An Interview with Zeng Jinyan

At The China Story, Elisa Nesossi talks to Zeng Jinyan about activism, human rights, filmmaking and blogging. Zeng highlights the underappreciated contributions and sacrifices of female activists and family members, as well as more general inequality between women’s and men’s social standing:

Most people know little about me other than the fact that I’m Hu Jia’s wife. This is how it is in China: a place where a totalitarian hierarchical system and a culture of gender inequality prevail. Even though the social status of women has greatly improved, men still dominate. People with a public profile are greatly valued. Those who do domestic work are considered too ordinary to warrant attention. My story is similar to the stories of many daughters, wives and mothers, especially those of wives and mothers.

[…] I must say that in China’s human rights movement, there is definitely a huge gender imbalance. We urgently need to strengthen gender awareness in the community of lawyers and legal workers. To be gender aware requires far more than just publicising a woman’s plight. First, in terms of social relations, you have to ask yourself, how do you deal with domination and encourage partnership in work and everyday life? We are in a hierarchical political system where the presumed superiority of men has deep roots. The female suicide rate is twenty-five percent higher than that of men. Violence against women and children is considered normal: many people do not consider slapping a woman or child to be a violent act. Over decades, the effects of prenatal sex selection and female infanticide have produced a gender imbalance in China that is higher than the world’s average. [Source]

At Global Times, alluding to cases like that of Chongqing official Lei Zhengfu, James Palmer describes how unequal treatment of women extends online into arenas such as anti-corruption crusades:

Women’s role in the dynamics of Chinese corruption tends to be as accomplices, not perpetrators. While there have been scandals involving powerful middle-aged women and handsome gigolos, they are vanishingly rare compared to the number of pudgy officials caught with 19-year-old mistresses.

Yet the bulk of online anger in such cases often seems to be devoted toward the women, not the men. “All these xiaosan (mistresses) should die!” and “She should be beaten until she has no face left!” are typical comments.

[… T]he vitriol poured on women may also have something to do with modern Chinese frustrations. With a growing gender imbalance, there are an increasing number of young men unable to find girlfriends their own age. Instead of blaming the patriarchal values that created the imbalance to begin with, they target the women instead. [Source]