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China Sex & Gender

Bold Breastfeeding Photos of Kyrgyzstan’s President’s Daughter Spark Debate on Weibo

The daughter of President Atambayev of Kyrgyzstan, Aliya Shagieva, recently sparked controversy for posting photos of breastfeeding her newborn son on Instagram. On Sina Weibo, Chinese netizens applaud Aliya for breaking taboos around breastfeeding in public – a recurring topic of debate on Chinese social media.

Manya Koetse

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The daughter of President Atambayev of Kyrgyzstan, Aliya Shagieva, recently sparked controversy for posting photos of breastfeeding her newborn son on Instagram. Aliya’s pictures are a bold statement in a country where the influence of religious ideology over how women should dress and act is considerable. On Sina Weibo, many netizens applaud Aliya for breaking taboos around breastfeeding – also a recurring topic of debate on Chinese social media.

Photos of the 20-year-old daughter of Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev, Aliya Shagieva, breastfeeding her baby are being widely shared and discussed on Chinese social media this weekend.

Aliya Shagieva made headlines earlier this month after she posted multiple revealing photos on her Facebook and Instagram (@homesickbluess), sparking a storm of criticism in Kyrgyzstan, where an estimated 80 percent of the population is Muslim.

Aliya Shagieva is the youngest daughter of the leader of Kyrgyzstan. She got married last year and revealed her pregnancy in March, when she posted a picture of her baby bump.

After she gave birth to her son, Tagir, she posted multiple photos of her breastfeeding her baby.

The photos sparked controversy in Kyrgyzstan, with many saying it is wrong for a woman to show off her body and with people calling Aliya “shameless” and a “disgrace to her father.”

Aliya’s father, President Almazbek Atambayev, made international headlines last year when he attacked people who are critical of women who wear more revealing outfits. At a press conference, he stated that women are more prone to become radicalized if they put on Islamic dress, saying: “Women in mini-skirts don’t become suicide bombers.”

According to a report published by the Forum of Women’s NGOs of Kyrgyzstan, the influence of religious ideology in Kyrgyzstan “substantially contributes to discrimination against women.” Bermet Stakeeva, programme officer at the forum, previously told The Guardian: “Islam has a strong influence on women, how to dress and act and it’s now being discussed widely, in mosques and on television, that women should live moral lives.”

Aliya responded to the criticism online saying that it is not right to sexualize breasts this way and that “the most important purpose of female breasts is to breastfeed” and that it is “nothing to be ashamed of.” She emphasized that women’s breasts are not men’s pleasure objects.

Sina Hubei and other Chinese media accounts posted the photos and Aliya’s statements on Weibo on April 21, soon triggering thousands of reactions. The majority of netizens supported Aliya, saying that breastfeeding is nothing to be ashamed of and applauding her for her stance and braveness.

“Kyrgizstan is a country where the majority of people are Muslim (..),” one person commented: “It’s good that she’s the daughter of the President, otherwise she could’ve been killed for this,” one netizen wrote.

“I saw these photos on WeChat and I really admire Aliya’s bravery,” one girl wrote.

“Only human thoughts are dirty, not any part of the body,” a popular comment said.

Many Weibo users wrote comments such as: “She is completely right. Breasts are for feeding your baby, there’s nothing offensive about it.”

Breastfeeding is a recurring topic on Chinese social media. In 2015, an incident where a mother was shamed for breastfeeding on the Beijing subway caused huge controversy on Weibo, even attracting the attention of UNICEF and Beijing authorities.

One Weibo user at the time said the mother should “pay attention to her manners in public place” and that she should not “expose her sex organ.” Weibo netizens collectively responded to the issue; some agreeing that breastfeeding in public is inappropriate, while others defended the woman.

Although the majority of Weibo netizens show their support for Aliya Shagieva in normalizing breastfeeding, not all netizens were supportive: “It’s great that your motherly love is so big, but why do you need to show it off like this?”

Others agreed with this stance, saying: “We all know how mothers feed their babies, but you’re the daughter of the president, why do you want to show us? I don’t want to see it.”

“What is she doing not wearing any pants,” one female commenter said: “She’s shameless.”

As for the young mother Aliya Shagieva herself – it seems that she is no longer active on social media after her photos attracted the attention of national and international media. On April 23, her Instagram account @homesickbluess was no longer available.

– By Manya Koetse

©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Health & Science

Chinese Doctor Knocks Herself Out in Controversial Self-Experiment

Dr. Chen wanted to warn about the dangers of sevoflurane and other drugs.

Manya Koetse

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A female doctor has become a topic of discussion on Chinese social media for her self-experimentation with anesthesia.

