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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?

Boyu Xiao

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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. Avatar

    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 Military

China ‘Strikes Back’: Taiwan Military Drills, Countermeasures, and Waves of Nationalism on Weibo

One poster by China Daily on Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan said: “The Chinese people will fight back twice as hard.”

Manya Koetse

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During this tension-filled and eventful week, the general mood on Chinese social media went from angry to frustrated. With the start of China’s military drills around Taiwan and the announcement of countermeasures in response to Pelosi’s Taiwan visit, there’s been a new wave of national pride and expressions of nationalism.

When Nancy Pelosi’s plane landed in Taipei on Tuesday, August 2nd, many Chinese netizens expressed frustration and anger that she had “gotten away too easy” with visiting Taiwan despite repeated warnings by Beijing. Things had not turned out the way many had hoped, and the U.S. House Speaker’s visit to Taiwan – which Beijing considers to be a province of China, – was seen as a provocation at a time when the China-US relationship was already strained.

On Thursday, however, the mood on Chinese social media turned around when China began its announced live-fire military drills around Taiwan. State media channels, official accounts, military bloggers, and regular netizens shared the sometimes movie-like videos showing large-scale military exercises, including ballistic missiles fired into waters.

From Fujian’s Pingtan Island, one of mainland China’s closest points to Taiwan, tourists and day trippers had a front-row view of some projectiles launched by the Chinese military and helicopters flying past (see Twitter thread embedded below).

On Friday, August 5th, during which military drills continued, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also announced sanctions on Pelosi and her immediate family members, along with a string of countermeasures against the U.S., which are the following:


“1. Canceling China-US Theater Commanders Talk.
2. Canceling China-US Defense Policy Coordination Talks (DPCT).
3. Canceling China-US Military Maritime Consultative Agreement (MMCA) meetings.
4. Suspending China-US cooperation on the repatriation of illegal immigrants.
5. Suspending China-US cooperation on legal assistance in criminal matters.
6. Suspending China-US cooperation against transnational crimes.
7. Suspending China-US counternarcotics cooperation.
8. Suspending China-US talks on climate change.”

By Friday evening, one CCTV-initiated Weibo hashtag regarding the countermeasures (#针对佩洛西窜台反制措施#) had received over 280 million views, and another one regarding sanctions on Pelosi (#外交部宣布制裁佩洛西#) had received over 780 million views.

On the same day, news that lightning struck outside the White House, critically injuring four people, also went trending on Chinese social media. Many people responded to the remarkable news with sayings about how this was “Pelosi’s curse” and that “evil doings will rebound onto the evildoer.”

State media outlet China Daily posted an online poster with both Chinese and English text, writing: “Let me be serious and clear: we will not fight if they don’t fight us. For any act in violation of China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the Chinese people will fight back twice as hard,” referring to the words of the spokesperson of the Chinese mission to the EU.

When news came out on Friday that Japanese authorities condemned China’s firing of ballistic missiles during the ongoing military drills around Taiwan, claiming Chinese missiles fell into Japan’s exclusive economic zone, Chinese state media outlet Global Times dismissed Tokyo’s concerns, calling the complaints “unprofessional” and “baseless” since Japan was referring to an overlapping area it allegedly has no exclusive rights to (#日本碰瓷中国导弹毫无道理#).

In response to the issue, Xu Ji (@徐记观察), a blogger with over 3 million followers, posted a gif on Weibo showing Chinese actor Wu Jing in the iconic action film Wolf Warrior II with both middle fingers up. Wu Jing stars in the movie as Leng Feng, a Chinese veteran who travels around the globe and punishes those who offend China (Sun 2021, 128).

The image set the tone for the overall mood on social media regarding the recent international developments.

“Beautifully played!” many commenters said.

“First steps of striking back! Countermeasures! Hitting back! Sooner or later the national flag will rise on Taiwan!”, Chinese actor Huang Haibo wrote on his Weibo account (@real黄海波).

“I trust in the motherland, I trust in PLA,” was another recurring comment.

“We gave you a choice, you didn’t want it, now you have to deal with the consequences,” one Weibo commenter said.

When news came out on Friday night that a mountain fire broke out on an outer island during an artillery exercise held by the Taiwanese military, a streak of schadenfreude shot through Weibo, with some netizens wondering if the PLA had helped Taiwan to extinguish the fire they started themselves.

“It’s probably better if our troops climb up the hill and put out the fire,” multiple people suggested, and others writing: “I feel embarrassed for them.”

“The PLA will come to the rescue,” others also said, repeating the same trust and pride in the People’s Liberation Army that was echoed across Chinese social media the entire day.

Also read:
*From ‘Starting a War’ to ‘Just for Show’: Chinese Social Media Views on Pelosi’s Potential Taiwan Visit
* Pelosi in Taiwan: “1.4 Billion People Do Not Agree with Interference in China’s Sovereignty Issues”

By Manya Koetse

 

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Featured image is an edited picture showing an image from Wolf Warrior 2 as posted on Weibo today.

