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China Sex & Gender

China’s 2018 New Marriage Law? Online Discussions on ‘Three Child Policy’ and Lowering of Marriage Age

Alleged changes to China’s marriage law have set rumors going on Chinese social media about a ‘three-child policy.’

Manya Koetse

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Image is part of larger poster, see: https://chineseposters.net/themes/marriage-law.php

Alleged changes to China’s marriage law have ignited discussions on Chinese social media about a ‘three-child policy’ and a lowering of legal marriage age to 18. Although “it’s all just rumors”, many netizens already raise their voices against such potential changes, saying it would pressure and burden Chinese women even more.

China’s ‘New Marriage Law’ (新婚姻法) has become a topic of discussion on Chinese social media over the past few days, where many netizens have started talking about an alleged “Three Child Policy” and a lowering of China’s legal marriage age to 18.

The New Marriage Law was passed in 1950 as one of the first pieces of legislation passed by the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Mutual consent to marry and a heightened legal age to marry to 18 (for women) and 20 (for men) were among the important points stipulated in this legislation.

In the Marriage Law of 1980, this was again raised to 22 for men and 20 for women to promote population control.

Throughout the years, there have been various legal changes in the Marriage Law or in its interpretation, to deal with emerging marriage and family issues in a rapidly changing Chinese society.

Three Child Policy?

Over the past few days, various Chinese bloggers (e.g. here, here, here) suggest that Chinese authorities are putting forward a 2018 renewed Marriage Law, which includes the alleged proposal of a loosening of the two-child policy towards a ‘three-child policy’ (“放开三胎政策”).

These bloggers and many netizens denounce such a potential measure in saying that an extension from the Two-Child Policy to a ‘Three Child Policy’ would add to the burden of Chinese women.

Such a policy, they argue, might lead to Chinese women facing social expectations to birth a third child. And with supposed longer maternity leaves, they would also face unequal opportunities in the employment market.

When the ‘Two-Child Policy’ was officially announced in 2015 as the new national standard (全面二孩), allowing all Chinese couples to have two children instead of the one-child rule that was the norm since 1979, there were also concerns about the economic and gendered pressures of having a second child.

The end of the One Child Policy relates to the growing societal burdens of China’s aging crisis; many demographers proposed a further liberalization of the Chinese family planning system before.

But according to a Chinese Law site (66law.cn), news about an alleged ‘Three-Child policy’ is all just rumors: “Recently, online rumors about the three-child policy to be implemented in 2018 have grown. We live in a populous country, and if this three-child policy would be implemented, it would only add to the pressure [of this big population],” they write, adding that there is “no truth” to the reports.

The rumors find their root in the parliamentary sessions of March, when, as SupChina notes, a proposal drafted by a deputy named Zhu Lieyu (朱列玉) to the National People’s Congress made headlines for suggesting that a three-child policy might be adopted nationwide.

Zhu Lieyu (朱列玉): proposing a ‘three child policy’

“If China’s birth rate doesn’t see a rise after a three-child policy, we should consider ending any sort of family-planning policy,” the deputy reportedly told Chinese reporters.

Marriage Age to 18

The idea to lower China’s marriage age from the age of 22 for men and 20 for women to 18 years old is something that has already been proposed since last year.

In 2017, National People’s Congress deputy Huang Xihua (黄细花) called for lowering China’s legal marriage age. At the time, many people on Weibo were not happy about the proposal – with some finding it outright shocking.

Huang Xihua (黄细花) is an advocate of lowering China’s marriage age.

Netizens then expressed that they were afraid that such a measure will negatively affect the status of women in Chinese society and increase the nation’s divorce rates. “Won’t this lead to a drop in the percentage of women with a higher education?”, some wondered.

The potential lowering of the legal marriage age, a big trending topic in 2017, is still a source of concern for Chinese netizens now. “This is just a way to make us have more babies!” some say.

“We can’t draft a law based on gossip.”

Despite all talks on social media and blogs, China’s official state media have not released news about any new changes to the legislation yet. “Where is this official launch of the New Marriage Law?”, one female netizen (@澄明居-許振雲) wonders: “We can’t draft a law based on gossip!”

