. One of them is the imbalance of labour and economic development in rural and urban areas. Recent estimates suggest that up to 150 million Chinese—most of them adults in their 20s and 30s—form a floating population who leave their villages for longer or shorter periods. Earning cash wages, living in makeshift accommodation, moving between jobs and between cities and their home villages, these people are seldom eligible for state provided services. 80% of these migrants work as unskilled labourers and only 20% of them are able to bring their families with them. As a result, 61m children – one in five in China – are left behind in rural China, staying with grandparents or other relatives, <a href="http://chinaoutlook.com/one-in-five-children-are-left-behind-by-chinas-migrant-parents/">which requisites psychological and health and safety issues</a>. Another 29m children have accompanied their migrant worker parents to the cities, although according to the fifth national census, at least 10% of them have no schooling at all once they arrive.</p> <p>In <a href="http://www.chinafile.com/conversation/what-will-beginning-end-one-child-policy-bring">an earlier article appeared in <em>ChinaFile</em> in 2013</a>, Leta Hong Fincher, author of <em>Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China </em>(2014), remarked that it was too soon to predict what the long-term demographic consequences of the change would be. Fincher also pointed out the contradictions and loopholes of the one child policy, where some rural couples would try two or even three more times to have that coveted boy, with no drastic consequences other than paying a fine; while in other areas the policy was sometimes used by local officials to&nbsp;force women to have late-term abortions. Currently in China, the cost of living has become so high that even if couples say they want two children, perhaps they will find that they can’t afford it in the end. And then there are many young Chinese people who say they don’t even want one child because housing and education are too expensive.</p> <p>So the “two-child” policy may end up being of more symbolic importance than anything else. Vincent Ni, a BBC world producer, also expressed his concern for the issue of living cost and education. This all taps into what award-winning British journalist Isabel Hilton refers to as “<a href="http://www.chinafile.com/conversation/what-will-beginning-end-one-child-policy-bring">the legacy of the one-child policy</a>” that does not go away, either for the nation or for the many individuals whose lives have been conditioned by it. &nbsp;For couples who have taken advantage of spells abroad to have a second child, that child is not entitled to access education or health services upon returning to China. Other couples who simply concealed the birth of officially prohibited infants created an unknown number of Chinese citizens – these children were born in secret and remain undocumented.</p> <p>Those shadow citizens, along with those “glorious mothers” and their children who went through the Great Famine, the Cultural Revolution, economic reform and the one child policy, and the children of those who obeyed or dodged the one child policy, and the next generation of future reproductive regulations, weave into the large tapestry of the social development of China as unrecognisable threads. Population control has been an old practice in human history, but precisely because of its universal nature, it is imperative to demand a universal response and a set of ethics that can resist radical policies. As Betsy Hartmann, a scholar of development Studies at Hampshire College remarks in her book <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Reproductive-Rights-Wrongs-Revised-Edition/dp/0896084914"><em>Reproductive Rights and Wrongs: The Global Politics of Population Control</em></a> (1995) that only through respect for basic human rights can family planning play a liberating role in the lives of women and men around the world—and, I would argue, in social development too.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ting-guo/life-with-dissident-searching-for-horizontal-freedom">Life with a dissident in China: searching for ‘horizontal freedom’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ting-guo/blood-brides-feminist-activists-cracking-chinas-patriarchal-order">Blood brides: feminist activists cracking China’s patriarchal order</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/frozen-progress-beyond-eggfreezing-debate">Frozen progress: beyond the egg-freezing debate</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ruth-rosen/why-relentless-assault-on-abortion-in-united-states">Why the relentless assault on abortion in the United States?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ruth-rosen/war-against-contraception-%E2%80%9Cwomen-need-to-be-liberated-from-their-libidos">The war against contraception: “Women need to be liberated from their libidos.&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/beatrix-campbell/abortion-ireland%27s-reckoning-with-amendment-8">Abortion: Ireland&#039;s reckoning with Amendment 8</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/barbara-gunnell/how-women-are-paying-for-recession-in-uk">How women are paying for the recession in the UK</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Highlights patriarchy gender feminism bodily autonomy 50.50 newsletter Ting Guo Fri, 13 Nov 2015 13:09:44 +0000 Ting Guo 97446 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Blood brides: feminist activists cracking China’s patriarchal order https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ting-guo/blood-brides-feminist-activists-cracking-chinas-patriarchal-order <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>With echoes of Russia's Pussy Riot, the arrest of five young women on the eve of International Women’s Day drew attention to the feminist activist movements simmering below the surface in China.