Category: Why China Needs 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.

China’s New Domestic Violence Law – The Good, The Bad, and the Vague

China’s New Domestic Violence Law – The Good, The Bad, and the Vague

On Sunday, China passed its first law prohibiting domestic violence and offering protection for victims of domestic abuse. It might be hard to believe, but before Sunday, there was no law prohibiting domestic violence in China.

"Love is no excuse for violence"
“Love is no excuse for violence”

As far as authorities were concerned, a husband beating his wife was not breaking the law. Women who did seek help were often told to go back home to their abusers. Thanks to several high-profile cases in recent years of horrific instances of spousal and child abuse and the work of women’s rights groups, a new law is now in effect. But what does this law mean exactly and what are its flaws?

The Good

China now has a domestic violence law! This is good. Any law on the books is better than none.

The new law will provide protection for abuse victims and allow abusers to be charged with abuse. The law covers men and women. While it is unlikely that man men will take advantage of the protections the law allows, I was impressed that the law took men in abusive relationships into account. This is very important considering that before last year, men could not legally be considered rape victims. The gender-neutral stance of the law is a big step forward.

A Chinese woman abusing her boyfriend on a busy street
A Chinese woman abusing her boyfriend on a busy street

The law also grants protection to victims who are not legally married. Cohabitation without marriage is on the rise in China, and barely a day goes by that I don’t read about a Chinese woman being murdered by her boyfriend. The fact that the law will allow unmarried women protection from abusive men who are not their husbands is a great addition to the law (one that wasn’t in the initial drafts).

The law also protects children, not only from abusive parents but from abusive guardians, even those the child may not be related to. In a country with millions of “left behind children,” this was also an important addition.

The law will also allow abuse to be a mitigating factor in divorce proceedings. Previously, a partner’s abuse was not taken into consideration when granting divorces or divorce settlements.

The Bad

The law doesn’t actually go into effect until March. So, I guess, beat your wife while you can?

Lu Zhong and Liu Wangqiang at their wedding in Fujian
Lu Zhong and Liu Wangqiang at their wedding in Fujian

The law doesn’t cover same-sex couples. It isn’t just that the law is vague and doesn’t mention them one way or another, the law explicitly doesn’t apply. Guo Linmao, a member of the Legislative Affairs Commission of parliament’s standing committee, said, “There are a lot of examples of domestic violence between family members, and also between people who cohabit. As for homosexuals in our country, we have not yet discovered this form of violence, so to give you a certain answer, it can be said that people who cohabit does not include homosexuals.”

So according to Guo, homosexual couples don’t experience violence so they don’t need protection.

This is, of course, wrong and blatant misdirection. Many rights groups in China have latched on to this issue, so maybe someday the law will be expanded to include them.

The Vague

The law does not explicitly protect people from sexual violence. The law defines domestic violence as “physical, psychological and other harm inflicted by family members with beatings, restraint or forcible limits on physical liberty.” While “physical” harm could include sexual violence, the fact that the law doesn’t specifically list sexual violence is worrisome. Even countries such as the United States that have made marital rape illegal continue to grapple with this issue. The is something that China’s leaders need to clarify sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, it is unlikely any changes will be made to the law anytime soon. We will have to wait and see how judges interpret the law to see if it covers sexual violence. Hopefully it will.  

Have you looked over China’s new domestic abuse law? What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

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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.

Why China Needs Feminism – So Male Rape Will Be Recognized

Why China Needs Feminism – So Male Rape Will Be Recognized

There was a disturbing story today about how a man’s rapist was basically given a get-out-of-jail-free card on a technicality. That technicality? The fact that male-on-male rape is not considered a crime in China. Rape is one of the most common crimes in China, but it is also one of the most under-reported. China also has some of the weakest rape laws in the world, and the penalties (only 3-10 years in prison, if that) are pitiful. China does not report statistics on rape, so we have no idea just how many rapes happen every year, but even if the government did report the numbers, there is such a negative social stigma attached to it, the numbers would be much too low.

