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China Sex & Gender

“I Will Wash Your Uniform For You” – China’s Soldier-Loving Girls

A photo series titled “100.000 soldier-loving girls”(十万恋军女孩), posted by China’s Military Web in honour of soldiers’ aid during the Wuhan flood, has triggered online discussions about the way in which it portrays Chinese women.

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A photo series titled “100.000 soldier-loving girls”(十万恋军女孩) posted by China’s Military Web in honour of soldiers’ aid during the Wuhan flood has triggered online discussions about the way in which it portrays Chinese women.

While many netizens paid their respects to the young soldiers fighting the disastrous flood in the south of China, Chinese state media outlet Global Times elevated this ‘tribute’ to new heights by sharing pictures of girls holding the message “I wish to wash your uniform for you”.

The photo series, titled “100.000 soldier-loving girls”(十万恋军女孩), was originally posted on China’s Military Web. It triggered online discussions on the submissive female image propagated by Chinese state media.

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This is not the first time netizens collectively respond to how patriotism in women is portrayed by official media. Earlier this year, a comic that was released by China’s Youth League also caused some controversy.

 

“Thank you, our angels”

 

The big flood in Wuhan, the worst since the flood of 1998, has dominated Chinese headlines over the past week. Social media sites overflowed with images of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers fighting the flood. They showed them walking in muddy water to put sandbags in place, evacuating the young and the elderly, or pictured them sitting on the road side, eating plain buns in muddy uniforms.

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Many netizens praised these young soldiers as China’s present-day heroes: “You always come out the first moment whenever problems arise. Thank you, our angels. Hope you are all safe”, one netizen writes.

 

“My soldier brother, I wish to wash your uniform for you”

 

Amidst the widespread online support for and praise of China’s soldiers, state media outlet Global Times (环球时报) published the Weibo post titled “100 thousand soldier-loving girls: my soldier brothers fighting the flood, I wish to wash your uniform”.

The post features pictures of girls holding the message “I wish to wash your uniform for you” in their hand.

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The text of the post reads:

“Our heart goes out to what is happening with the flood, and it also goes out to the young soldiers. What is so touching to us, is your high spirit while confronting the flood; it is your fatigue during brief breaks; it is your running about in the pouring rain. All we want to say at this moment is that we wish to wash your uniform for you – this uniform that has become stained by mud because of all your hard efforts.”

The feminist activist Sina Weibo account Voice of Feminists (@女权之声) responded to the post, saying that “soldier-loving girls seem to have become the most popular ideal female image in the official media.”

 

“He sticks to his belief. He said it is Communism. I do not quite understand. But I support him.”

 

In March of this year, another soldier-loving girl went trending online as the central division Youth League released a comic titled “I Am In Love, With Him” (我恋爱了,和他).

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This comic narrated an ever-lasting romance between a woman and a man from the female perspective. The ‘him’ in the comic was depicted as a young soldier. Some of the comic’s narrations read as follows:

When I first knew him, he was still a poor young man, but I never cared about his poverty.”

He has an unpleasant past. That is his trauma. He does not want to talk about it, and I am always careful to avoid it. After all, who doesn’t have a past?

Sometimes I am attracted to someone else, but that is just for a second! He is forever my idol.

He sticks to his belief. He said it is Communism. I do not quite understand. But it sounds fancy. I support him.

I love him, for his tenderness, for his assertiveness, for his strong character, and for him always walking straight all the way.”

The comic drew much criticism online. On Chinese question-and-answer platform Zhihu (知乎), many netizens responded to it with sarcasm. The post became so controversial that the original post on Central Youth League’s account was later removed.

Under the Global Times’ post, many netizens also responded with sarcasm or critique: “Attention begging, gender stereotyping – so China”, writes one netizen.

 

“Where are our female soldiers?”

 

Many netizens deem the representation of the patriotic female as meek and submissive as insulting to women: “A kind reminder”, says one netizen: “back in the war, when Japanese troops recruited comfort women, they also claimed it was for washing clothes”.

“I wonder who washes the uniforms for our heroines?” one netizen asked.

“The male heroes save the country and resist disasters at the front; the female housekeepers stay behind to do the cooking, washing and providing maternal or female care,” Voice of Feminists author Datu (大兔) writes, summarising how state media construct the female gender in times of disaster.

“I think our female soldiers, doctors and nurses deserve more attention,” one netizen writes.

Despite all controversy, there are also who don’t see what all the fuss is about. As one Weibo user says: “Maybe there are just some girls who really just do want to wash their uniforms!”

-By Diandian Guo 

©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Diandian Guo is a China-born Master student of transdisciplinary and global society, politics & culture at the University of Groningen with a special interest for new media in China. She has a BA in International Relations from Beijing Foreign Language University, and is specialized in China's cultural memory.

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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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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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