How “feminism” became a household word this Spring Festival

How “feminism” became a household word this Spring Festival

Translation by Wv of a detailed account of last month’s debate and ensuing campaign to cancel CCTV’s annual Spring Festival Gala, followed by the previously unpublished original in Chinese:《女权反春晚之舆论战盘点》(“A blow-by-blow account of the feminist war of words against the Spring Festival Gala”), by a writer using the pen-name Spacecraft (宇舸). As discussed in our interview with a friend of the Women’s Day Five, this debate was another key moment in China’s unfolding “gender war” that occasioned their arrests. A couple of the skits mentioned in the article are linked below for reference.

Update: On Tuesday, 20 police raided the Beijing offices of Yirenping, the NGO for which three of the Women’s Day Five worked, confiscating their computers and financial documents and temporarily detaining yet another NGO employee, in apparent retaliation for Yirenping’s prominent role in the campaign to  release the prisoners (see Washington Post for details). Friends and associates are debating whether this affirms the analysis that the arrests were specifically targeted at feminism and the troubling of gender roles in China (exemplified in the Spring Gala debate recounted below), or on the contrary, that the primary aim was to destroy this prominent NGO as part of the Xi regime’s crackdown on civil society in general. (A problem with the latter position is that two of the five prisoners did not work for Yirenping.) In the future we hope to analyze this question, along with the ambiguous position of NGOs and “civil society” in providing spaces of dissent that regimes such as this find threatening at times, but also in redirecting social antagonisms in often recuperative ways. 

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At around six in the evening during Chinese New Year’s Eve, Lü Pin, director of the women’s media monitoring network “Feminist Voices” [女权之声], created a WeChat group for “Feminist Critique [吐槽)] of the Spring Festival Gala.”  It rapidly attracted over 160 members, consisting mostly of gender allies and feminist activists, as well as onlookers interested in gender issues. During the night, feminists from all over the country expressed disappointment and anger at [Chinese Central Television’s annual] Spring Festival Gala [variety programme].

The language-related skits [in the Gala] were a disaster. The opening skit Happy Street [喜乐街] contrasted “goddesses” with “manly women” [女汉子]. Another skit called Little Cotton Coat [小棉袄] unabashedly mocked re-married women as “second-hand goods” , “married-off daughters are like poured away water” and so on. Netizen Anon-Guy-in-a-Acorn-Pile [埋在橡子堆里的a君] criticised Happy Street thusly: “Women are either goddesses or manly women. Patriarchy sets the standard for women and effortlessly lets women tear themselves apart to meet it”.

Scene from "Happy Street" ridiculing "Manly Women" in comparison with "Goddesses"

Scene from “Happy Street” ridiculing “Manly Women” in comparison with “Goddesses”

The morning of the first day of New Year, WeChat was flooded with reposts of two articles. One was “Feminist Voices Exclusive: Spring Festival Gala is a sexist disaster, and it’s not because of overthinking,” crafted overnight by Guangzhou-based NGO Women Awakening. The other was a question posed on Q&A site Zhihu by Lu Mou, a sociology PhD student at Cornell University: “Was CCTV Spring Festival Gala 2015 discriminatory against women and other groups? How do you evaluate it?” The former racked up over 250,000 views, while the latter prompted 738 replies and garnered over 7,000 follows.

Overnight, the use of discrimination and prejudice against women as comedy punchlines saw controversy explode online. At a tension-filled time such as the New Year that sees wandering souls return home for reunion, where people of different age groups, places and lifestyles come together and worldviews collide, for cheap laughs the gala shamelessly exploited the pressure to get married that older women already face from “mainstream society” (who gets to define what’s mainstream?). The target of their fury expanded beyond a lone TV programme to the brazen discrimination and smearing minority groups face from ‘mainstream society’ that the programme has come to represent.

Lü Xinyu, professor at Fudan University’s School of Journalism, wrote: “The bizarre thing about this year’s Spring Festival gala is the complete degeneracy of the sketches, its blatant disregard for our basic intelligence. Satire became brazen discrimination, unfunny punchlines, [段子不烈 ], no laughing points, no forgettable points, utter nonsense, a historic new low for the programme.” The professor pointed fingers directly at the government for not facing up to extant social tensions and problems, trying instead to exploit popular morality [底层人民道德] to preserve [拯救] class differentiation and social fragmentation.

