With gender suddenly a hot issue in China, anger over sex discrimination has generated what can only be called a world-class smackdown on Chinese social media.
China’s media and blogosphere have roiled with the recent contrast between female taikonaut Liu Yang’s ascension to space with the forced abortion of rural resident Feng Jianmei’s seven-month-old fetus. Netizens have eagerly critiqued the Chinese government’s expenditures on its space program as a waste of money, while defending Feng Jianmei’s right to bring her baby to term.
Some feel these critiques have a dark side. Writing just days ago on Douban.com, a social-networking platform for many in the Chinese intelligentsia, one blogger wrote a Chinese-language essay roughly titled “Female Taikonaut, 7-month fetus abortion, and other thoughts.” The blogger calls herself a “cold-blooded female scholar” [冷血女才]. Indeed, whether you agree with the author’s characterization of male netizens, it’s hard to deny her words are angry and eloquent.
The writer begins by explaining how a reporter, Cao Linhua, got himself into hot water with an insensitive joke. (As discussed here in Global Voices, Cao has since been dismissed from his post.)
“On June 12, a Beijing-based reporter for Southern People Weekly, Cao Linhua, tweeted the following on Weibo: ‘Two men and one woman went into space; if they come back and an exam shows the woman is pregnant, what’s to be done? Did the country consider it when training these astronauts?’ Then, on June 18, a certain person surnamed Liu, reporter for a certain government bureau, tweeted this:
‘Papa, why are they bringing a woman into space?’
‘Because [due to food safety issues] you can’t drink Mengniu or Yili [dairy products]!’“
In a recent interview before his dismissal, Cao averred, “When I posted that weibo it was as a public citizen.” But that is a rather thin defense.
“Cao’s use of the term ‘public citizen’ is extremely disappointing. While expressing his dissatisfaction for the ZF [code for China's government], he remained totally unaware of his own serious gender discrimination. This is common among certain 'public intellectuals' [slang for well known critics of the Chinese government]. Their opposition to dictatorship has found them an audience, but their gender attitudes are backwards and disgusting. When a 'public intellectual' has his mouth full of high-sounding words about freedom and equality, yet believes that one half of the human race is inherently inferior to the other, I question the quality of his views."
The author then turns her attention to netizen responses to these tweets:
"That is what’s so awful about these jokes. They not only deny or refuse to acknowledge that a woman can be an accomplished professional in society, but define her entirely by her biological characteristics, as if she were just a fleshy tool for relieving male sexual urges and producing children."
The cold-blooded scholar recalls a rumor from two years ago, which charged that “70% of female PHDs got their degrees from their advisors in exchange for sex.” Again, netizen outrage seemed to be a mere pretext: "While people purported to be complaining about sexual harassment, in fact they were implying that women lacked skill as scholars, and could only attain status in the academic community by selling their bodies.”
The writer proceeds to bring out the heavy artillery:
"What makes many men unable to accept Liu Yang is the fact that her accomplishments actually surpass those of most men, even to the point that China’s national machinery has decided to support her."
But didn't netizens rush to defend Feng Jianmei, the victim of a recent forced abortion? The cold-blooded scholar isn't buying it.
"A number of angry youth [愤青], in particular men, were much angrier about this than they were about the insults directed at Liu Yang. Even though every available fact suggests that the people involved were highly suspicious (including…a delayed application for their second child, spending habits which strongly contradict their pleas of being ‘unable’ to produce 40,000 RMB, and a recent loss of employment suggesting they wanted to avail themselves of the one-child policy to get a free abortion to exercise sex selection), this did not stop the angry youth from turning her into the classic 'tragic mother.'"
The cold-blooded scholar's grim conclusion:
"Behind these two incidents is the same logic: Women are only allowed to fulfill the role of wife, defined for them by a male-dominated society. When frustrated in their efforts to become a mother, women find men rushing to defend their 'rights and interests.' But as soon as a woman decides not to play the role of mother, and instead progresses down a professional path and in fact surpasses the majority of men, she will endure their widespread hatred."
The cold-blooded scholar is not the only one angry about the recent treatment of women in China. Several others have spoken out on this issue, particularly on the Douban site--which, unlike China's Weibo microblogging platforms, lends itself to long-form arguments. Tea Leaf Nation will continue to watch this space.
[Thanks to 冷血女才 for permission to translate her work.]