References

Sun, Jing. 2021. Red Chamber, World Dream – Actors, Audience, and Agendas in Chinese Foreign Policy and Beyond. United States: University of Michigan Press.

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

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Featured

Zhou Zhou in West Africa: Chinese Woman Trending on Weibo after Going ‘Missing’ in Nigeria

The story of Zhou Zhou – who joined her husband in Nigeria – caused concerns among netizens who believed the woman is not safe.

Manya Koetse

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One Chinese woman’s decision to move to West Africa with her older husband triggered worries and speculation on social media, with prevailing negative stereotypes fuelling fears that something bad might had happened to her.

A 7-months pregnant Chinese woman married to a Nigerian man suddenly became top trending on Chinese social media platform Weibo this week when she went ‘missing in action’ after posting about her upcoming trip to West Africa on her social media channels.

The woman posted about her travels as ‘Zhou Zhou in West Africa’ on Douyin, the Chinese TikTok, where she has over 290,000 followers.

The 20-year-old Chinese woman named Zhou Zhou gained netizens’ attention after she wrote on social media on July 28 that she would travel out of China and join her African husband to go back to his hometown.

One of the last photos Zhou Zhou shared online before going MIA (missing in action).

She shared some details of her trip from the Shanghai International Airport on social media, including those on how Nigerian border security staff inquired about her family and her purpose for visiting the country.

A photo of Zhou Zhou and her husband makes it to news channels.

Zhou Zhou soon received many messages from concerned netizens advising her to reconsider her trip because she is pregnant, suggesting that the medical care in West Africa is not up to par and that she would not be safe in Nigeria.

When Zhou Zhou then stopped updating her social media and did not respond to personal messages anymore, people started raising the alarm that Zhou might have gone missing after arriving in Nigeria. When her social media account bio info suddenly changed from ‘female’ to ‘male’, people worried that something might have happened to her.

By August 1st, there had been over 1.3 billion (!) views of a hashtag titled “Zhou Zhou in West Africa Went Missing” (#周周在西非已失联#).

The online concerns about Zhou Zhou grew so loud that even the Chinese Consultate in Nigeria responded to the issue (#大使馆回应周周在西非已失联#) and said they would look into the matter.

Zhou Zhou’s story unleashed a flood of stories on the supposed situation in West Africa or in Africa in general, with many people claiming to know what life is like or how Africans are like. Some people suggested that Zhou Zhou might discover her husband would actually have “multiple wives” and pointed out cultural differences between China and Nigeria.

One Nigeria-based blogger shared their experience about the various problems in the country, such as female inequality, and also claimed that Black [Africans] had a “talent for acting” and that “they should not be easily trusted”, adding: “we as Chinese don’t even say ‘I love you’ as many times in our entire lifetime as some Black [Africans] do within a time frame of two hours.”

Others were concerned about the age difference of fifteen years between Zhou Zhou and her husband, writing: “The age gap between them is so big, Zhou Zhou is only 20 years old? How did they meet? (..) Zhou Zhou and this African uncle come from such different cultural backgrounds.”

Throughout the years, there have been multiple trending stories on Weibo triggering worries that Chinese people, especially women, are not safe when they go abroad and that they are targeted for their nationality. After the murder of two Chinese sisters in Japan in 2017, a popular comment said: “When Chinese citizens travel to other countries, they must be vigilant. After all, we are not familiar enough with the political environment and social atmosphere of other countries. We must learn to protect ourselves.”

The existing prejudice and racial stereotyping on Chinese social media regarding African men only added fuel to the fire.

On the late night of August 1st, Zhou Zhou finally sent out a message on social media, telling everyone that she was doing well and thanking everyone for their concern.

Zhou Zhou’s post.

She also uploaded a video to her Douyin channel, saying:

“We’re doing well, thank you. I’m in the final stage of my pregnancy. Perhaps my feelings are not completely stable at the moment, because I’ve received so many messages and didn’t give a timely reply. Maybe I created misunderstandings because of it.”

In the video, Zhou Zhou explained that her husband does not have multiple wives and that they had already arranged a medical check-up at a local hospital.

Her response went trending (#周周在西非发视频回应#), garnering over 140 million views this week.

While many people accused Zhou Zhou of being an ‘attention seeker’ and purposely creating “a hype,” there were also those who argued that she should now be left in peace.

“I don’t like to tell young women how to choose their partner,” one commenter (@Amy小北京) responded: “To each their own. Some people love money, others love appearance. Some people love sincerity, others love excitement. For this girl, it’s not that it’s wrong to find someone from West Africa. This is her life, she has the right to choose. But why would I still say she’s stupid? [Because] the risk of this marriage is still too great.”

“Netizens did what they had to, they advised her not to, but she’s an adult and she’ll well aware of her own decision, let’s just wish her the best,” one educational blogger (@叫我小张同志就好) wrote.

By Manya Koetse
With contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

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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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