“WeChat accounts are one by one publishing about the New Marriage Law,” another commenter writes: “But there’s nothing here yet – it’s just WeChat users making up their own laws.”

“I actually still hope that we can be open to having three children [in the future],” one female netizen responds: “It will be nice for those who are capable of doing so, and people who like have more children. It’ll also ease the worries on the collapse of the social insurance [system] of those of us who are not having children. Those who want to can have children, and those who do not want to, do not need to. Then we’ll find the middle way in a developing nation.”

Others say such a measure would only add to the pressure of women in China today: “We have 30 million leftover men,” another commenter writes: “The more women’s lives are pressured and the more the value of women’s contribution to family life is neglected, the more females will be afraid to get married.”

By Manya Koetse, with contribution from Diandian Guo.

Featured image is part of a larger poster that can be viewed on the website https://chineseposters.net/themes/marriage-law.php.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 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 Celebs

Chinese Social Media Users Stand up Against Body Shaming

Manya Koetse

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Recent photos of famous actress Gong Li that showed her curvier figure have gone viral on Sina Weibo, receiving over 850 million clicks. With Gong Li’s weight gain becoming all the talk on Weibo, the public’s focus on her appearance has sparked an online wave of body positivity posts, with web users rejecting the all-too-common phenomenon of body shaming on Chinese social media.

First, there was the ‘A4 Waist‘ hype, then there was the ‘iPhone6 Legs‘ trend, the ‘belly button backhand,’ and the online challenge of putting coins in your collarbone to show off how thin you are (锁骨放硬币). Over the past five years, China has seen multiple social media trends that propagated a thin figure as the ruling beauty standard.

But now a different kind of trend is hitting Weibo’s hotlists: one that rejects body shaming and promotes the acceptance of a greater diversity in body sizes and shapes in China.

On August 26, Weibo user @_HYIII_ from Shanghai posted several pictures, writing:

Reject body shaming! Why should we all have the same figure? Tall or short, thin or fat, all have their own characteristics. Embrace yourself, and show off your own unique beauty!

The post was soon shared over 900 times, receiving more than 32,000 likes, with the “body shame” phrase soon reaching the top keyword trending list of Sina Weibo.

 

Gong Li Weight Gain

 

The body positivity post by ‘_HYIII_’ is going viral on the same day that the apparent weight gain of Chinese actress Gong Li (巩俐) is attracting major attention on Chinese social media platforms such as Weibo and Douyin.

The 54-year-old actress, who is known for starring in famous movies such as Farewell My Concubine, To Live, and Memoirs of a Geisha, was spotted taking a walk with her husband in France on August 24. The photos went viral, with media outlets such as Sina Entertainment noting how Gong Li had become “much rounder” and had put on some “happy fat” (幸福肥).

By now, the hashtag page “Gong Li’s Figure” (#巩俐身材#) has received more than 850 million (!) views on Weibo, with thousands of people commenting on the appearance of the actress. In the comment sections, there were many who lashed out against the focus on Gong Li’s weight gain.

“She just has a regular female body shape. Stop using ‘white / skinny / young’ as the main beauty standard to assess other people,” one commenter said, with another person writing: “Why do you all keep focusing on her figure, did she steal your rice and eat it?!”

 

“Why do you all keep focusing on her figure, did she steal your rice and eat it?”

 

Some people suggested that the COVID19 pandemic might have to do with Gong Li’s weight gain, with others writing: “If she is healthy is what matters, skinny or fat is not the way to assess her beauty.”

What stands out from the discussions flooding social media at this time, is that a majority of web users seem to be fed up with the fact that a skinny body is the common standard of women’s beauty in China today – and that accomplished and talented women such as Gong Li are still judged by the size of their waist.

 

Say No to Body Shaming

 

In light of the controversy surrounding Gong Li’s recent photos and the following discussions, posts on ‘body shaming’ (身材羞辱) are now flooding Weibo, with many Weibo users calling on people to “reject body shaming” (拒绝#body shame#) and to stop imposing strict beauty standards upon Chinese women.