Dr. Chen (陈大夫), a Nanjing doctor who works in the Obstetrics and Gynecology department, conducted the experiment in response to an ongoing discussion on whether or not a handkerchief dipped in inhalation anesthetics could cause immediate unconsciousness (“一捂就晕”).

The discussion was triggered by news of the death of a 23-year-old woman from Foshan, Guangdong Province, on February 8. The recent college graduate was found in a hotel room and it was later ruled that the cause of death was acute respiratory failure due to sevoflurane toxicity. The victim’s company supervisor, a 39-year-old man named Peng, is now suspected of fatally sedating and raping the young woman.

The case led to speculation among netizens whether or not sevoflurane could have knocked out the woman in seconds. There have been ongoing debates on the effects of general anesthetics used to sedate unsuspected victims, with some specialists arguing that it is not so easy to make someone slip into unconsciousness within a matter of seconds – saying it would take much longer than and only if an unusually high dosage is used.

Dr. Chen posted on February 10 that she was certain that it is possible for certain inhalation anesthetics to immediately make someone pass out, but her claim was refuted by others. The popular Weibo blogger Jiangning Popo (@江宁婆婆), a police officer, was one of the persons involved in the discussion claiming Chen was wrong.

Dr. Chen is active on Weibo under the handle @妇产科的陈大夫, and with over two million followers on her account, she is somewhat of a ‘celebrity’ doctor.

Instead of spending time arguing back and forth on the internet, Dr. Chen decided to put the issue to the test herself with an unopened bottle of sevoflurane that she had previously purchased for the planned sterilization of her dog. The sevoflurane had already passed its expiry date.

On February 16, Dr. Chen then asked someone else to film her doing the self-experiment and she posted the video on Weibo, in which she inhaled sevoflurane on a cloth. The doctor soon passed out in the video, which has since been deleted.

The experiment in the video lasts 64 seconds, and shows Chen:

– 00:01-00:06 Opening the bottle of sevoflurane
– 00:07-00:12 Preparing a cloth
– 00:13-00:23 Putting the sevoflurane on the cloth
– 00:23-00:26 Closing the cap of the bottle
– 00:27-00:28 Putting the cloth on her mouth and nose
– 00:29-01:33 = the time frame of losing consciousness (with first symptoms starting at 0:44) to going limp and falling on the floor (1:20) and being completely unconscious (1:21-1:33).

Dr. Chen’s experiment immediately sparked controversy after she posted the video on social media.

Although sevoflurane is a prescription drug and a controlled substance, it is also sold online as a type of drug. According to The Paper, the number of rape cases in China facilitated by drugs have risen over the past three years, with many ‘date rape drugs’ being sold and bought over the internet.

With sevoflurane being a controlled substance, Dr. Chen’s video triggered discussions on whether or not she was actually involving in a criminal act by doing the self-experiment. She also received criticism from within the medical community that she used this medication outside of the hospital environment.

Dr. Chen soon deleted the video herself and then called the police to personally explain and apologize for the incident, with the news soon going viral (#女医生拿自己做实验后报警并致歉#, 270 million views).

But despite the controversy, the doctor still defends her actions to some extend. Although Chen stated on February 17 that her self-experiment was “not right,” dangerous, and should never be imitated by anyone, she later also explained on her Weibo page that she thinks sevoflurane as a prescription drug is too easy to get your hands on and that the existing laws to prevent people from buying it are too weak.

The doctor has succeeded in raising public awareness on the dangers of these kinds of drugs. She also reminds both women and men never to leave their drink unattended, as the dangers of someone slipping something in your drink are real and the consequences can be grave.

As the incident has gone trending on Chinese social media, many commenters praise Dr. Chen for her experiment, while others also praise her for being transparent and admitting her mistakes.

 
By Manya Koetse
with contributions by Miranda Barnes

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©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Arts & Entertainment

Another Gala, Another Controversy: 2021 Spring Festival Gala Draws Criticism for Gendered Jokes

Many felt the Gala’s comic sketches were insensitive to Chinese women and singles.

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The 2021 Spring Festival Gala was held on Thursday on the night of Chinese New Year’s Eve. The annual Spring Festival Gala, arranged and produced by the state broadcaster CCTV, is one of the world’s most-watched TV shows.

Although watching the Gala together with family members has become an annual tradition for Chinese families for several decades already, the show’s comic sketches and skits – often the highlights of the show – are becoming increasingly controversial and less popular in recent years.