Lü Pin’s WeChat group became the base camp for protesting Spring Festival Gala’s gender discriminatory content. Feminist Voices immediately decided to launch a protest campaign against the programme. They set up a new WeChat group called “Stop the Spring Festival Gala,” and one third of the members of the original group joined.

On the first day of New Year (19 February), Feminist Voices tabled a series of online and offline activities that included signature gathering and letter writing. At noon the next day, a petition signed by core members was released onto AskForm.cn to gather further signatures. Later at around eleven, the petition was then posted on the microblogging platform Sina Weibo “Feminist Voices” under the title “Spring Festival Gala is toxic, thousands jointly demand a stop to broadcast – against discrimination, speaking for the right to a free and diverse life”. Four hours after publication, over a thousand people signed. The same petition was also released on Feminist Voices’ WeChat feed and read over 30,000 times.

Less than 8 hours after publication, the WeChat friend circle was banned from visiting the AskForm page. An hour later, the petition on Sina Weibo was also removed. By this time, it had been reposted over 4,000 times, with over 3,000 responses. The letter said: “Behind the brazen discrimination of gender, region, body, lifestyle, etc. is the use of national “harmony” to erase the rights of people to live differently. It smugly shames not only women, singles, fat people, short people, southern people and disabled people but everyone, so long as one values independent thought and free choice.” The letter also raised two demands: “One, we demand the [producers of the] 2015 Spring Festival Gala to own up to its discriminatory content, issue a public apology, curb its negative effects and accept punishment; Two, we demand the termination of the gala, with its monopoly [on TV broadcasting during Spring Festival Eve]”.

On the opposite side, responses that considered feminists to be “overthinking” also attracted a following. Many commentators thought that the gala was mindless family entertainment, and that the feminists were “overthinking” it. In a post titled “Did Spring Festival Gala discriminate against women”, Tencent featured commentator Zhang Hailü wrote: “If one didn’t pay close attention to the post on Zhihu [Q&A site], a sufferer of “Straight Male Disease” [直男癌] like me could not see any problems with the programme. Neither did my friends and family. So, are the women I know used to being discriminated against in this way, or are the enquirer and respondents overreactive, making much ado about nothing?”

Columnist Hou Hongbin shot back on Tencent Dajia: “This gala is no ordinary entertainment, it disseminates and guides societal values …… It is representative of the mainstream values of a large segment of Chinese society. So, stop saying that this programme was ‘all in good fun, don’t take it too seriously’. The gala is not for ‘mindless entertainment’, the organisers would be very sad to hear that no one learned from it.”

A Beijing Times piece called the allegations of gender discrimination overblown: “As an ordinary viewer, I feel that the sceptics are making a mountain out of a molehill. If they weren’t emotionally delicate, weak-minded or overly sensitive, I would think they were targeting the gala on purpose and creating problems.” The author argued from the standpoint of artistic expression that “everyone has the right to be emotionally delicate, but if every group shouts boycott, I fear that there will be no way of creating artistic images, and works of art cannot exist”.

A post on Tencent Today titled “Please do not be too hard on feminism”, summarised viewpoints similar to those expressed by the Beijing Times piece, which is that many consider women to have received enough respect, that a segment of male netizens feel that Chinese feminists are not only hypersensitive but altogether loathsome, and that many Chinese feminists are “false feminists”1 in disguise. Responding to these accusations, the article considered the criticism unjust, the respect shown towards women superficial and that public opinion contains deep-seated prejudices, all of which is reflected in workplaces, leadership positions, domestic violence, the rise of ‘lady-training classes’ and many other areas.” Advocacy for the status of women must continue.  Despite being a piece clarifying feminism, in the opinion poll that followed asking “How do you view the status of Chinese women?”, a regrettable 75% of 10,000 respondents continued to choose “They have enough respect”, whilst a mere 25% chose “still not enough respect”. However, people’s attitude appeared ambiguous when the hot topic words “Spring Festival Gala Discriminatory” were included. In another online poll conducted on Sina Weibo titled “Do you feel that the 2015 Spring Festival Gala discriminated against women?”, 30,000 users voted, with an overwhelming 85% choosing “Discriminatory, what a bummer for the New Year”. A mere 15% chose “It is meant to be fun, why so serious?”

