Category: Feminism

How a Cosmetics Company is Subverting the Chinese State

How a Cosmetics Company is Subverting the Chinese State

An ad by cosmetics company SK-II recently went viral in China. The ad tackles the topic of “leftover women,” women in China who are not married by age 25. Watch the ad below.

The ad has had millions of views and has sparked debate and discussion around the country. Some people believe the ad is empowering. Some think it is pandering. Personally, I think the ad is daring not only because it empowers women, but because it directly undermines the Chinese government.

The derogatory term “leftover women” (剩女; shèngnǚ;) was coined over a decade ago by the All-China Women’s Association, an organization that was founded in 1949 as the leader of the women’s rights movement but has become little more than a Party mouthpiece to help keep women in their place. The term refers to women over 25 (it was 27, but apparently the age has been lowered in recent years) who are not yet married and thus unlikely to get married. Even though these women are typically not married because they have been furthering their education and careers, they are considered a drain on society because they are not getting married and giving birth to the next generation. Even though China’s explosive rate of leftover men is a much larger problem, shengnan (剩男) are not similarly criticized and the term doesn’t hold the same meaning. Men can get married at any time in their lives and are expected to get married later as they pursue their careers. Since there are at least 20 million more men in China than women, it is unavoidable that many of these men will never marry.

Leftover men are viewed victims who don’t have a choice but to remain single; leftover women are viewed selfish for choosing to remain single.

The Chinese government has been behind this calculated attack on urban, educated women from the beginning. China has been hurtling toward a demographic disaster since the inception of the one-child policy in 1979, but China has only been taking steps to correct this course in recent years. By focusing on “leftover women,” the Chinese government was able to shift the blame the countries lack of employees to women who are getting jobs instead of getting husbands and pivot away from blame on the one-child policy. o-CHINESE-STUDENTS-facebook“Yes, we are in a bad situation, but it wouldn’t be this bad if those women were hunting for husbands as hard as they are hunting for jobs,” the government seems to say. By not taking one of the millions of leftover men into her bed and giving birth to the next generation of Chinese workers, unmarried women in China are not doing their duty for the Chinese State.

The Chinese government has even ramped up its attacks on unmarried women in recent years. Especially since the adoption of the two-child policy, you expect to see more attacks against “leftover women” because these women are actively working against China’s efforts to increase its population.

I’m surprised that the SK-II ad was approved by Chinese censors and it hasn’t been removed. The message that women don’t need to get married or have kids is totally contrary to the message the Chinese government has been sending women for over a decade.

And that is why this ad is so subversive. This ad glorifies the leftover woman. It empowers them. It calms their parents’ fears. It tells women that they can be good Chinese daughters on their own. And that’s pretty awesome.

Shenzhen Man Spends 30 Years Raping Mentally Ill Woman, Hailed as “Responsible”

Shenzhen Man Spends 30 Years Raping Mentally Ill Woman, Hailed as “Responsible”

woman-shadowsOver 30 years ago, a young woman named Adi in her early 20s was in a tragic accident that left her with the mind of an infant. Even though she had the body of an adult, she couldn’t care for herself or even express herself to those around her.

One day, a ‘barefoot’ doctor came to her village. This man had minimal medical training, but because doctors were so rare in the Chinese countryside, the villagers accepted his help. This man claimed he could help heal Adi. Her parents trusted him. Over time, the man began to claim that he was in love with Adi, a woman who could neither accept or reject his advances. Without even a basic understanding of what was happening to her, her parents consented to the wandering doctor’s marriage proposal. The man then began having regular intercourse with Adi, forcing her to have many children.

Adi, unable to communicate, did what she could to end her suffering, throwing herself into a lake near her house. But she was always pulled back, always forced back into the bed of her rapist.