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>On 7 March 2015, on the eve of the International Women’s Day, five young women in China were arrested on the grounds of “picking quarrels and creating a disturbance”. This incident caught the eye of major international media including the <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/12/five-chinese-feminists-held-international-womens-day">Guardian</a> and <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2015/04/10/asia/china-five-women-activists/">CNN</a>, and received a personal endorsement from <a href="http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2015/04/08/Arrest-of-Chinese-feminists-draws-response-from-Hillary-Clinton/4281428505416/">US presidential candidate Hilary Clinton</a> when she referred to the detention of female activists as “inexcusable” in her tweet. On 13 April, they were released on bail but still under surveillance.</p> <p><strong>Opposing authority and the existing order</strong></p> <p>According to the <a href="http://chrdnet.com/2015/03/chrb-5-womens-lgbt-rights-activists-detained-in-escalating-clampdown-on-ngos-36-1215/">Chinese Human Rights Defenders network</a>, these five women were Li Tingting (better known as Li Maizi), 25, a Beijing-based manager of the LGBT programme at the Beijing Yirenping Center; Wu Rongrong, 30, founder and executive director of the Weizhiming Women’s Centre in Guangzhou; Wei Tingting, 27, director of Beijing’s Ji’ande LGBT rights organisation; and Wang Man, who had worked on issues including gender equality in poverty eradication. They are now often referred to as China’s “Feminist Five”.</p> <p>Their one-month planned activity on International Women’s Day eve was known as the ‘March 7 stick stick stick’ (<em>Sanqi Tietietie</em>): that is, placing stickers on buses and other public transport vehicles in Guangzhou and Beijing to raise awareness of sexual harassment on public transportation.</p> <p>Their timing was crucial.&nbsp; The activity was reportedly planned during the “sensitive” time when the ‘Two Meetings’ (the annual sessions of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference), the highest form of manifesting centralised authority and ideology in China, were being held in Beijing. The activists had heard reports that the All-China Workers Federation might introduce an anti-sexual harassment bill during the sessions.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>These feminist activists’ work began with a stunt known as <a href="http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/04/17/china-feminist-bail-interview-released-feminism-activist/">“Blood Brides”</a> on Valentine’s Day in 2012, when Li and Wei walked along a busy Beijing commercial area in wedding gowns stained with fake blood to attract attention. They chanted slogans like “Hitting is not intimacy; verbal abuse is not love.” They also distributed anti-domestic violence pamphlets and cards to passers­by. Many of the bystanders were sympathetic to their message and complimented them for their bravery. </p><p>Soon after the “Blood Brides” stunt, these young feminist activists organised another attention-grabbing event, called <a href="http://www.economist.com/blogs/analects/2012/03/toilet-parity">“Occupy Men’s Toilets,”</a> inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement. They encouraged women waiting in long lines outside restrooms to “occupy” the less-used men’s rooms for 10 minutes, then return the stalls to men after the number of women waiting had been reduced. They called for an increase in the size of women’s public restrooms that would equalise wait times for men and women. The event in Guangzhou was such a hit that Li decided to duplicate it in Beijing, where she was residing.</p> <p>Initially, the movement was not only socially successful but also approved by the authority. More than a dozen newspapers and online media outlets reported on the movement, and “Occupy Men’s Toilets” spread to other cities. Attempting to seize the opportunity, Li and her friends sent letters to representatives in the National People’s Congress, advising them to propose legislation to improve restroom gender ratios.</p> <p>As a result, Congress delegates raised the issue during legislative sessions in March 2012. In that year alone, several cities made plans to improve public restroom gender ratios. Together with more Chinese feminists and activists, these five women also worked to replicate their success in other areas of women’s rights, including employment and education discrimination, gender­based violence, and the rights of sex workers.</p> <p>However, they were not so fortunate this time. As the activism grew more active and more spread out, the official tone towards it began to change. On 6 April 2015, the Beijing police submitted the case of the five feminists to the procuratorate office under the criminal charge of “gathering crowds to disturb public order,” referring to the previous “Blood Brides” and “Occupy Men’s Toilet” incidents. <a href="http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/04/17/china-feminist-bail-interview-released-feminism-activist/">According to the lawyers of these feminists</a>, Beijing police only began investigating these activities after detaining the women.