In her article “Did the Spring Festival Gala discriminate against women?” Lü Pin wrote that “between exercising restraint and running out of patience [在这种厌烦与忍耐之间], the overly self-important Spring Festival Gala seems to have touched a raw nerve. Its ridicule of fat women, ‘manly women’ and singles cuts in every way. The discrimination on display caricatures and reminds us of those relatives and neighbours who would reprimand women for having too much self-esteem.  We may not be able to rebel against our parents or offend friends and relatives, but at least we can rage against CCTV!”

There seems to be common agreement that the Spring Festival Gala did indeed discriminate against women. When it comes to the status of women in real life, however, people still felt that most feminists in China are calling for “fake feminism” – supporting gender equality on the surface, but in reality caring only to ”gain a leg up”, to “reap without sowing” and to “receive more rights without sharing responsibilities.”

This helps explain the popularity of a post on social networking site Douban titled, “You saw wrong. There are no feminists in China”. The article was the perfect clickbait, with a title that appeared to pander to the common accusations of “fake feminism”. Instead, it held up Sweden as an example to demonstrate the severity of gender discrimination in China. The feminist movement in China, according to the article, is not only not radical, there is also not enough of it.

Mainstream state media tried to salvage the situation. On 20 February, Youth.cn published the article “’It was ‘imperfection’ that saved the Spring Festival Gala”, writing that “imperfection does not equate to failure”. The article trivialised the controversy over the sketches, itemising problems from Andy Lau’s off-tune singing to the skits’ plagiarism, while entirely avoiding the issue of gender discrimination. The article even wrote that “a Spring Festival Gala without issue or heat is hard to imagine. Fortunately, the ‘imperfections’ of this year’s gala avoided criticisms of being dull and boring”.

Feminists could not take this lying down. Following suit, they did a blow-by-blow dissection of the programme, listing 44 cases of discrimination, each ranked by degree. Under the post published by Feminist Voices, “The Worst Offenders of Spring Festival Gala, Netizens release discrimination rankings”, netizens created a “2015 CCTV Spring Festival Gala Discrimination Rankings” appraising the sketches mired in the controversy: Happy Street, Little Cotton Coat, Chance Encounter at the Bus Stop and Great Son of China. Among them, Happy Street and Little Cotton Coat were rated “Off-the-charts toxic”.

As the controversy grew, foreign media too began to cover the protest. CNN reported on the matter in “Anger after China’s Lunar New Year Gala mocks ‘manly’ women” and Washington Post in “China’s feminists stand up against ‘misogynistic’ TV gala”.  Washington Post’s piece began with: “If this year’s Oscars ceremony was marked by a rousing call for wage equality for women, a far more widely watched television show on the other side of the world sent out a very different message.”

22 February, a letter released by Feminist Voices “Submission to State Administration of Press, Publications, Radio, Film, and Television (SAPPRFT) to recommend terminating the broadcast of the CCTV Spring Festival Gala and other discriminatory programmes” was sent to the SAPPRFT by 18 viewers from 11 provinces in the country. The letter demanded that CCTV stop the broadcast, for gala director Ha Wen and CCTV station chief Hu Zhanfan to apologise for its discriminatory content, and for the government agency to accept public supervision, so as to tackle the problem of discriminatory and humiliating content in entertainment programmes in the country.

On the evening of 23 February, after the Feminist Voices post had been removed, “Breaking News”, a Sina News Centre account doing round-the-clock reportage of major global news covered the Spring Festival Gala protest. The account had a following of 38 million fans. On 25 February, the report was removed.

