My Not So Feminist Experience In China
Prior to returning to China after five long years, if you had asked me what the difference between New York and Beijing is, I would have said not much, maybe except for food. But the truth is there is a lot that is different.
One being Feminism.
As a Chinese American, I love both China and America. But for the lack of better words, sexism is more common in China and it comes in many different forms. Sometimes it is outright comments on females body that caters to the male gaze, emphasis on girls’ looks more than abilities, and blatant stereotypes.
“Cover-Up so you do not get raped”:
Problem: I first noticed this cultural difference when my mom, who never tells me how to dress, told me to change my outfit because I am showing too much skin. I asked her why, and she told me because she doesn't want me to get sexually harassed.
America: Generally nobody cares unless you are completely nude (then you might be arrested). However, there are bad people no matter where in the world you are.
China: People will look/stare at you weird (sometimes it gets really uncomfortable). People will assume you are easy, a hoe, or dirty. You will bring shame to your family for being so exposed because “a girl should not dress like that”.
Solution: I was TRIGGERED. It does not matter how much skin girls show, sexual harassment is not acceptable under any circumstance. Instead of telling women to change, teach men how to be respectful. Although I do get that my mom is trying to protect me, if women keep putting more clothes on to avoid this problem and pretending they are ok with wearing this much on hot summer days, nothing will change. I did not change because I am already wearing it; therefore, it is unnecessary. Why don’t we let women dress however they like and resist the urge to get in physical contact and catcall.
“He doesn’t likes me because I’m fat”:
Problem: One of my Chinese friends told me that the boy she likes does not like her back because she thinks the guy thinks she is fat.
America: Body Positivity. The point is to be both physically and mentally healthy. We show women that beauty and confidence comes in many forms.
China: Skinny (like really skinny), fair (tan skin is not preferred), and not too tall (because guys do not want girls to be taller than them). China has a very narrow and specific definition of beauty.
Solution: To be honest, this is just sad. Not because she’s not confident, but because many times girls internalize stereotypes and unrealistic expectation without knowing it. The guy did not even say that it is because she’s fat that he does not like her, she just thinks that. I find that a lot of times it is because they believe that there are no other way other than fitting into the cookie cutter image of a perfect women, that they try so hard to be “perfect”. Let’s promote the body positive movement.
“Girls should be obedient, elegant, and pretty”:
Problem: My uncle outright said that to me. I was so angry I had to focus on my breathing. He claimed “boys like girls who are obedient, elegant, and pretty”.
America: Again, nobody really cares. Parents are more open-minded. You like then you like. If you do not like then leave.
China: Men in China are very specific about their standards and it is usually the same. You are not going to find a husband if you are opinionated, like to go out, and not “pretty”. The key is to get married. Good job, marriage, and children, are a key checklist for a “good” life. This usually affects women more because they are under pressure to appear "desirable" in order to get married (Women over 30, divorced, or has children are not typically "desirable" so time is of the essence).
Solution: Ok. Just No. Honestly girls should be whoever and however they want to be for THEMSELVES. Stop telling girls how they should look, act, and form their personalities. Why don’t you let girls to be who they are? We should encourage girls to be financially independent and self-sufficient. They can find a man, if they want one, who appreciates them for who they are and how they look. Again, a good life for one might not be the definition of a good life for another.
All in all, I want to emphasize that I am not bashing China or trying to trigger anyone. Many of these are common occurrences around the world and China is just one country.
It is worth pointing out that while America has embraced the #metoo and #timesup movement, not everywhere around the world has.
But because America is always in the world’s spotlight, I am faithful that our work here in the States, will have a ripple effect on the rest of the world.
Author: Vivian Yang
Vivian is probably the most extra person you will ever meet. She loves everything fashion, beauty, and feminism. She is a major Potterhead and loves everything Harry Potter related. She is a proud Hufflepuff meaning she values hard work, patience, loyalty, and fair play. If you can't find her, she is probably wandering in Manhattan.