China does not recognize same-sex rape, for men or women. It does not recognize male rape victims even if the rapist is a woman. It does not recognize marital rape. In fact, even between people who are just dating, a woman would find it nearly impossible to charge her boyfriend with rape. Even in public, if a man is seen assaulting a woman, people will generally just walk by and ignore it, assuming it is a private issue. And child rape laws are so fuzzy and misapplied that child rapists  often receive simply a slap on the wrist. 

Believe it or not, male rape is a feminist issue. Feminism isn’t about only empowering women, but about gender equality, and that means acknowledging the strengths and vulnerabilities of everyone and recognizing everyone’s need for protection and respect. When it comes to eliminating patriarchal limits, the way male rape is handled is an important part. Men can be victims too, but when they report that they are victims of rape or domestic violence, they are often ignored or even laughed at.

The really strange part about this issue in China, though, is how before 1997, male rape was recognized and illegal. But when China went through a legal reform in 1997, the definition of rape was rewritten to only include assault against women and girls. This is especially scary when it comes to male children since boys are 2.7% more likely to be sexually abused than female children.

The 1997 legal “reform” in China was a huge step in the wrong direction. It eliminated and hope of protection or justice for men and boys and also created a loophole for rapist of female children by creating a distinction between child “rape” and child “prostitution. China needs to immediately reform its reformed law so that all Chinese citizens, male, female, adult, and child, can receive equal protection under the law.

Book Discussion – Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men

Book Discussion – Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men

unnaturalMara Hvistendhal’s book Unnatural Selection – Choosing Boys over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men was quite eye opening for me. Several months ago, American-based websites and blogs that write about feminist and AAPI issues were livid over lawmakers trying to pass legislation against sex-selective abortions in America. Most decried the laws as racist, claiming there was no evidence that Asian-Americans participate in sex-selective abortions.

However, that is untrue. According to the 2000 United States census, Asian-American female birthrates in the United States for second children are the exact same as in China, 117 boys for every 100 girls (and if an Asian-American family has two girls, the sex ratio of boys over girls for third children is a staggering 151). The only explanation is sex-selective abortions. The legislation certain organizations in the US are trying to pass are racist in that they think Asian-Americans would be too stupid to lie about why they are seeking an abortion, but they are not racist for bringing to light a very serious issue. Female sex-selective abortion (what some call female fanticide or feticide) is having devastating consequences throughout Asia, not just in China and India, and the cultural idea that females are expendable did not die when Asians immigrated to the US. In fact, among Asian-American women born in the US, the rates of sex-selective abortions are slightly higher than immigrant women.

I believe that Hvistendhal attempts to bring balance to the conversation about female fanticide by being intentionally unbalanced. For decades, indeed for centuries, Western visitors to China and India have written about female infanticide. It has continually been one of the things that mark the East as barbaric and the West as civilized. But very little, if anything, has been said about the role Western powers played in the explosion of female fanticide rates in the 20th century.

Hvistendhal acknowledges that female infanticide has always happened in Asia. Even today, if you live in China or India and talk to locals about the gender imbalance problem, the answer is always boiled down to “Asian cultures prefer boys.” In all my years in China, I have never heard anyone lay an ounce of blame on Western interference. But even though Asian families have always preferred boys and female infanticide existed, it wasn’t until the 1960s that female fanticide became so widespread that the birthrates developed skewed gender numbers.

When Western powers were worried about the growth of communism and the population explosion in Asia, did they educate women, a proven way to curb population growth? No, they took the fastest, most barbaric, inhumane way possible – the murder of the next generation of mothers. Western politicians, doctors, and even UN council members saw that Asians were having multiple daughters in an attempt to get a boy. Simple birth control wouldn’t work because it wasn’t that families wanted to stop having children, they only wanted to stop after they had their boy. Instead of elevating the value of women, teaching that boys and girls have equal worth, they devised ways to help families get that boy on the first try…the first complete try, anyway. They worked to convince people that female fanticide wasn’t really murder, at least not as bad as killing a baby after it had been born naturally.