WOMEN-SHADOW-facebookFor 30 years, Adi has been called the wife of her rapist. All the while, this putrid excuse for a human being forces Adi to act against her will. Since Adi cannot protest, some in the community believe that what the doctor is doing is a great thing, taking care of a mentally handicapped woman for over three decades. ““He is truly a responsible man. He took care of his wife for all these 30 years,” says one of the villagers. Yet no one but Adi knows the horrors she faces everyday, the pain she feels deep inside that she cannot express.

While this may sound like a horror story, it is actually true. The story of Adi’s rapist, a man who goes by the surname of Zeng, was recently told in the Shenzhen Daily. Of course, since Adi cannot speak for herself, the story was reported from his point of view. However, Adi’s story comes through clearly. A woman who does not have the mental capability to consent to marriage or sex was forced into both, and her attacker is viewed as a hero for spending his life taking care of her. The truth is that Zeng is a disgusting, abusive monster who needs to be in prison. Even though Adi is finally getting the help she needs for her mental condition, there are no efforts being made to remove her from the home of her rapist.

This is why China needs feminism, so that people can learn what consent means.

Frog by Mo Yan – Book Review

Frog by Mo Yan – Book Review

Talk about disappointing. Two years ago, when Mo Yan won the Nobel Prize for literature for Frog, Westerners and Chinese were shocked and elated. The Chinese were ecstatic that a Chinese writer won the honor at all (he’s the only Chinese writer who lives in China to have ever won the prize) and Westerners were amazed that the book was “about the one-child policy and forced abortions.” Unfortunately for people who can’t read Chinese, that description was a bit of a misnomer. After waiting two years for the official English translation of Frog, I can tell you that there is nothing surprising, shocking, or reactionary in Mo Yan’s Frog. In fact, Frog toes the party line just like every other Chinese writer trapped in China (though I don’t think Mo is actually trapped and rather enjoys his role as an exemplary Party member).

711BOrxouXLMany reviewers claim that the book is about a woman named Gugu, a midwife, obstetrician, and abortionist in China from the 1960s to the present day, but that isn’t actually true. The book is about Tadpole, the book’s male narrator and Gugu’s nephew. Gugu does have a large role in the book, but she is not the protagonist, and large swathes of the book leave her out entirely.

The book opens on the Great Chinese Famine from the late 50s to the early 60s. The narrator and his classmates are so hungry, they eat coal. While this is most likely based on true events, the scene is humorous and contains none of the horrors that people endured during the Great Famine. Everyone who was alive at the beginning of Mo’s book is still alive after the famine, even though as many as 40 million people died during that time, including whole communes. At one point, Tadpole says that he would “have rather starved than eat a frog.” This seems to imply that the famine wasn’t so bad if people could still be picky about what they would and wouldn’t eat to survive. The truth is that some people ate their own children in order to survive the famine. But Mo’s lighthearted approach to one of the most tragic parts of China’s history sets the tone of the novel.

The book finally moves into the family planning stories and recounts the deaths of two women who are trying to have second children, but the narrative is extremely sloppy and paltry. The first family planning policy stated, “one is good, two is just right, three is too many” and forced vasectomies became the norm. Forced vasectomies certainly did happen in frightening numbers, but they are rarely talked about. They also don’t happen today, unlike forced abortions. But then the book jumps 20 years into the future when the one-child policy is in full effect with no explanation or introduction.

None of the women in the book are “forced” to have an abortion. One woman (Tadpole’s first wife) is “coerced” (Gugu begins tearing down the neighbor’s houses and the woman eventually gives in) and the other one gives birth prematurely while trying to escape from Gugu. These are also only two women. The fact that countless women (even today) have been dragged out of their homes and strapped down while their wanted babies are ripped from their bodies is completely left out. While the deaths of the two women who have abortions are sad, and the ramifications are felt throughout the rest of the book, the deaths are just not particularly significant. I’m not sure if that the right word, but if you feel horrified, disgusted, or heartbroken over their deaths, you really are not very well-informed about what women have been enduring in China since the one-child policy came into effect over 30 years ago.