</p> <p>The interregnum between arrest and release was harsh for the female activists. As Li Tingting recalled in <a href="http://chinadigitaltimes.net/chinese/2015/04/herstory%E4%B8%A8%E5%A5%B3%E6%9D%83%E4%B8%BB%E4%B9%89%E8%80%85%E7%94%A837%E5%A4%A9%E5%BB%BA%E9%80%A0%E6%8A%97%E4%BA%89%E9%87%8C%E7%A8%8B%E7%A2%91/">an interview with Chinese feminist Zhao Sile</a>, “I was interrogated a total of 30 to 40 times and was under a lot of psychological pressure, since I had never been placed in&nbsp;criminal detention before.”</p> <p>In the days leading up to their later release, she added, “The police expressed concern that we might become ‘heroes,’ that we might be recruited or used, or that we would agree to be interviewed. The police kept on making implicit demands that I not agree to outside interviews.”</p> <p><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/12/five-chinese-feminists-held-international-womens-day">Tania Branigan from the Guardian</a> rightly points out that the fact they are criminally detained – not just informally held – indicates they could have been charged. Detentions and convictions of activists have increased sharply since Xi Jinping became China’s leader two years ago; the women were seized during annual political meetings in Beijing, a very politically sensitive period for the regime. But similar initiatives previously to mark International Women’s Days had not led to custody.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p><strong>Challenging traditional and new notions of gender and gendered violence</strong></p> <p><span>Ironically, the detentions took place as China’s premier </span><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/12/five-chinese-feminists-held-international-womens-day">Li Keqiang met female legislators</a><span> and made the following comments by quoting Mao Zedong: “Women hold up half the sky and you should believe that your male counterparts... will move forward hand-in-hand with you.”</span></p> <p><span>From foot-binding designed to control upper class women to concubines kept in the royal harem, the image of women’s role in traditional Chinese society was not particularly impressive. In the imperial hierarchical family structure, the male patriarch—a woman’s father or her husband when she is married—holds the final authority on family issues and is responsible for making life decisions on her behalf.</span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/lotus feet.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/lotus feet.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>An imperial lady with lotus feet. Source: http://people.howstuffworks.com/culture-traditions/cultural-traditions/foot-binding3.h</span></span></span></p><p><span>The New Cultural Movement in the 1910s and 20s that aimed to demolish traditional culture in China was often thought to have announced the end of the patriarchal society. Nonetheless, changes in the Chinese mindsets and social structure come much slower than changes in constitution and political arrangements.</span></p> <p><span>When Communism “liberated” the “old China” in 1949, we see official propaganda portraying women as physically strong and professionally adequate. However, incidents such as forced abortions in rural areas (as a result of the government’s one-child policy) in recent years pose increasing challenges to the official image. At the same time, in more developed urban areas, despite rising education levels and income, public understanding and convention of gender roles remain mostly unchanged, and China’s current gender condition is even referred to as “</span><a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11535311/Chinese-female-activist-Womens-rights-are-seen-as-a-sickness-here.html">regressing</a><span>”. For instance, women with doctoral degrees are often a laughing stock and referred to as the “third gender.”</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Well-educated and high-earning professional female in their late twenties or older who are still single, are now shamefully referred to as “left-over women”. Not only because they pose a threat to the traditional family-centred social structure and the mind-set of women being submissive and content within a familial space; more crucially, the increasing number of “left-over women” in urban China constitutes a de-stabilising factor to the “<a href="https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=8utTBQAAQBAJ&amp;pg=PA82&amp;lpg=PA82&amp;dq=xi+jinping+harmony+hexie&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=BKv5C5obhh&amp;sig=auDPqLa9gdTVB5oQW19sRz26bPU&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ei=tJaWVc7CMIuTsgHcoaOoAw&amp;ved=0CC4Q6AEwAg#v=onepage&amp;q=xi%20jinping%20harmony%20hexie&amp;f=false">harmonious society</a>” much emphasised by the Party.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/mao propaganda.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/mao propaganda.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A propaganda poster of Mao era. Caption says “Women hold up half the sky.” Source: http://www.thechinastory.org </span></span></span></p><p><span>In the light of such social reality, the praise for the Feminist Five’s actions as the “</span><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/14/opinion/xiao-meili-chinas-feminist-awakening.html?_r=0">Chinese Feminist Awakening</a><span>” by major international media might have neglected a larger imbalances in gender and the new forms of domestic violence and inequality. For many women within China, “Gender violence is getting worse” – as Li Tingting told a Guardian reporter. Recent studies have shown the increasing number of domestic abuses: </span><a href="http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.2003.023978">Xu Xiao</a><span> from Johns Hopkins University, for instance, found the persisting prevalence of intimate partner violence in China.