Special mention goes to China Daily’s rare statement in support of the feminists: “Unpopular as they may be, the naysayers have brought up a topic that should not be swept under the carpet in a country that calls itself civilised and which aspires to exert its soft power globally”.

Feminists continue to organise: “Women’s Film Festival” is planning to write a  ‘manly women’-praising and feminist version of “Goddesses and Manly Women” featuring gender-empowering lyrics, to be performed live in women’s film collectives in all major cities on International Women’s Day (8 March). During the “Two Sessions [annual meetings of the NPC and CPPCC], feminists will protest against sexual harassment and domestic violence.

This Spring Festival Gala took place at the end of the Year of the Horse, and the protests against gender discrimination protest began when it ended, on the first day of the Year of the Ram. It is time for hateful and unfunny gender discrimination to retire from history, and the feminist movement has opened a new page in this process. As Lü Pin declared, “The gender revolution is on the horizon. It has arrived not because of some artificial transgression [人为的攒越] but because there is no other choice.”

 

—Spacecraft


 

Two controversial skits mentioned above (Chinese only)

“Happy Street”:

“Little Cotton Coat”:


 

Chinese Original: 

女权反春晚之舆论战盘点

 

除夕晚六时许,妇女传媒检测网络(“女权之声”)负责人吕频在微信上创建“春晚女权吐槽专用群”,群内迅速汇集了一百六十余人,多为性别友好人士和女权活跃分子,还有对性别议题感兴趣的围观群众。除夕夜里,天南海北的女权主义者们在吐槽群中熙熙攘攘吐槽,对春晚的节目表达失望和愤怒。

 

语言类节目成为重灾区。开场小品《喜乐街》中将“女神”和“女汉子”进行对比,小品《小棉袄》直接讽刺再婚女人是“二手货”、“嫁出去的女儿泼出去的水”等。网友@埋在橡子堆里的a君这样评论《喜乐街》:“女人不是女神就是女汉子。男权给女人划下一个标准,然后不用他们动手女人就自己撕起来,为了男人的标准欲仙欲死”。

 

大年初一一大早,朋友圈内被两篇文章疯狂刷屏:一条是广州NGO新媒体女性连夜赶稿写出的《【女泉独家】春晚成性别歧视重灾区 这绝对不是想太多》,一条则是知乎上由康奈尔大学社会学博士生陆某提出的问题:“2015年央视春晚是否对女性等群体有歧视?如何评价?”。前者阅读量超过25万,后者引发了738个回答,超过7000余人关注。

 

一夜之间,春晚节目组拿来抖包袱的对女性的歧视和偏见在网友中间炸开了锅。在春节这个游子归来一家团聚、同时也是不同年龄段、不同地域、不同生活方式的人们三观激烈碰撞的时刻,春晚将“主流社会”(谁有资格定义什么是主流呢?)近年来对大龄女性的“逼婚”进行自以为有趣的调侃,堂而皇之地呈现在所有面对这样社会压力的女性面前。针对春晚的愤怒,已不再是针对一台晚会,而是针对春晚所代表的“主流社会”对少数群体的公然歧视和污名化。

 

复旦大学新闻学院的吕新雨教授批评道:“今年春晚的奇异之处,首先是小品全盘沦陷,公然无视老百姓的基本智商,讽刺成为公然歧视,包袱不响,段子不烈,无笑点,无尿点,全程废话,跌破历届春晚底限。”并且直指政府不直面社会矛盾和问题,而企图用底层人民道德来拯救阶级分化和社会分裂。

 

吕频此前创立的吐槽群成为了反对春晚性别歧视的大本营。很快,女权之声决定对这次的春晚性别歧视开展抵制行动。在既有微信群的基础上又新建了“制止春晚行动群”,吐槽群的三分之一人数参加了这个行动群。

 

初一当天,女权之声酝酿出签名、寄信等一系列线上线下活动。初二上午,由核心成员首先签名的抵制信被发表在问道网上,以征集更多签名。11时许,这篇抵制信被发表在新浪微博“女权之声”上,抵制信题为:《春晚有毒,万人联署要求停播——反对歧视 为自由与多元生活权利代言》。微博发出4小时后,超过一千人签名。同样的抵制信也被发表在“女权之声”的微信订阅号上,阅读量直冲3万。