But more frustrating than the way Mo handles the one-child policy and the women’s deaths is how he completely dissolves the Chinese government, the family planning commission, and even Gugu of any responsibility. He says “Westerner’s critiques of China’s family planning policies are unfair;” “I wasn’t blaming [Gugu]…it was just our fate;” “Society didn’t create my problem; I was the problem;” “The men and women who defied the policy against multiple pregnancies could not escape a share of the responsibility for what happened;” and “Family planning has an impact on the national economy and the people’s livelihood, and it is the greatest importance.”

Oh sure, there are some nice feminist statements littered throughout the book, such as “his head was filled with feudal ideas like favouring boys over girls” and “I want them to know how hard it is to be a woman,” but in the end, the book holds up the old status quo. At 55-years of age, Tadpole becomes a father to a son, and even though he has a wonderful daughter living abroad, he says that his son “is a treasure sent down to me from the heavens, and is worth all my suffering.” See, as long as you have a son, it doesn’t matter how many women died or how many kids were aborted or how many filial daughters you have, having a son makes everything all right!

This book is beyond disappointing, it is infuriating. I honestly don’t know why it won the Nobel Prize. The book does nothing to challenge preconceived notions, is not original, and isn’t even honest. There are so many books out there that are so much better. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that the selection of Mo Yan as a winner is a downright sexist decision. The book largely deals with women’s issues but is told by a man from a man’s perspective. And while men can write about women’s issues and be allies, why have Chinese female writers who have also talked about these issues with much more candor, honesty, and emotion been snubbed? Authors like Xinran and Lisa See have both written brilliantly and openly about women’s experiences in China because they have the freedom to do so by living overseas.

Mo Yan is nothing more than a communist party mouthpiece, and as long as the Chinese government continues to pursue policies of censorship and artistic strangleholds, this is the best Chinese authors will be able to give the world. Mo Yan’s Frog is an excellent example of why Chinese authors in China shouldn’t and don’t win Nobel Prizes.

Have you read Frog? Let me know what you thought in the comments. 

Sex, Guns, and Video Games – Anita Sarkeesian Takes on Misogynist Hate Group GamerGate

Sex, Guns, and Video Games – Anita Sarkeesian Takes on Misogynist Hate Group GamerGate

sarkeesian-wide-620x349My husband and I are gamers. It’s how we met. We have also both worked in the gaming industry here in China. So we have been following GamerGate pretty much since the beginning. If you don’t know what GamerGate is, lucky you, but keep reading to find out all about it. I wrote about it for the Shenzhen Daily last week. Long and short of it, a small group of misogynist gamers have been threatening to rape and murder any woman who critiques, develops, or even mentions video games. They even released the personal information of Felica Day, the Darling of the Internet, after she wrote a blog post about how much she is afraid of GamerGate.

So why am I writing about this on my blog and in a Chinese newspaper? There might not be a specific link between GamerGate and China, but a toxic, sexist gaming culture is endemic in the industry worldwide.

At my husband’s company, just last week, one of the company’s freelance employees had to call the police when a gamer threatened to kill her and her family and burn her house down. He only lived an hour away from her.

One of the company’s female employees regularly tells me about the sexist remarks made by coworkers she is subjected to on a daily basis.

The company and its partners regularly put out ads like this:wartune2 ads that are borderline pornographic and specifically tell females gamers that they are not welcome. It is important that developers in China know what is going on because they are just as much a part of the problem and need to make changes.

Even though many women have been involved in fighting GamerGate, Zoe Quinn, Brianna Wu, Leigh Alexander, to name a few, Anita Sarkeesian is someone I have been following for a long time. I really enjoy her Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series. She is one of the reasons I started identifying publicly and proudly as a feminist and chose to focus on her in my article.

Finally, many game companies, magazines, websites, and celebrities are speaking out against GamerGate and misogyny and sexism in video games. Hopefully change is on the way.

Check out my article in full below.