</span></p> <p><span>An old Chinese aphorism, “beating is love, and scolding is intimacy,” remains popular and silently accepted in terms of both child education and domestic relationships. Violence against a woman by her husband is generally concealed and protected within the sphere of private life and, as such, is largely overlooked and ignored.</span></p> <p>In addition to traditional physical violence, new forms violence have emerged. China is now facing an unprecedented shortage of women, due to both the one-child policy initiated and a cultural preference for male heirs, a volatile combination that has led to sex-selective abortions and cases of female infanticide.</p> <p>China’s female shortage, far from empowering women, has actually resulted in a situation where urban women’s rights are increasingly imperiled. Leta Hong Fincher’s book <em>Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China</em> (2014) researches such phenomenon and details a series of measures ranging from a media campaign to legal setbacks, all of which are ultimately aimed at deterring college-educated women from putting off marriage and family.</p> <p>By doing so, the Communist Party hopes to maintain social stability — <em>weiwen </em>— and raising the quality (<em>suzhi</em>) of its population. The prevalence of expressions such as “leftover women” in public discourses are not only demoralising, but also makes one wonder about their long-term damaging effects to Chinese women’s self-esteem and the country’s gender equality.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p><strong>A new generation of activists: The “X-generation” and international exposure</strong></p> <p>However, unlike the activists before them, this generation’s feminists are equipped with new media, art and a distance from the students and NGO workers. Their protests have often taken the form of performance street art. Photos and posts counting the days of the women’s detention were circulated on social media, sparking a battle between those posting and those seeking to censor them.</p> <p>According to Spanish sociologist <a href="http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20%20Part1.pdf">Manuel Castells</a>, the prevalence of personal digital devices gives rises to new concepts of defining people as “digital natives” or “digital immigrants”. “Digital native” is a term that refers to people who grew up in the digital era (that is, roughly from 1980s until now). In contrast, the term “digital immigrant” refers to those who were born before 1964 and who grew up in a pre-computer world. These feminist activists in China are digital natives, and well adapted into the world of technologies and social media.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Even though many international social media—including Facebook and Twitter—are banned in China, they were able to spread their ideas swiftly and widely. More importantly, as their detention already shows, living in an age of social media also means that they have a much level of exposure to the international world which will aid significantly to their work and subsequently, to increase the level of awareness of gender equality within China.</p> <p><strong>A future for feminists?</strong></p> <p>On 2 July 2015, in the wake of the US Supreme Court ruling of gay marriage as a legal right in the United States, Li Tingting <a href="http://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/1831663/lesbian-couple-hold-marriage-ceremony-push-legal-same-sex-unions">announced her marriage</a> to her lesbian partner in front of friends and journalists. Meanwhile, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television in China rejected the release of <em>The Imitation Game</em> (2014), considering it indecent for public viewing. <em>The Imitation Game</em> is a biopic on Alan Turing, British war hero and father of AI who committed suicide after being arrested, tried and medically treated for his homosexuality.&nbsp;<span>China’s reason for refusing to import this film echoes the charge against Turing fifty years ago. It seems that, there is still a long way ahead for human rights issues on gender.</span></p><p><span><em>On 7 July 2015, the day that marks the fourth full month since their detention, the five Chinese feminists addressed to U.N. Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to make their release unconditional.</em></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/susan-harris-rimmer/gender-at-g20">Gender at the G20</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/helen-szoke/why-g20-needs-to-tackle-gender-inequality-brisbane-and-beyond">Why the G20 needs to tackle gender inequality: Brisbane and beyond </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/gender-wars-in-turkey-litmus-test-of-democracy">The gender wars in Turkey: a litmus test of democracy?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/dan-smith/gender-peace-security-slavery-and%C2%A0cigarettes">Gender, peace, security, slavery and cigarettes</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/liz-cooper/podemos-and-gender-nods-and-winks">Podemos and gender: nods and winks </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/rolien-hoyng-murat-es/umbrella-revolution-academy-reflects-on-hong-kong%E2%80%99s-struggle">Umbrella revolution: the academy reflects on Hong Kong’s struggle</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democracy/contradictory_4277.jsp">China&#039;s contradictory signals</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy temp 50.50 Editor's Pick gender justice 50.50 newsletter Ting Guo Thu, 09 Jul 2015 17:06:37 +0000 Ting Guo 94279 at https://www.opendemocracy.net