The pressure to be thin, whether it comes from the media or from others within one’s social circle, is very real and can seriously affect one’s self-esteem. Various studies have found an association between body dissatisfaction and social pressure to be thin and body shaming in Chinese adolescents and young adults (Yan et al 2018).

The main message in this recent Weibo grassroots campaign against body shaming, is that there are many ways in which women can be beautiful and that their beauty should not be merely defined by limited views on the ideal weight, height, or skin color.

Over the past decades, women’s beauty ideals have undergone drastic changes in China, where there has been a traditional preference for “round faces” and “plump bodies.” In today’s society, thin bodies, sharp faces, and a pointy chin are usually regarded as the standard of female ideal beauty (Jung 2018, 68). China’s most popular photo apps, such as Meitu or Pitu, often also include features to make one’s face pointier or one’s legs more skinny.

This is not the first time Weibo sees a growing trend of women opposing strict beauty standards. Although the word ‘body shaming’ has not often been included in previous trends, there have been major trends of women opposing popular skinny challenges and even one social media campaign in which young women showed their hairy armpits to trigger discussions on China’s female aesthetics.

Especially in times of a pandemic, many netizens now stress the importance of health: “Skinny or fat, it really doesn’t matter how much you weigh, as long as you’re healthy – that’s what counts.”

Also read:

 

By Manya Koetse

 

References

Jung, Jaehee. 2018. “Young Women’s Perceptions of Traditional and Contemporary Female Beauty Ideals in China.” Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal 47 (1): 56-72.

Yan, Hanyi ; Wu, Yingru ; Oniffrey, Theresa ; Brinkley, Jason ; Zhang, Rui ; Zhang, Xinge ; Wang, Yueqiao ; Chen, Guoxun ; Li, Rui ; Moore, Justin. 2018. “Body Weight Misperception and Its Association with Unhealthy Eating Behaviors among Adolescents in China.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 15 (5): 936.

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China Food & Drinks

Tianjin Restaurant Introduces “Meal Boxes for Women”

The special lunch boxes for women were introduced after female customers had too much leftover rice.

Manya Koetse

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China’s anti food waste campaign, that was launched earlier this month, is still in full swing and noticeable on China’s social media where new iniatives to curb the problem of food loss are discussed every single day.

Today, the hashtag “Tianjin Restaurant Launches Special Female Meal Boxes” (#天津一饭店推出女版盒饭#) went trending with some 130 million views on Weibo, with many discussions on the phenomenon of gender-specific portions. The restaurant claims its special ‘female lunch boxes’ are just “more suitable for women.”

According to Tonight News Paper (今晚报), the only difference their reporter found between the “meals for women” and the regular meals, is the amount of rice served. Instead of 275 grams of rice, the ‘female edition’ of the restaurant’s meals contain 225 grams of rice.

The restaurant, located on Shuangfeng Road, decided to introduce special female lunch boxes after discovering that the female diners of the offices they serve usually leave behind much more rice than their male customers.

The restaurant now claims they expect to save approximately 10,000 kilograms of rice on an annual basis by serving their meals based on gender.

On Chinese social media, the initiative was heavily criticized. Weibo netizens wondered why the restaurant would not just offer “bigger” and “smaller” lunch boxes instead of introducing special meals based on gender.

“There are also women who like to eat more, what’s so difficult about changing your meals to ‘big’ and ‘small’ size?”, a typical comment said: “Some women eat a lot, some men don’t.”

Many people called the special meals for women sex discrimination and also wanted to know if there was a difference in price between the ‘female’ and ‘male’ lunch boxes.

There are also female commenters on Weibo who claim they can eat much more than their male colleagues. “Just give me the male version,” one female user wrote: “I’ll eat that meal instead.”

This is the second time this month that initiatives launched in relation to China’s anti food waste campaign receive online backlash.

A restaurant in Changsha triggered a storm of criticism earlier this month after placing two scales at its entrance and asking customers to to enter their measurements into an app that would then suggest menu items based on their weight. The restaurant later apologized for encouraging diners to weigh themselves.

By Manya Koetse

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©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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