In earlier decades, the xiaopin (comic sketch) was the best-received type of performance of the Gala for evoking laughter among the audiences. The various xiaopin shows are filled with puns, funny lines, and plot twists to entertain the viewers.1

Over recent years, these comic acts performed during the Spring Festival Gala have come to center more on social issues such as environmental protection, corruption, social morals, migrant workers, and family affairs – including those concerning love and marriage. Many of the performances in this year’s Gala followed a ‘happy beginning with sad endings’ plot, conveying more sophisticated messages and values that many viewers did not appreciate.

These seemingly changing undertones are also a reason why younger generations often say they prefer spending time online instead of watching the Gala. Some young people say they feel the Spring Festival Gala is losing the real “Spring Festival atmosphere” (“年味”).

By now, the Gala is increasingly known for triggering controversy online.

In 2015, the Gala was criticized for being misogynistic. One of the sketches titled “Goddesses and Tomboys” (“女神和女汉子”) marked a contrast between an ‘iron woman’ or ‘tomboy’ (女汉子) and a ‘goddess’ (女神) by depicting the first as a single chubby woman and the second as a succesful slim model, which critics deemed to be stereotypical and sexist. The same show also drew criticism for depicting ‘leftover women,’ unmarried women over 30, as unwanted and second-hand goods.

“女神和女汉子”

In 2017, another controversial sketch titled “Permanent True Love” (“真情永驻”) seemed to convey that women have an obligation to reproduce. The featuring female character voluntarily asked to divorce her husband after she had a miscarriage, out of consideration for his supposed right to offspring.

“Permanent True Love” (“真情永驻”).

In 2018, a comedy sketch titled “Share the Same Joy and Happiness” (“同喜同乐”), which included an actress wearing blackface, struck the wrong note with many social media users, who deemed it ‘inappropriate’, ‘offensive’, and ‘racist.’

This year, the Gala also was not without controversies. One sketch titled “Happiness towards Spring” (“开往春天的幸福”) was meant to emphasize the love between couples but drew criticism for the sexist jokes it contained. One of the male characters in the scene compared his ex-wife to an ugly villain when she does not wear make-up saying: “Have you seen her take off her makeup?No brows! Once we ate together face to face, and she held a pair of chopsticks, with the light flashing, and I thought she was Voldemort.”

Similar jokes and puns reappeared several times. Many viewers criticized the exaggerated banter over women transforming once their make-up is removed, with some commenting: “These lines are delivering a simple message that women with makeup are pretty, while women without makeup are invariably ugly and sloppy.”

Another skit titled “Urged to Get Married Every Holiday” (“每逢佳节被催婚”) attracted online attention as well for containing lines like “My daughter is already 28 yet still has no boyfriend” and for referring to unmarried people as “Single Dogs” (单身狗) – a term that initially appeared in 2011 as a buzzword filled with self-mockery before the term developed a strong negative connotation.

Bloggers and web users expressed that the use of these kinds of insensitive terms in the Gala made them feel uncomfortable, only adding to the anxiety and self-loathing they already feel in a time of major social pressure.

“I have been urged to get married countless times by my relatives these days already, do I still also have to be insulted in this skit, too?” some Weibo users said, with others wondering if there was “something wrong” with the director of the show for embarrassing unmarried people like this.

Still from “Urged to Marry Every Holiday” (每逢佳节被催婚).

Over recent years, there are more online discussions regarding the pressure faced by women to get married and how women (and their appearance) are portrayed in the media. There is a growing public awareness about gender discrimination and inequality, with campaigns on women’s rights also being highlighted by Chinese official media. The media’s stigmatization and stereotyping of women are topics that are now more often challenged and questioned on Chinese social media.

Although many female web users spoke out against the misrepresentation and distortion of female roles in the Gala, there were also commenters who advocated a more lighthearted approach, writing things such as: “Don’t overreact, these gendered jokes only serve a theatrical purpose.” Others argue that people are only looking for the negative messages in sketches that are meant to be positive, with one Weibo user wondering about all the controversy: “Are we even watching the same Gala?!”

The diverse discussions regarding the Gala and how it represents gender roles do not stand by themselves – they are a signal of a bigger movement questioning the representation of gender roles in Chinese popular culture. Since these discussions won’t die out any time soon, we can expect more of these controversies to surface again in the Galas to come.

Want to know more about the Gala? What’s on Weibo did a liveblog, check it out here.

By Vivian Wang

Edited for clarity by Manya Koetse

References

1 Liu, Ji. 2010. “Ambivalent Laughter: Comic Sketches in CCTV’s Spring Festival Eve Gala.” Journal of Modern Literature in Chinese, 10(1), 103-12.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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