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China Sex & Gender

Liberal Writer Li Jingrui Angers Chinese Feminists: “Weaklings and Warriors Are Not Defined by Gender”

Why do prominent mainland liberals speak out against Chinese feminism?

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While Chinese feminist social media accounts are facing an online crackdown, a major discussion has erupted on Weibo after prominent liberal writer Li Jingrui voiced her negative stance on the feminist movement in the PRC today. The incident highlights the existing conflict between ‘mainland liberals’ and ‘mainland feminists.’

In the days following International Women’s Day, discussions on feminism in the PRC have been buzzing on Chinese social media.

A discussion that particularly received attention on Chinese social media this week is one that is taking place between mainland liberal thinkers and Chinese feminists on the issue of women’s power struggle in China.

The discussion was triggered when Li Jingrui (李静睿), a well-known female author and supporter of Chinese democratic activists, spoke out about China’s feminist movement. An online crackdown affecting various feminism-related social media accounts fuelled the debate.

 

FEMINIST VOICES SILENCED

“The account won’t be reactivated because it has posted ‘sensitive and illegal information.'”

 

On the eve of March 8, the renowned feminist Weibo account ‘Feminist Voices‘ (@女权之声), which had over 181,000 followers, was pulled offline after it had actively posted about Women’s Day during the day. The Feminist Voices’ Wechat account also disappeared the next day.

The ‘Feminist Voices’ Weibo and Wechat account were taken offline on and after March 8.

The Feminist Voices platform’s founding editor Lü Pin (吕频) spoke out on Twitter about the issue, saying that she was told by Sina Weibo’s customer service staff that the account would not be reactivated because it has posted “sensitive and illegal information.”

Lü Pin stated that preceding the account’s deletion, Feminist Voices had encouraged people on Weibo to announce their “anti-sexual harassment declaration” in response to the international #MeToo campaign.

Besides Feminist Voices, other accounts were also affected by the online crackdown around Women’s Day 2018. Amongst them was the ‘Feminist Forum’ (女权主义贴吧), which saw more than 19,000 Weibo posts erased from the internet by late February.

 

THE LI JINGRUI CONTROVERSY

“I would never use my female sex as an excuse for being weak. Weaklings and warriors are not defined by gender.”

 

While the heightened censorship caused outrage amongst many feminists on social media, a controversial post by the liberal writer and former legal journalist Li Jingrui (李静睿) popped up on Weibo. Li is well known for her involvement in social justice movements together with her husband Xiao Han (萧瀚), a prominent liberal scholar.

One of the Weibo posts by Li Jingrui triggering debate on Weibo.

In her post, Li addressed the Chinese feminist movement, writing:

I have no interest in the concept of social collectives, and I have no strong sense of gender awareness. I like to cook and do housework. I don’t feel angered when I do these things, nor do I feel enslaved. Instead of focusing on gender issues, I prefer to study and discuss broader political and cultural issues, and spare no efforts to lead a serious and full intellectual life. I feel no hostility towards the male sex, and I do not feel like fighting them. I just feel guilty that I know there are certain things I really want to fight, but I do not have the guts to do so. I would never use my female gender as an excuse for being weak. Weaklings and warriors are not defined by gender. Lin Zhao* stood on the barricades. I hope I’ll [continue to be] be aware of power and treasure freedom – I’ll always fight for it. This has nothing to do with being a woman. It is a matter of humanity. Gender is not an obstacle, nor should it ever be an excuse.”

*Lin Zhao is a prominent Chinese dissident who was imprisoned and later executed during the Cultural Revolution for her criticism of Mao Zedong’s policies.

Shortly after Li Jingrui published her post, she received a lot of criticism from the online feminist community, of which many people previously supported Li for her contribution to civil rights activism in China, and for the fact that she and her husband address politic issues while facing strict censorship.

Some of the main problematic points of Li’s post as addressed by disgruntled feminists on Weibo are the following:
– That Li considers feminism as a social collective.
– That she reinforces the stereotype that feminists hate cooking and cleaning, and that they dislike men.
– That Li is unaware of her privilege to be able to choose if she wants to cook or clean, but that many women do not enjoy that same privilege.
– That she implies that her intellectual goals are more important and of a ‘higher standard’ than feminist goals are.
– That she hints that feminists are cowards who hide behind their gender.
– That she does not realize that feminists pursue the same human equality and freedom as she herself does.

