Category: Women in China

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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