 

微博发布不到8小时,初二傍晚,微信朋友圈中问道网的页面已被禁止访问。1小时后,新浪微博上“女权之声”的联署信也被删除了,而此时这条微博已经被转发了逾4000次,评论逾3000条。联署信中写道:“在性别、地域、身体状况、生活方式……等种种公然歧视背后,是以家国‘和谐’之名抹杀多元生活权利,它得意洋洋羞辱的不仅是女人、单身者、胖子、矮子、南方人、残疾人,而是所有人,只要你渴望独立思考和自由选择。”联署信中还提出两点要求:“一、要求2015春晚为歧视承担责任、公开道歉、消除影响,接受教训;二、要求终结垄断与大一统,停播春晚。”

 

而另一边,认为女权主义者“想太多”的言论也颇有点击和转发率市场。评论者多认为春晚是一家老小“乐呵乐呵”,而女权主义者“想太多”。腾讯特约评论员张海律在《春晚到底有没有歧视女性》中写道:“如若不留意着帖子(知乎),不但直男癌如我没当回事,身边的亲朋好友也没从中看出听出任何问题。那么究竟是身边女性都习惯了这类‘被歧视’,还是提问者和回答者都有些过于小题大做甚至无事生非呢?”

 

专栏作家侯虹斌在腾讯大家上针锋相对:“这不是一台普通的娱乐晚会,而是一个宣传和引导社会价值观的晚会……它代表中国社会相当一大部分群众的主流价值观。所以,不要再说,这些节目只不过‘乐呵乐呵一下,别太较真了’。春晚不是用来‘乐呵’的,主办方要是听到大家没能从中受到教育和引导,会很伤心的。”

 

《京华时报》撰文批评“春晚歧视女性”未免小题大做:“作为一名普通观众,笔者倒觉得质疑者未免小题大做,如果不是玻璃心,奉行弱者心态,太敏感了,就是故意‘消费’春晚,刻意制造话题。”作者站在艺术作品形象塑造的角度写道:“每个人都有玻璃心的权利,但如果每个群体都叫嚷抵制,恐怕艺术形象就没法塑造、艺术作品便没法存在了。”

 

腾讯今日话题“对待女权主义,请不要太苛刻中”,对《京华时报》的这类观点进行了总结,认为不少人觉得女性受到的尊重已经足够,部分男网友觉得中国的女权主义者不仅神经过敏,还面目可憎,很多中国的女权主义者实质是“伪女权主义”。针对这种质疑,文章认为对女权主义的指责并不公正,对女性的尊重只是表层,在舆论之下仍有根深蒂固的偏见,在职场、领导层、家暴、女德班的兴起等多个方面可见一斑。对女性地位的呼吁,则该不断坚持。在该话题下的关于“如何看待中国女性的地位?”新闻立场统计中,约10万人参与了网络民意调查。令人遗憾的是,即使是这样一篇为女权主义澄清的文章,75%的人仍然选择了“尊重已经足够”,仅25%的人认为“尊重依然不够”。可是加上“春晚歧视”这四个热点词汇后,人们的态度又显得模棱两可起来。新浪微博上关于春晚的一项“你觉得2015春晚歧视女性了吗”的话题投票中,近3万人参加了调查,85%的人以压倒性的优势选择了“歧视了,大过年的太添堵”,仅15%的人选择了“图个乐而已,何必上纲上线”。

 

吕频在《春晚究竟有无歧视女性》一文中写道:“在这种厌烦与忍耐之间,过于自大的春晚可以说是撞到了枪口上,它对胖女人、‘女汉子’、单身者的公然嘲笑,种种刺人心,歧视是把亲戚邻居们对那些已经走得太远、自尊心长得太大的女人们的打击漫画化地再现到她们面前。是,大家不能反抗父母,不能得罪亲朋,但可以骂央视啊!”