Another issue that caused some consternation online is that Li’s husband Xiao Han also left a comment on Li’s post saying he agreed with her stance. Some commenters used this against Li, saying that she is “brainwashed” by her husband and relies on him to build her self-worth.

 

BROADER POLITICAL TOPICS

“My friends who are lawyers, public intellectuals, or Tibetan, have no platform to have their voices heard.”

 

In response to the controversy her post evoked, Li Jingrui published another post on March 8 in which she reiterated her idea that there are more important matters in China’s public debate than feminist issues.

Li Jingrui

In this post, Li warns Chinese feminists that they still enjoy relative freedom of discussion compared to other activists in the PRC. Li mentions that lawyers, public intellectuals, and her “Tibetan friends” have since long been silenced and have no platform to speak from, something which seems to have already been “taken for granted.”

Li’s post, in which she writes: “My friends who are lawyers, public intellectuals, or Tibetan, have no platform to have their voices heard.”

Li explains that, instead of a focus on Chinese feminism, she would rather see attention shifted towards more “broad political topics” and to those whose voices are consistently silenced.

Her second post again received much criticism, with some commenters from feminist circles arguing that they were all facing “high censorship,” and that those topics undergoing more censorship were not necessarily more important than those facing less control.

Li’s main opponents come from a new generation of young Chinese feminists (both male and female) and online influentials such as Zhou Yun (周韵, @一音顷夏) or ‘@Linsantu.'[1]

But Li also received much support from like-minded commenters, including from influential accounts such as Luo Zhiqiu (@洛之秋) and Dagudu (@大咕咕咕鸡).

People speaking out for Li claimed that Chinese feminists are not “real feminists,” but “feminazis” (女权纳粹) or “countryside feminists” (中华田园女权: a term to describe women who label themselves as feminists but cherry pick the rights they think they should have).

In their defense of Li Jingrui, these commenters say that people such as Li and her husband are fighting the “real fight,” and are in touch with reality, supposedly unlike the Chinese feminists they attack.

 

MAINLAND LIBERALS VERSUS CHINESE FEMINISTS

“Li Jingrui just prioritizes human rights over women’s rights, what’s wrong with that?”

 

This is not the first time that China’s ‘mainland liberals’ clash with feminists. In “Mainland Liberalism and Feminism” (大陆自由派和女权主义 2016), Weibo blogger @bdf84 writes: “We may think that liberals pursue freedom and democracy, and oppose the oppression of totalitarianism. And since feminists oppose the oppression of women, the two are seemingly natural allies. But this is not true.” [2]

Although both mainland liberals and feminists care about people’s equality and oppression, their perspective on how oppression works and freedom can be attained is radically different. Whereas feminists mostly seek to explain (female) oppression through social and cultural (gender) constructions, mainland liberals are concerned with political systems, and generally, do not believe that culturally constructed power dimensions constitute oppression.

Now that the Li Jingrui has gained much attention on Chinese social media, there are also some people who do not understand the two sides of the discussion. “Since when do human rights oppose women’s rights?”, one netizen (@文盲摇曳有声) wonders. “Li Jingrui just prioritizes human rights over women’s rights, what’s wrong with that?”, others write.

But the two sides of the discussion show no signs of mutual understanding, as some feminist commenters respond with much indignation and are met with derision by their opponents.

Meanwhile, as fierce online debates continue, Li Jingrui has deleted the posts on her Weibo account related to the discussion. “My personal life has come under attack,” she says: “It’s useless. In the future, I will not participate in these kinds of discussions again.”

On Twitter, the editor of Feminist Voices is not involved in these discussions – she is mourning the account’s erasure during the recent crackdown. “The trace of us has been totally erased from social media in China,” Lü Pin writes: “We are still in shock.”

By Boyu Xiao & Manya Koetse

[1] As described by Hariette Evans on Wagic.com, these new feminist communities are often transnational. @Linsantu, for example, is a Columbia University graduate, whereas Zhou Yun is a PhD candidate at Harvard University’s Sociology department.

[2] A 2013 article by Li Sipan (李思磐, alias of the political sociologist Li Jun) titled “Why don’t Chinese mainland liberals support feminism?” (“中国大陆自由主义者为何不支持女权主义?”) is also fully focused on this polarized discussion.

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.

