Feminism Flourishing Despite Official Backlash

Feminism Flourishing Despite Official Backlash

Over the past two years, amid a broad crackdown on crackdown on public dissent and civil society activism, the actions of women’s rights campaigners have drawn international attention and a backlash from authorities. Last March, five feminist activists were detained on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” but released on bail after a loud outcry from the international human rights community. While they have been subject to continued harassment and surveillance since their release, they have found the proliferation of women’s rights activism in China since their detentions encouraging. However, as the rights campaigns have continued, so has official pressure. At the Los Angeles Times, Jonathan Kaiman reports on the progress that women’s rights campaigns have made in recent years in China, and on the increasing official scrutiny and political sensitivity of feminist activism. He notes campaigners’ feelings of empowerment despite the increasing risk of their activism:

Over the past year, Chinese authorities have tightened control over all aspects of society — they have detained lawyers and journalists, shuttered NGOs and passed laws making it more difficult to publicly criticize the government. But “you can’t just lump [the feminists] in with a broader government crackdown on civil society,” said Leta Hong-Fincher, a sociologist and author of “Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China.” “That’s definitely a part of it. But I believe there really is a unique threat to the government coming from this feminist movement.”

It won’t be easy to stamp out, she said — it’s become far too popular. “When I was doing my [book] research several years ago, it was very demoralizing to time and time again run into these young women who were just completely blind to blatant sexism,” she said. “But now more and more women are aware of injustice and inequality. That’s extremely heartening.”

[…] “All the street activities that we could do, we’re not allowed to do anymore,” said Xiao Meili, 26, the owner of an e-commerce business that sells feminist-themed merchandise. “And now, is a sensitive topic. No matter what we do, they’ll watch us very closely.” […]

[…] Xiao Men, 24, an assistant at a law firm in Guangzhou and one of the campaign’s organizers, said that although police have harassed her and her family several times over the last year, she plans to continue her activism. (Xiao also uses a nickname; she is not related to Xiao Meili).

Since she began her activism three years ago, she said, she’s “learned many things — I’ve learned to acknowledge that I’m a feminist, and I feel empowered by that. It makes me feel like I have a voice. [Source]

For more on feminism and women’s rights activism, or on the Party’s defense of its claim to be the leading protector of women’s rights in China, see prior CDT coverage.

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