TWO weeks ago, most people probably had not heard of Anita Sarkeesian. Sarkeesian’s name has been popular in gaming and feminist circles for over two years thanks to her highly acclaimed video series “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games.” Last month, though, the Internet exploded over GamerGate, a group of young men who lashed out at women game developers and critics after an ex-boyfriend accused female developer Zoe Quinn of exchanging sex for favorable reviews of her game. The accusations against Quinn were baseless, but the damage had been done. GamerGaters decided that women were out to destroy the games they loved and had to be stopped. It was only a matter of time before Sarkeesian was in GamerGate’s line of fire.

Last week, Sarkeesian had to cancel a speech at Utah State University after a GamerGater threatened a mass shooting. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Sarkeesian said, “GamerGate is really a sexist temper tantrum … They’re going after and targeting women who are trying to make changes in the [game] industry. They’re attacking anyone who supports women.” But Sarkeesian, Quinn, Brianna Wu, Leigh Alexander, and the countless other women who have been singled out for destruction by GamerGate aren’t backing down. Sarkeesian also told Rolling Stone, “We have a problem, and we are going to fix this.”

In 2012, Sarkeesian first started making headlines when she launched a Kickstarter campaign to finance her Web series, “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games.” The video series was designed to “explore, analyze and deconstruct some of the most common tropes and stereotypes of female characters in games. The series [would] highlight the larger recurring patterns and conventions used within the gaming industry rather than just focusing on the worst offenders…[The series would] look at the way women are portrayed in mass media and the impact they have on our culture and society.”

Her goal was to raise just US$6,000 to fund the series. She raised over US$150,000 and gained almost 7,000 backers. As a woman, raising so much money and attention talking about misogyny in video games immediately made her a target for abuse by men who thought she was out to destroy the thing they owned and loved. Before her Kickstarter campaign even ended, she was receiving death and rape threats.

Over the next two years, Sarkeesian was a constant target for abuse by gamers who believed she was out to ruin games. She received videos of herself being raped by video game characters. Attempts were made to hack her social media accounts. Her website was constantly subjected to DoS (denial of service) attacks and her Wikipedia page was repeatedly edited to show doctored pornographic images of her. Threats of rape and murder were a daily occurrence. One person even created a video game called “Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian,” where users could punch Sarkeesian’s image in the face until she was a bloody pulp. People who spoke out in favor or support of Sarkeesian were also targeted and abused.

But all of these attacks only supported Sarkeesian’s argument — the gaming industry has a problem with women. Sarkeesian has not backed down and has continued making her videos and speaking out publically for change.

Then, GamerGate.

In August 2014, an ex-boyfriend accused Indy game developer Zoe Quinn of sleeping with journalists for favorable game reviews. Men who believed that Quinn was the representative of corruption in game journalism (even though she isn’t a journalist or critic) began joining forces under the hashtag #GamerGate in a blitz of rape and death threats against her. Even though it was later revealed that Quinn had not exchanged sex for reviews, the GamerGate crowd was already in full force, attacking and abusing any woman in the gaming industry they could get their hands on.

Game critic Leigh Alexander wrote an article entitled “’Gamers’ are Over,” in which she talked about how the game industry has grown so huge that it is now mainstream. The image of the “lonely gamer” in his mother’s basement no longer exists, and games are now experiencing an economic and cultural boom. GamerGaters took offense to the idea that they are no longer a niche group and declared Alexander their enemy, subjecting her to sexist attacks.

Game studio owner Brianna Wu retweeted a series of images poking fun at GamerGaters. Within hours, her home address was posted online and she received rape and death threats so specific that she had to flee her home.

On Aug. 27, Sarkeesian released her latest video, “Woman as Decoration (Part 2).” That night, the harassment and threats reached such a frenzy that Sarkeesian also had to flee her home.