Boyu Xiao is an MPhil graduate in Asian Studies (Leiden University/Peking University) focused on modern China. She has a strong interest in feminist issues and specializes in the construction of memory in contemporary China.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. docphd

    March 15, 2018 at 5:39 am

    Both sides are full of ideologues intolerant of differences and uninterested in human beings other than in an abstract sense. How is that different from the mentality of Red Guards? U know what? AT least the communists know how to run a huge mess of a country that is China. These anti-chicom ‘freedom fighters’ can’t organise a piss up in a brewery.

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China Sex & Gender

Shaanxi Domestic Violence Incident Caught on Home Security Camera, Sparks Online Outrage

The man, a deputy director at a state-owned company, has been fired after the video of the domestic abuse went viral online.

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Home security footage showing a man brutally beating his wife in front of their young child has drawn widespread criticism on Chinese social media. The man, a deputy director at a state-owned company, has now been fired.

A shocking video of a domestic violence incident taking place inside a home in Xi’an, Shaanxi Province, has sparked anger across Chinese social media over the past week.

The video, recorded in the family’s living room, shows a man severely beating his wife while their toddler is with them in the room (a blurred video published by The Paper can be viewed here, viewer discretion is advised).

Although stories of domestic violence often go trending on Chinese social media, this case is especially noteworthy due to the fact that the incident was recorded by indoor home security cameras. Security cameras inside the home have become more popular in China over the past few years, especially for families with kids or pets to keep tabs on what is going on inside the living room or other home areas.

The video first shows the man frantically hitting the woman on her head over a dozen times while she is sitting on the couch with the child on her lap. The woman then stands up and seemingly tries to get her daughter somewhere safe while the child cries out for her mum. The man then violently drags the woman away again and resumes to frantically beat her. When the child cries out, the mum tells her “don’t be scared darling” while the abuse continues – the man slaps the woman on her face and pushes her down.

At one point, another woman, who is said to be the man’s mother, steps into the room and takes the young child away without stopping the violence or saying anything at all.

The video of the incident sparked major outrage on Thursday, January 20, as it went viral on Chinese social media and became a hot search topic.

Various hashtags related to the incident ended up as popular searches / trending topics.

The video supposedly surfaced online because the domestic abuse victim posted it herself on WeChat, although this is not entirely clear as her identity and social media information are kept private. The video was posted on Weibo by someone within her Wechat friends group on January 19.

In screenshots that have also gone viral online, the victim speaks about the abuse, claiming it was not the first time for her to suffer abuse at the hands of her husband. She writes that she was also abused, both psychically and mentally, during her pregnancy and shortly afterward and that her husband has also been aggressive with their child.

Many Weibo users who watched the video of the incident already commented that they could tell domestic abuse was normalized inside the Wang family home due to the grandmother’s seemingly calm and indifferent response to the violence.

The man in the video was identified as Wang Pengfei (王鹏飞), a deputy director at the state-owned Shaanxi Airport New Silk Road Trading Company. The company opened up a brand-new Weibo account to post a public statement on the matter, condemning the behavior of Mr. Wang and saying he was suspended from his duties. They later added another post that Wang was fired from his job.

On Thursday, the police also posted on social media to inform netizens that the case was under investigation. Two days later, local authorities from the Baqiao District in Xi’an, Shaanxi, issued a statement regarding the case.

According to the police statement, the 28-year-old Mrs. Wang and the 34-year-old Mr. Wang had an argument on the night of January 18 over a household matter. Mrs. Wang allegedly reacted in an “extreme” way and the conflict between the two escalated, leading to Mr. Wang beating up his wife. Mrs. Wang reported the incident to the police on January 19th.

The police statement said that “both spouses recognized their mistakes” and that, in accordance with the law, Mr. Wang received a five-day prison sentence and Mrs. Wang received “educational criticism.” Being a Party member, Mr. Wang was also given a “severe disciplinary warning” within the Party.

Over the past few years, domestic violence has been a recurring topic on Chinese social media with many voices trying to raise public awareness about this widespread social problem.

In 2019, the Chinese makeup influencer Yuya Mika shared her story as a survivor of domestic abuse in a video that went viral on Weibo. That video contained shocking footage of Yuya’s ex-boyfriend trying to violently drag her out of an elevator – a moment that was also caught on security cameras.

The tragic story of a Tibetan vlogger named Lamu (拉姆, Lhamo in Tibetan) also triggered many discussions on Chinese social media in 2020, after she was set on fire by her ex-husband who previously abused her for years. Lamu did not survive, and her death sparked an online movement advocating for better laws and support systems for domestic abuse victims in China (for more on this story, check out our podcast on Lamu here).

