In American social media, politicians, journalists, and regular folks alike came out to voice condemnation of a recent statement by Republican Congressional Representative Todd Akin that women’s bodies had ways of preventing pregnancy from “legitimate rape.” The inflammatory comment, which led to pressure for him to withdraw from the race for one of Missouri’s U.S. Senate seats, has made headlines in China as well, as when top official news source Xinhua summarized coverage of the incident by the Daily Telegraph.
“Legitimate rape” also became a topic of heated controversy in Chinese social media. @微天下, a user of Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter, posted a translation of this Jezebel article on the “legitimate rape” scandal. As of this writing, the article had been reposted 971 times, and 178 people had left comments.
Many voiced sentiments similar to those of outraged Americans. Said @R-18Gal领悟掀裙子拯救世界的人, “When has rape ever been legitimate?” Another user, @鹿野夏, lamented, “Why are most people who hold these positions of power so stupid?” There was even someone willing to defend Akin. @陈乃章 wrote, “Although it’s a little disrespectful to women, it’s true that if the female body has no reaction, 99% of men can’t carry out sexual intercourse.” Still, outrage against the concept of “legitimate rape” and negative comments directed at Akin predominated.
One of the top comments came from @李开复, or Kai-fu Lee, former head of Google in China and Weibo celebrity, as he reposted the article to his 15 million-plus followers. He stated, simply, “The US has ‘legitimate rape.’ China has ‘patronizing an underage prostitute.’” His comment alone was reposted 738 times and commented on 316 times. In his comment, Lee refers to the Chinese law against ‘patronizing an underage prostitute,’ a crime seen by many Chinese as a loophole that allows those who have raped underage girls to avoid being tried for the rape itself.
Whether in the U.S. or China, it appears that public support for laws that would do more to protect women and their rights is strong. Whether that support will lead to legal or political changes will say something about the responsiveness of both countries’ systems of governance.