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Online Outrage over Gansu Female Medical Workers Required to Shave Their Heads

Heroes of the coronavirus crisis or victims of visual propaganda? A video showing female medical workers having their heads shaved has triggered controversy.

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A Chinese media post praising female nurses for having their heads shaved has sparked outrage on Weibo and WeChat. Are these women heroes of the coronavirus crisis or victims of gendered visual propaganda?

A video showing tearful female medical workers having their head shaved before going to COVID-19 epicenter city Wuhan has sparked outrage on Chinese social media.

The video, originally posted by Gansu Daily (每日甘肃网) on February 15, shows how a group of female nurses is standing in line to have their hair shaved off in preparation of their mission to Hubei to assist during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

In the short segment that has since gone viral on Weibo and WeChat, some women can be seen crying while having all of their hair shaved off.

According to Gansu Daily and other Chinese media, the fifteen nurses, including one man, are part of a medical aid group that was sent out to Wuhan this weekend. Their hair was reportedly shaved off “in accordance with requirements” to make their work more efficient and reduce the risk of infection.

The original news post praises the women as “the epidemic’s heroes in harm’s way” (“疫情中最美的逆行者”) – a term also used to describe brave firefighters during the 2015 Tianjin explosions (for more background on this term in Chinese, also see Xinhua and Zhihu).

Although the story praises the female medical workers as heroes and was soon reposted and promoted by many other (state) media, it was not just met with positive reactions from Chinese netizens.

On the contrary: it triggered waves of criticism over the medical team’s supervisors requiring the women to shave off their hair, with many deeming the measures unnecessary, humiliating, and sexist.

“Why do they need to shave all of their hair, the men don’t even need to do that?!”, some Weibo commenters wonder.

Many Weibo users wonder how necessary it actually is for the women to go completely bold for medical work purposes, wondering why the male workers do not need to shave their heads and why the women could not just opt for a shorter hairstyle instead – suggesting the media circus surrounding the shaving of the heads is more about visual propaganda than actually being a necessity.

“I am a medical worker myself,” one Weibo user writes: “I consulted an infection control doctor [on this matter] and they said it is not necessary at all to have a bald head. Short hair is convenient enough, and hair has a protective function too to reduce [skin] irritation from the friction of wearing hats and masks. It furthermore also has a function of catching sweat, preventing it from dripping to your eyes. A shaven head does more harm than good.”

“Why do people need to bleed and cry in order for them to become heroes?”, others say: “This is just cruel.”

Adding to the online fury was a photo showing the group of medical workers after their heads were shaved, as the one male nurse in the group not only seemed to wear a better quality face mask, but also appeared to have much more hair left than the female nurses.

The original Gansu Daily post has since been deleted from social media.

On WeChat account Epoch Story (“epochstory2017″/Epoch故事小馆), author Chen Mashu (陈麻薯) posted a critique on February 17th titled “Please Stop Using Female Bodies as Propaganda Tools” (“请停止用女性的身体,作为宣传的工具“).

Recent online Chinese visual propaganda in times of the coronavirus crisis has seen a strong focus on Wuhan medical workers.

This kind of visual propaganda often highlights the idea of “sacrificing,” especially when it comes to women as pretty girls, loving mothers, or good wives.

In the WeChat article, author Chen argues that Chinese state media always uses women’s bodies as a tool for propaganda, and argues that it should not be necessary for women to endure extra hardship or suffering (in this case, sacrifice their hair) in order to make them admirable ‘model workers.’ The fact that they are fighting on the front line should be more than enough reason to praise them, Chen writes.

While these women’s tears were “used to try to impress the audience” and become an example of some “collectivist spirit,” Chen argues, this kind of propaganda backfired because the individual needs and wishes of these women were completely ignored during the process.

Although the original story and visuals may have meant to be empowering in times of coronacrisis, they are actually counterproductive to female empowerment at large.

This is not the first time the role of women in Chinese state media propaganda become a big topic of discussion online.

In 2016, a photo series titled “100.000 soldier-loving girls” (十万恋军女孩) posted by China’s Military Web during the Wuhan flood also caused controversy. In the online media campaign, Chinese state media paid a ‘tribute’ to rescue workers by sharing pictures of girls holding the message “I wish to wash your uniform for you”. It triggered online discussions on the submissive female image propagated by Chinese state media.

At time of writing, various posts about the shaved heads of the Gansu medical workers have been taken offline.

For more COVID-19 related articles, please click here.

By Manya Koetse (@manyapan) and Bobby Fung (@bobbyfungmr), with contributions by Miranda Barnes

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China Media

CCTV Calls for Chinese Animal Abuse Laws

“Where’s China’s animal protection law?” – voices calling for a Chinese animal protection law are growing louder. Now, state media also call for legislation.

Manya Koetse

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Just a day after a horrific story of a Chinese security guard pouring scalding water over a pregnant cat went viral on social media, the call for legislation against animal abuse is top trending on Weibo.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV initiated the hashtag “CCTV calls for rapid legislation against animal abuse” (#央视呼吁禁止虐动物尽快立法#), which received 510 million views on Thursday.

