The recent removal of a WeChat post discussing employment discrimination against women in China’s post-1990s generation is evidence of the government’s suppression of women’s voices in the public sphere. The post, shared on the account @卞千南 (Biàn Qiānnán), shared how women in their late 20s and early 30s face age discrimination in the job market, hindering their ability to pursue graduate degrees and start families despite the government’s push for natalist policies. While the exact reason for the post’s removal is unknown, it could be due to the author’s suggestion to use the law to combat discrimination, potentially encouraging organized activism among women.
The well-being of the underprivileged should not solely rely on the benevolence of those in authority.
Instead, we should take steps to increase understanding, strive towards a shared goal, and utilize both legal means and the strong bond of sisterhood to safeguard our rights.
Can marginalized communities compete on equal footing with the current societal norms?
This is a query that frequently confuses and annoys us.
However, the truth is that our world is undergoing rapid transformation due to the efforts of individuals driving for progress.
In the past, women were not allowed to receive an education or work. However, today we are able to be independent and pursue our own paths. This progress has taken countless years to achieve.
It may take some time, but the outcome is remarkable.
Yes, the world can change! The key is that people worked to make it happen. Myriad ordinary people pushed for change, without fear of the consequences. [Chinese]
There is a significant issue of gender discrimination against female graduates seeking jobs in China. A recent survey by a prominent online recruitment platform revealed that women with higher levels of education are less likely to receive job offers. In fact, less than half of women with postgraduate degrees were offered jobs after graduation, compared to 71% of men with the same qualifications. A report by Human Rights Watch in 2021 also highlighted the widespread problem of gender-based hiring discrimination in China. Even state media outlets have acknowledged and criticized this issue, with headlines such as “The Unacceptable Trend of Discrimination Against Women in Job Hunting” published by People’s Daily Online, a major publication of the ruling Party. Another Party-controlled outlet, Legal Daily, conducted an investigation into this discrimination and found that human resource departments often ask invasive questions about personal relationships and family planning, and may even suggest that single women over the age of 27 have mental health problems.
Although there is widespread recognition, both domestically and internationally, that China has significant problems with gender discrimination, feminist accounts on WeChat are frequently subject to censorship. Censors also regularly suppress content related to women’s rights. Despite this, women persist in creating online spaces for discussing feminist topics. Wanqing Zhang’s article for Rest of World explores how feminist discourse has moved from larger platforms like Weibo to smaller, more reliable platforms like Douban and Xiaohongshu.
Lü, the advocate, characterizes the move from Weibo to Douban and Xiaohongshu as a transition from a “public square” to “a friend’s cozy living room.” In these online spaces, the emphasis on female empowerment shifts away from attempting to bring about systemic change and instead centers on less contentious everyday matters such as relationship issues or deliberations about marriage, parenthood, and cosmetics usage.
Last year, Wan, who is 28 years old, got into an argument with her boyfriend. While she was not interested in having children at the time, he was willing to take the chance of an unplanned pregnancy. She made the decision to get a contraceptive implant without informing him. When he eventually discovered this, he felt that it showed a lack of trust on her part. Wan, who only used her last name for privacy reasons, wanted to confide in someone about her situation. However, she did not feel comfortable discussing it with her friends because she feared they would view her as overly sensitive. And she definitely could not turn to her mother, who was eagerly anticipating grandchildren. So, she sought support from the Douban Breakup Group instead.
Both Zhuozi and Wan, who asked for a pseudonym to protect their privacy, have conflicting emotions regarding the group’s widespread recognition. Wan, who is employed in the legal field, explained that the emphasis on personal relationships in Chinese feminist discussions is due to the inability to make changes on a larger societal level.
These online conversations can translate into real-world changes. At The New York Times, Olivia Wang reported on the women rejecting “beauty duty,” the unpaid hours women put in daily to conform to traditional aesthetic standards:
Ms. Zhu, 23, is among a number of young women inspired by a growing trend of rejecting what is known in Chinese internet parlance as “beauty duty”: the costly and sometimes painful devotion to mainstream notions of attractiveness. The idea is to spend time and resources not on beauty standards, but on personal development, including education and career growth.
Women who support this notion are also rejecting the harmful trend of extreme dieting that has been promoted through popular online challenges, such as the one where users hold a piece of A4 paper vertically against their midsection in an attempt to hide their waist. This challenge only allows those with the thinnest figures to fully conceal their waist behind an 8.3-inch-wide sheet of paper.
Government propaganda encourages women to conform to traditional gender roles by promoting early marriage and motherhood, while also enforcing societal beauty standards. According to Fincher, deviating from these norms may be seen as a sign of potential rebellion against the government in other areas.
Zelda Liu, a 27-year-old resident of Suzhou in the southeastern region of China, shared that she had to give herself a buzz cut because hairdressers were hesitant to do it for her. They were concerned about potentially hurting her scalp, which she found ridiculous. She questioned, “Aren’t female heads still heads?” [Source]