That GamerGate threats are so severe against women that women have had to leave their homes has revealed the true intentions of GamerGate. GamerGaters have repeatedly stated that they aren’t misogynists and that they aren’t against women in video games. They claim that GamerGate is about journalistic ethics in the online gaming press, particularly conflicts of interest between video game journalists and developers. But the fact that women game developers and critics have been targeted at a significantly higher rate than men — and that only women have had to flee their homes — demonstrates that GamerGate is, at its core, about preserving the status quo in video games, a status quo built on the exclusion and exploitation of women.

Even though GamerGate has been around since August, and Sarkeesian has been living under constant terror threats for two years, it didn’t make international mainstream news until last week, when Sarkeesian had to cancel a speech at Utah State University after receiving threats of a mass shooting from someone claiming to be a member of GamerGate.

Sarkeesian had never canceled a speech before, even though she had recieved bomb threats for speaking engagement before. This time it was different because of Utah’s extreme gun rights laws. In Utah, anyone with a legal permit to carry a concealed weapon can carry that weapon anywhere they want, even into schools. In the past, when Sarkeesian received death threats for attending events, the police would inspect guests for weapons and anyone with a weapon would not be allowed in. But in Utah, the police are not allowed to stop people from carrying a legal firearm, even if there is a legitimate threat against someone’s life.

In Utah, the right to carry a gun is more important than the right to not be murdered by one.

Even though she had to cancel one engagement, she isn’t backing down. Sarkeesian has called for all lecturers to boycott Utah campuses until Utah’s gun laws change.

While it might seem that this is the worst time of Sarkeesian’s life, it could also be the best. Sarkeesian has now been featured in Time magazine, Rolling Stone magazine and on the front page of the New York Times. After working for change in the gaming industry for two years, game companies and other game critics are speaking out against GamerGate and in support of more diversity in games.

Sarkeesian said in her interview with Rolling Stone that after living in terror for two years, she still can’t give up. She said, “I feel like the work I’m doing is really important. The amount of support that I get for doing it, the actual change that I am starting to see, the really sweet messages that I get from people … How do you stop doing this work after that?”

Surprise, Bustle, breastfeeding isn’t shamed in China

Surprise, Bustle, breastfeeding isn’t shamed in China

f04da2db148414e2aabf53I’ve been casually following the debates surrounding the topic of mothers breastfeeding in public in the U.S. I say casually because it isn’t something that affects me personally, but is a frequent topic on websites that center around women and feminism, so I read the stories but don’t generally get worked up about it. But I just read a story over on Bustle that really hit a nerve. I have never been to that site before, so I don’t know if it typically publishes this kind of garbage or if it is a fluke. The title asked “Are breastfeeding curtain on Chinese public buses pro-woman or anti-feminist?” I took the bait and clicked. The article is about how a bus company in Zhejiang Province installed curtains for nursing mothers who wished to use them. There really isn’t a story here. Mothers are not forced to use them, some women appreciate them, others just don’t use them, so…I got nothing.

The part that pissed me off, though, was where the writer, Aria Bendix, said, “In a climate where public breastfeeding is often met with dirty looks and occasionally being asked to leave a restaurant or store, what does it mean that women are encouraged to hide behind a curtain in order to feed their children?”

It’s pretty clear that Bendix has NO FUCKING CLUE what is going on in the world outside of a few buzzy news stories in the U.S. In China, there is no anti-breastfeeding climate. Women are allowed to breastfeed their kids whenever, wherever they want and no one treats them with disdain. The only problem with breastfeeding in China is that the rates are too low because of a culture that believes formula is better and most new mothers work. Almost anywhere you see kids, you will see a mother breastfeeding and no one gives it a second thought. It’s a baby, and it’s eating. No one cares.

Aria Bendix, you need to step back and realize that just because a few shitty Americans have a very narrow cultural view of something does not mean people on the other side of the world have similar beliefs, issues, or problems. You should learn more about a culture before you impose your erroneous, predetermined understanding on it and hold it up as click bait.