The state media outlet stated that society is against animal cruelty, but that this opposition can now only exist on a “moral level,” rather than legal. “Whenever animal cruelty happens, people can only condemn it,” CCTV wrote, adding that they look forward to seeing laws against animal abuse be implemented as soon as possible.

According to CCTV, many delegates already raised the issue of animal cruelty laws during this year’s Two Sessions, (lianghui), China’s largest annual legislative meetings.

China currently has no laws preventing animal abuse. But over the past few years, the voices calling for the legal protection of animals in China have become louder.

Every now and then, extreme stories of animal abuse become the topic of the day on Chinese social media. Sometimes, Chinese netizens take matters into their own hand; they spread personal information on the animal abusers online. This phenomenon where Internet users hunt down and punish people is known as the ‘Human Flesh Search Engine‘, and it often comes into action in cases connected to animal cruelty.

In one 2016 case of a man abusing a dog, for example, a group of animal welfare activists traced the man down, dragged him out of his house and publicly shamed him and beat him up.

In 2017, netizens cried out for rapid implementation of animal welfare legislation in China after a heartbreaking video of a young girl holding her killed dog went viral on social media. Her dog was shot by a neighborhood guard with an air gun.

Two years ago, another brutal case of pet killing also shocked Chinese social media users, when a Chongqing man threw his golden retriever and a pregnant cat from the 21st floor of his apartment building. The man allegedly committed the cruel act after learning his wife was pregnant and not wanting her to keep pets in the house.

This week, it was captured on video how a security guard in Shandong, Taiyuan, poured boiling water over a pregnant stray cat while she was captured in a cage. The cat was treated at a local animal hospital, where vets found that all of her unborn babies had died. The mother cat died soon after. After the story became trending, Chinese netizens soon exposed the man’s address and personal details. The man has since been fired from his job.

As the many social media stories and trends over recent years have shown, this is definitely not the first time for people to call for animal abuse laws. It is more uncommon, however, for a state media outlet to make such a statement.

CCTV also asked Weibo users whether or not they would support an animal welfare law, with virtually all commenters responding that they would also like to see such laws be implemented as soon as possible.

“People who abuse animals have serious problems, legislation is needed,” some Weibo users wrote, with others saying: “[These laws] need to come soon, we need them now, and I hope they’ll be strict.”

However, there is also skepticism about CCTV’s call for immediate legislation on animal abuse.

“When I was studying at university this was already called for, but we’ve waited so many years already,” one lawyer writes: “I haven’t seen any progress being made.”

Others also comment that “the law is always lagging behind.”

Read more about discussions on animal rights in China here.

By Manya Koetse

Featured image by author

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China Media

Girl Brings 23 Relatives on Blind Date, Dinner Bill Comes Down to 20,000 Yuan

The girl said she wanted to test out the generosity of her date.

Manya Koetse

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Image via Qilu Evening News

An expensive blind date has become top trending on Chinese social media platform Weibo, after a girl allegedly brought 23 of her relatives and friends to the dinner. The restaurant bill was 20,000 yuan – close to 3000 USD.

According to China Newsweek Magazine (中国新闻周刊), a man by the name of Xiao Liu had asked the young woman out for dinner, saying it would be his treat. The girl then unexpectedly showed up with an entire crew, saying it was to “test out” Liu’s generosity.

Xiao Liu is a 29-year-old man from Zhejiang province. Struggling to find the time to date with his busy work schedule, Liu’s mother hired a matchmaker to find a suitable potential girlfriend for her single son. The incident happened during a date that was set up by this matchmaker.

The story was originally published by local media outlets Taizhou Evening News (台州晚报) and Qilu Evening News (齐鲁晚报) on WeChat. These sources report that Liu took off without paying once he saw the restaurant bill, quickly turning off his cellphone afterward.

Since Liu left the ‘dinner date’ without paying, the woman was stuck with the bill.

In an attempt to solve the situation with Liu later on, the young woman said she was “willing to go Dutch” on the bill. Liu refused but was still willing to pay the 4398 yuan bill (660 USD) for two tables, leaving the girl with the rest of the 15,402 yuan bill (2305 USD).

The girl reportedly turned to her relatives for help in paying the bill. Screenshots of the WeChat group chat were apparently leaked online, with some group members showing unwillingness to share in the high bill, saying that they did not smoke nor drink and just had a bite to eat – and that it was her who invited them in the first place.

On Weibo, the topic attracted 260 million views on Tuesday, with most commenters siding with Liu and condemning the girl.

Despite the online interest in the topic, there are also some netizens doubting whether or not the story is real. Although screenshots were shared by online media, the actual source of the story remains unknown. It is also not disclosed where or when the incident took place.

The fact that the story was also shared by some official (local) media makes people think that perhaps it was just posted as clickbait.

“Even an idiot would never bring 23 people to a date,” some commenters say.

It is not uncommon for these kinds of interpersonal incidents to go viral on Chinese media.

In 2016, one Shanghai girl was so disappointed about what her boyfriend’s parents served her for Chinese New Year, that she ended her relationship because of it. The story went mega-viral, reinforcing the ‘demanding leftover woman’ media cliché.

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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