 

看来,对于春晚歧视女性一事,大部分人都达成了和解与共识。但讨论到现实生活中的女性地位,人们又觉得“中国的女权主义者,很多其实是‘伪女权主义’——表面上主张男女平等,实际上是想‘多占便宜’、想‘不劳而获’、想‘获得更多权利却不愿承担义务’。”

 

这也解释了豆瓣《中国没有女权主义者。你们那都是见鬼了》蹿红的原因。这篇文章是个十足的“标题党”,乍看题目,好似迎合了不少人对“伪女权主义”的批判,但文章内容实际是以瑞典为参照,表述了中国性别歧视之严重,女权运动不仅不激进,而且还显然不够。

 

主流官媒在积极为春晚救场。中国青年网在20日发表《正是“不完美”才拯救了春晚》的文章,认为“不完美不等同于失败”,文章将春晚引起争议的小品节目避重就轻地一一列举,如刘德华唱歌跑调、小品涉嫌抄袭,但决口不提性别歧视争议。文章还写道:“一届没有话题和热度的春晚难以想象。幸好,羊年春晚的‘不完美’避免了‘最沉闷乏味的一届春晚’的恶评。”

 

女权主义者们不甘示弱,她们也把春晚的节目一一列举了一次,指责春晚存在44处歧视性问题,这一回,是按照性别歧视指数来排名的。在由女权之声发布的这篇《春晚歧视哪家强,网友发布歧视榜》中,网友制作了一张《2015央视春晚歧视榜》,将引起性别歧视争议的小品《喜乐街》、《小棉袄》、《车站奇遇》、《中华好儿孙》进行了盘点。其中,《喜乐街》和《小棉袄》被指“有毒指数爆表”。

 

事件愈演愈烈,外媒也对春晚的性别歧视抵制进行了报道。CNN发表《中国农历新年联欢晚会嘲笑女汉子引发愤怒》、《华盛顿邮报》发表《中国女权主义者站出来反对歧视女性的电视联欢晚会》来对春晚引发的“性别歧视愤怒”做出报道。其中,《华盛顿邮报》在文章一开头便写道:“如果说男女同工同酬呼声渐高是今年奥斯卡颁奖典礼的亮点,大洋彼岸观众更多的一台电视节目传递的信息则大相径庭。”

 

22日,一封有女权之声发起的题为《关于提请国家新闻出版广电总局停止播放央视春晚歧视性节目的建议信》的信件由来自全国11个省份的18名观众分别寄往广电总局。信件中要求央视停播含有性别歧视内容的春晚节目,春晚总导演哈文和央视台长胡占凡就歧视言论道歉,并且要求广电总局接受广大群众监督,指导改变目前国内文娱节目中歧视性和侮辱性问题的现状。

 

23日傍晚,继新浪微博删除了女权之声的相关报道后,新浪新闻中心、24小时播报全球重大新闻的账号“头条新闻”对抵制春晚进行了报道,该账号的粉丝达3800万。25日,这条微博被删除。

 

值得一提的是,《中国日报》罕见地支持女权主义者们的行动:“尽管他们也许不受欢迎,但这些唱反调的人已经挑起了一个在文明国家、一个在希望中全球扩大软实力的国家不应掩掩藏藏的问题。”

 

女权主义者的行动仍在继续:“女性影展”准备重写一首褒扬女汉子的、女权意味的《女神和女汉子》,用阳光的歌词消灭歧视,并于3月8日妇女节在各大城市的女影合作空间进行现场表演。两会将至,女权主义者们纷纷就反公交性骚扰、反家暴等上言献策……

 

春晚发生在马年末尾,而针对春晚的性别歧视抵制始于羊年大年初一。让那些讨人厌的、自以为幽默的性别歧视退出历史舞台,女权运动掀开了崭新的一页,也许才刚刚开始。正如吕频所说:“性别革命已在前沿,这不是任何人为的攒越,这是别无选择地来到。”

 

—宇舸


 

Translators’ notes:  

  1. Below the author explains that these opponents accuse such “false feminists” of “supporting gender equality on the surface, but in reality caring only to ”gain a leg up”, to “reap without sowing” and to “receive more rights without sharing responsibilities.”

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