Zhang Lijia
Zhang Lijia

Feminism never took root in China, but things are changing, notes author Zhang Lijia, in het weblog. Although activists have to be careful as public protests are still strictly controlled.

Zhang Lijia:

These activists are most young, very brave, usually well-educated, well-aware of the gender issues and ready to express themselves. And they are all internet savvy.

Last August, four women in Guangzhou shaved off their heads in protests against some universities for setting the bar higher for accepting female students. The video of their action on Sino Weibo sparked twenty bold women in eight cities to go bald.

Although today’s society gives some breathing space for the flower of feminist movement to blossom, especially in cities such as Guangzhou, the activists have to be careful: public protests are still strictly controlled. “When taking action, we limit the number under 20 and we don’t stress too much the rights issue,” said Ms. Ke.

I understand her caution. Feminism in Chinese is nu quan, women’s rights. Anything to do with rights can qualify as ‘sensitive’ in China. Some of the activists, including 24-year-old Li Maizi, one of the ‘bloody brides’, have been invited to ‘have tea’ with the police – to be interrogated, something can easily scare off those chicken-hearts.

Carrying bags of the props, Ms Ke and I returned to the city center together by the ferry. My heart was filled with hope rather than disappointment. The journey of Chinese feminists will be a rocky one, I know. Male chauvinism is still deeply rooted. The economic reforms have brought opportunities to women but also plenty of setbacks because the government has retreated some of its responsibilities to the market.

Thinking about it, the history of feminism is the history of struggle. China will be no exception if not more. But I am confident that the fighting spirit of the Chinese women will prevail.

More on Zhang Lijia’s weblog.

Zhang Lijia is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need her at a speaker at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch or fill in our speakers’ request form.

Protests are emerging in different fields. The China Weekly Hangout discussed November 2012 with CEIBS adjunct professor of sustainability Richard Brubaker and Fons Tuinstra, president of the China Speakers Bureau, the potential influence of China’s growing NIMBY movement on its ambitious nuclear power program.

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