By importing ultrasound machines and other techniques that could determine the sex of the fetus, the gender rates swiftly became imbalanced. Even though in the 70s and 80s these techniques could only be used effectively in the third trimester, these dangerous late-term abortions became standard practice in many Indian and Chinese hospitals, or simply out of the back of a truck.

The role Western powers played in this human rights travesty should be brought to light.

They should be held culpable for their actions and work to right the wrongs done. However, the West has had access to ultrasound machines and better quality, safer tests for determining gender in the womb, but Western countries don’t suffer from a gender imbalance. To say China and India’s gender imbalance is solely because of access to Western medical devices is ridiculous. The West would not have been able to encourage sex selection if the cultures didn’t have a predisposition for doing it on their own already. But this I think is Hvistendhal’s point. In a world where culture has taken all the blame, it is time for Western powers to be taken to task. Both are equally responsible for the massive gender disparity Asia is suffering today. By not rehashing the issue of culture and focusing on the West, Hvistendhal is attempting to bring balance to the conversation as a whole.

Hvistendhal does an excellent job asking the tough questions many people, especially feminists, have been afraid to ask. I think everyone would agree that sex selective abortions are wrong.

Even if you are pro-choice, the practice of killing a baby because it is a girl is something everyone, especially feminists, should be fighting to end.

But when abortion is legal, as feminists believe it should be, what do you do when women abuse that right to eliminate women from the planet? Many women are rightfully concerned that any limits on abortion could lead to more and more limits on abortions. In fact, don’t think for one second that the lawmakers and organizations working to end sex selective abortions are doing so for the good of women. They have explicitly stated that by banning sex-selective abortions, they would have a foothold in getting all abortions eventually banned.

Once again, special interest groups are using culture and women’s choices as a weapon. In the 1960s, Western powers exploited female infanticide to encourage gender-selective abortions. Now, pro-lifers are using gender-selective abortions to assign fetuses personhood to stop abortions altogether.

But pro-lifers are not the ones assigning personhood to fetuses that are aborted because of their sex – abortive parents are.

These parents are not saying “this fetus is not a person and doesn’t deserve to live,” they are saying “if this fetus is a boy, it has value, and I will let it live.” Whether or not women are people is being decided by parents who are practicing gender-selective abortion and is being exploited by pro-life groups.

In a world where a woman’s personhood is being decided in the womb, how can she ever hope to achieve equality and respect in her life?

The key here is education. Ignoring the fact that Asian-Americans have sex-selective abortions will not make them go away. These families have Western educations and Western opportunities, yet they still choose boys over girls. The Asian-American communities need to be specifically targeted for education and outreach programs for women and girls.

How many children a family has is a personal issue, but once you decide to become a parent, you don’t get to decide who that little person will be. You don’t get to decide what job they will have, what their hobbies will be, or what their gender is. Even if parents sex-select for a boy, there is no guarantee that he will identify as a male when he grows up. There is no guarantee that he will marry or take care of his parents in their old age. Gender selection, for boys or girls, forces patriarchal societal norms on all children before they are even born and needs to stop.

Why China Needs Feminism – So All People Can be Held Responsible for Their Actions

Why China Needs Feminism – So All People Can be Held Responsible for Their Actions

I just read an article in the Shenzhen Daily that has me fuming. A 16-year old girl gave birth to twins on Sunday. Her 20-year old boyfriend is denying paternity and avoiding her calls, refusing to take responsibility for the children.

Already, there are two problems with this story.

1) The man is not being arrested and charged with rape. Even though people in China are not considered adults until they are 18, they are considered sexually mature at 14. This is one of the reasons why China has a huge problem with teachers having sexual relations with students. Girls are not legally protected from adult sexual predators after they turn 14.