This week, the Xi’an incident again led to online discussions about how Chinese authorities deal with domestic violence. Many commenters argued that the five-day detainment sentence was too light, and others wondered why the wife was “re-educated” by the police while being the victim in this matter, and why it was suggested that her “extreme” response to their argument was what led to the beating.

“As if she deserved the beating due to her lack of good communication,” one person wrote.

Various Chinese state media, including CCTV, condemned domestic violence and stressed that it was never just a “family issue.”

Weibo blogger ‘Marcus Says’ (@马库斯说) posted a commentary on the incident, arguing that it is useless for Chinese state media to claim there is “zero tolerance” for domestic violence in China when the law still does not do enough to punish the wrongdoers and to protect the vulnerable people in these kinds of situations. The post was shared over 7000 times.

But there were also many Weibo users who claimed that it was Mrs. Wang who first hit her husband, arguing that the problem of domestic violence often comes from both sides and that there should be more awareness about women abusing men. Commenter @voiceyaya wrote: “Again we’re talking about domestic abuse and we generally and repeatedly say we shouldn’t blame the victim and that it’s never the victim’s fault, but I don’t think it’s very meaningful. Why can’t we face the reality that many cases of domestic violence involve violence on both sides and that there is a problem of both parties hitting each other?”

There are also those who blame Mrs. Wang for punishing her husband too severely by exposing his behavior online, arguing that he will never get another job now that his name and photo are widely known.

Despite some online disagreements about the case, most people agree that the child’s well-being should be prioritized above anything else. “How tragic for the child, will this really be the last time she sees her daddy hit her mum? She is so small to be immersed in such a frightening scene. This will continue to haunt her for a long time.”

It is currently not known if the couple will divorce, or if Mr. Wang and his wife will be reunited after his five days of detainment are over.

By Manya Koetse

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.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Sex & Gender

Doctor Livestreams Gynecological Surgery: Video Streaming Site Bilibili Responds to the Controversy

An anesthesiologist from Shandong live-streamed from the operating room while a patient was undergoing gynecological surgery.

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A video on the popular Chinese video platform Bilibili has triggered controversy on social media. On January 15, a doctor was filming during gynecological surgery and live-streamed the entire procedure for everyone to see.

The issue came to light after one Bilibili user posted on social media that he had personally seen the live stream on Saturday, saying that the female patient was under anesthesia and unaware of being filmed. After this person immediately reported the live stream to Bilibili, it was cut off and ended.

The video streaming platform Bilibili responded to the controversy on Tuesday night, stating that the livestreamer was previously warned and cut off from the platform and that he has now been permanently banned. Bilibili also stated they had reported the person to Chinese authorities.

A hashtag related to Bilibili’s statement was viewed over 220 million times on Weibo on Wednesday, making it one of the top trending topics of the day (#B站回应有账号直播妇科手术#).

Chinese news outlet The Paper (澎湃新闻) reported that the doctor in question was identified by authorities and has been arrested. According to one of their sources, the person who live-streamed the surgery is an anesthesiologist who works at Rizhao Central Hospital in Shandong. The case is currently under investigation.

Weibo commenters have responded to the incident with shock and disgust. “This doctor lacks any medical ethics,” some write, with others mentioning how the privacy of the patient has been violated and saying they hope the doctor will be punished for what he has done. There are also those who wonder why other medical staff members did not intervene when they saw the anesthesiologist filming, suggesting this probably was not the first time for him to do so.

The issue has also triggered online discussions regarding Bilibili’s content policies, with some raising questions on why videos or live streams relating to politically sensitive issues will be pulled offline immediately while these kinds of videos can apparently be live-streamed without any problem.

Just a few months ago, similar discussions also trended on Chinese social media after an online influencer committed suicide by drinking pesticide during a live broadcast.

Xiakedao (@侠客岛), a Weibo account run by state media outlet People’s Daily, published a commentary on the recent Bilibili controversy on January 19, stressing that Chinese video platforms should be held accountable for their lack of supervision.

Update January 22:

China Daily reports on January 22nd that eleven people have been held accountable for the live stream and that the doctor, named Li, is currently in custody and is facing criminal charges. His medical certification will be canceled.

By Manya Koetse

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.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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