A controversial lecture on traditional culture and values for women at Jiangxi’s Jiujiang university has become a topic of discussion in Chinese media and on social media platforms.
The public lecture took place on May 14 at the Jiujiang University in China’s southeast province Jiangxi. It was themed around women’s virtues and “How to be a model woman in the new era.” It caught the attention of netizens when a student posted pictures of the lecture and its alleged Powerpoint slides, which contained sentences such as “being a virgin is the best gift for a husband” and “wearing revealing clothing is vulgar.”
The lecture was held by the 63-year-old Ding Xuan (丁璇), a well-known expert from Hebei on traditional culture. She is also a member of the China Women’s Development Foundation and is often invited to speak at educational institutes, enterprises, and governmental organizations about female virtues or other topics related to Chinese traditional culture.
Ding Xuan’s talk at Jiujiang University drew much controversy over the past week, with people condemning her “feudal thinking.” Many netizens said her speech countered gender equality. People also questioned why Ding was provided a platform at the university to spread these ideas.
In response to the controversy, Jiujiang University’s Publicity Department denied that the lecture contained the slides shared on social media.
Chinese media outlet Global Times reported that the school still supported their decision to host Ding Xuan, saying her seminar did not contain anything “inappropriate,” and that it was meant for female students to “respect themselves and find happiness.”
On Weibo, however, many netizens are angered about Ding Xuan’s lecture: “Any ‘virtues’ that are specifically taught to women and not to men are bad! Men and women both need to avoid immorality, why would you specifically teach morals to women?”, some netizens said.
“A virtuous woman does not kill her child.”
On video platform Tudou, What’s on Weibo found this video featuring one of Ding Xuan’s full lectures on “women’s virtues.” In this lecture, which was held in March of 2016, Ding talks about various issues on how to be a virtuous woman.
The lecture focuses on anything from posture to abortion. Ding stresses that women should not eat while walking, for example, should not raise their voice to greet their neighbors, should not cross their arms while talking, and mentions many other ‘rules’ that ‘virtuous women’ should live by.
Later in the lecture, Ding talks about abortion and shows the audience a disturbing anti-abortion video clip, featuring bloody abortion procedures and graphic pictures of aborted fetuses. While the sound of a crying baby is played, the clip shows blood-soaked fetal limbs and body parts.
Ding then continues to explain that women undergoing abortion are murderers who kill their own baby (“killed by their own mother by her own hand!“) – emphasizing that virtuous women do not “kill their children.”
“Taken out of context.”
Since the controversy over the Jiujiang lecture, Ding Xuan has received a lot of attention, with various bloggers and journalists speaking out against her.
On May 22, Ding Xuan finally responded to the controversy in an exclusive interview with BTimenow (北京时间此刻), in which she confirmed that she was personally invited to give a lecture on women’s issues by Jiujiang University.
Ding Xuan said that, although she did mention the statements that triggered controversy, they were taken out of context. She also apologized for “perhaps delivering her speech the wrong way.”
About the statement on women wearing revealing clothing, she said: “[The people who criticized me] they did not attend my lecture and probably do not understand the circumstances. There were some students wearing revealing clothing that day, and I raised this issue. At the time, only a few people opposed to it and they left early.”
Ding stressed that it is not her intention to make women do everything she says, but that her lectures just reflect her personal point-of-view and experiences. She said it is how she lives and how she teaches her daughter to live.
“Who is willing to marry a woman who has had an abortion before marriage?”
When BTimenow asked Ding why she raised the issue of revealing clothes to students that day, she answered: “They do not understand that I just said it for their own good. They are now nice-looking ladies who want to dress up, but they shouldn’t dress like they are not wearing anything at all. Revealing their thighs and exposing their cleavage; their breasts are showing. Don’t tell me we don’t bear any responsibility to teach our children? Women should dress properly to protect themselves. Firstly to prevent getting sick, secondly to prevent sexual harassment.”
In the interview, Ding also backed her statement about virginity: “We should remind girls to keep their chastity, which can guarantee the blessing of marriage. Who is willing to marry a woman who has had an abortion before marriage, and who has been someone’s mistress? But people can also have their own point of view, I don’t object to that.”
Ding said she will continue to do lectures on female virtues for anyone who is interested. On Weibo, many netizens say these kinds of speeches should not be given at a university. “It is not appropriate for a university to hosts such a lecture,” one person (@兔子栗子) said. “Wake up! The Qing dynasty is over!”, others wrote.
Many Weibo users commented that if the university hosted these kinds of lectures for women, they should do the same for men. “[Many men] sleep with one girl after the other, yet they still expect to marry a virgin,” some said.
Another commenter said: “Ding Xuan is a woman herself, why does she belittle herself this way? She should return to the feudal times – she is not a modern woman.”
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