The Future of Chinese Feminism
by jennifer zhang and fanmei xia
On April 6, 2016, Lü Pin, a Chinese female activist, came and spoke at Boston College. Lü Pin is the editor-in-chief of Feminist Voices and the program manager of Media Monitor for Women Network. Before founding Feminist Voices in 2009, Lü Pin was a journalist reporting women’s rights and gender issues. Feminist Voices is an online platform that raises public awareness of women’s rights in China and provides a safe space for young women to express their opinions. By the end of 2011, Lü Pin began to see a new community of feminists taking shape, leading her to take the next step of creating a new form of activism.
From 2012-2015, the feminist community successfully staged multiple public protests. Among these protests, the “Injured Brides” movement in 2012, on Valentine’s Day, was a debut of female activism in China. The “Injured Brides” movement was a protest against domestic violence, which successfully raised public attention toward the vulnerable women in traditional Chinese family settings. In the same year, she initiated another protest, called the “Bald Head Movement,” against the gender inequality that exists in Chinese university entrance exams. The following year, the local Education Bureau of Guangzhou changed the rules so that female students could have equal access to university education. In 2015, however, Lü Pin and her team encountered setbacks. Five female activists were arrested after the police found out about their protest plans through social media. Lü Pin and her team are still trying to fight and withdraw their sentences. After Lü Pin’s speech on the current situation of feminism in China, she had a Q&A session with the students. Here are a few questions that she addressed:
Q: The government in China is against protests, but what are the reactions of the brothers and fathers?
A: Actually, in many feminist activities, men are very involved. In the beginning, it was mostly the LGBTQ community who were active, but as time went by, more men have become aware of the gender issue and are willing to participate.
Q: In the United States, the term, feminism, has a negative connotation. Is it the same case in China and how can we fix that?
A: The word, feminism, also has a negative connotation in China. However, we need to change our attitude toward this negative connotation. Even if the word, feminism, has been criticized, it is not a bad word. We need to know that a negative connotation indicates that people are paying attention to this issue. Therefore, we have the chance to make changes through debate, in order to change people’s thoughts. Five years ago, some people said that the name, Feminist Voices, would scare people, but it didn’t. That is because we have our position and strong beliefs that the future of Chinese feminism is bright.
Q: Do you feel a lot of support from feminist activism in Korea, Japan, and other countries?
A: Before, our communication was constrained to a knowledge level without any actions. After the five feminist activists were arrested, the feminist organizations in Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, came to support us. Since then, our communications with those countries have been strengthened.
Q: What do you think is the future for Chinese feminism, thirty to forty years from now?
A: Now, more than ever, I realized that feminism is actually an aspect of human rights. I think it is hard to achieve feminism in China due to the political system, so we enlarged our battlefield to an even bigger aspect. Human rights is a not just a concept, and there are multiple facets about human rights. Feminism has been the most active one among all the human rights groups.
Q: What is something we, as Boston College students, should do to help this feminist movement?
A: You are our young allies. Our feminism organizations need your help. For example, we are initiating an online crowd funding campaign to raise money for our young feminists. Also, many Chinese young feminists who are currently in America have been helping out by doing art projects and expanding the influence of feminism to a larger scale.
(Q&A was carried out in Chinese. Answers are translated into English)
Jennifer Zhang is currently a student in Media Chinese, minoring in Chinese and Fanmei Xia is an international student from China, majoring in Applied Psychology