2) Why is no one issuing a paternity test? I don’t have an answer for this. I don’t know if paternity testing just isn’t common or if it is too expensive or what. But asking for a paternity test seems like a pretty elementary move. However, the real reason I am so angry over this case is probably why no one is asking for a paternity test.

Apparently, it doesn’t matter if he is the father or not; a man in China is not legally responsible for his children.

At the end of the article, it says, “Li Yaguan, a lawyer with a Guangdong Province firm, said Ah Yue [the father] is not liable for criminal responsibility because Ah Wen [the mother] is at an eligible age for her behavior, but said Ah Yue should share the responsibility of raising his sons.”

So the mother is responsible for her actions and must care for the twins, but the father is not responsible for his actions and just run away with no liability whatsoever?

This is absolutely absurd. It is blatantly sexist to force only women to take full responsibility for an act that required two people. Also, it is completely at odds with China’s child abandonment laws. In China, child abandonment is illegal (even when children are abandoned at safe havens like the baby hatches, it is still illegal). How is this anything but child abandonment? If the mother was to decide she could not deal with these two babies (she is only 16, remember) and was to abandon them at the hospital, she would be arrested and charged, but, once again, that dirtbag of a rapist would get off scot-free.

Let me make it clear, I am not saying that women should have the right to abandon their children (though I do advocate baby Moses laws). What I am saying is that both people who created these little lives need to be held responsible to them. What people seem to forget is that it is the innocent babies who are going to suffer. If this man retains his “right” to abandon his children, the children will pay the price.

This man is a criminal. He is a rapist. He is abandoning his children. He should be in prison.

This standard that allows men to abandon their children has even farther-reaching consequences. China has a low divorce rate (though it is rising). One of the main reasons for this is China’s backwards custody laws. If a couple has a child and decides to divorce, the woman will most likely lose custody of her child if the father wants the child. China’s custody laws favor the parent who makes the most money, which is usually the father. Many women will stay in a bad marriage for fear of losing their children. But the story of the 16-year old girl shows why many women might stay in a bad marriage even if she isn’t worried about custody. If a man does pass up his custody rights, according to this situation, he would not be required to pay child support. China also does not have alimony laws. So if a woman leaves her husband, not only will she have to support herself, but would be solely responsible for the costs of raising her child as well.

China’s divorce, custody, and paternity laws are archaic and keep women chained to their husbands like slaves.

China’s laws are sexist and favor irresponsible, adult rapists over innocent, helpless, sick children.

I am disgusted at China’s legal system today.

Beijing College Students Advertise The Vagina Monologues With Their Vaginas

Beijing College Students Advertise The Vagina Monologues With Their Vaginas

vagina 1What the Vagina say? According to female students from Beijing Foreign Studies University, many things. To promote their upcoming performance of The Vagina Monologues (which EVERYONE should see!), the girls took pictures of themselves holding signs with phrases like “my vagina says: I can be sexy, but you can’t harass me,” and “my vagina says, “someone can enter if I say so.”

Rock on, ladies!

Of course, in typical misogynist fashion, many internet users have completely missed the point and have decided these girls are all sluts in need of public shaming. But unlike the sea of cowardly internet trolls out there, these girls clearly demonstrate that talking about sexuality and taking control of your sexual identity is nothing to be ashamed of and proudly show their faces. China needs feminism, and this is exactly the kind it needs.

"My vagina says: Virginity is bullshit!"
“My vagina says: Virginity is bullshit!”
The Vagina Monologues has been shown around China since 2009, though often advertised with the word “vagina” censored. But that isn’t unique to China. In America it is still often referred to in ads a “The V Monologues.”
"My vagina says: I want respect!"
“My vagina says: I want respect!”

You can see all of the original pictures the students posted on Sina Weibo, but the site is in Chinese.

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