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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

On-Going Chinese Feminist Activism Panel

I happened upon an unedited proof version of Betraying Big Brother about feminist activists in China, the author's earlier book discussing the "leftover women" (professional, educated, urban women, who allegedly should be worrying about marriage and having a child). The conservative authoritarian mindset feels a bit familiar these days. But, it is good on its own, a view into another culture and young women (including GLBT) fighting for equal justice and also finding their place in the world.
On Friday, she moderated a panel ("On-Going Chinese Feminist Activism") with three of the women covered in the first book, including the middle one in the cover photo (women in blood splashed wedding dresses, protesting domestic violence).  The book highlighted the "feminist five" (the picure can be found at the link)  and "Giant Rabbit" also was among the women that contributed here.  Her husband, a labor activist, was arrested this year and she runs each day as a means of protest and sending the message.  Her presence was apparently on the downlo since we were told not to take pictures or reference her on social media.  The third had the killer cat (since the government didn't want humans) anti-harassment shirt in a promotion photo of the event.

I tried to go to a few more events this year -- criminal justice, religious liberty, book talks, a Gillibrand rally and so forth -- and this one (free though they had a donation box) was interesting as well.  It was interesting, e.g., to have the first speaker give her presentation in Chinese (the audience was largely Asian women, a few Asian men and a few white people; it was scheduled to start 6:30 and like no one way there when I got there not much earlier -- um am I the right place? ... but it was a decent if smallish turnout)  with a translator on board. Thus, much of the audience laughed at some of her remarks before I knew what she said.

Took some rough notes.  The first presentation noted that the feminists in China used their body as means to promote their message in large part because it is cheap.  She noted that some challenged the idea that such "performance art" was even a form of "art" at all.  She spoke of the work, mobilizing and trouble-making involved.  The body is both fragile but also strong.  She referenced one means used to promote the cause: an armpit hair competition.  Both it and the feminist movement always was growing and thriving.

The second presentation focused on the #MeToo Movement in China.  She spoke of the over year attempt to have an authorized anti-harassment protest, including public posters and the like.  The government didn't want them to be "too scary" or have human photos. Ultimately, Chinese feminists had various public demonstrations, including at major pubic transportation locations.  She also spoke about efforts to deal with sexual harassment and abuse at universities (more than one major target was cited; the book also covers this).  She spoke of there being no leaders, just grassroots.  She spoke in English, if a bit roughly at times.

The third speaker also spoke in English, and though she joked that since this was her first time giving a presentation we should consider her like 20x better than she seems, her English was pretty good.  Each woman had a sense of humor, which helps most things, but she had the lightest touch and is pretty cute. One person on Twitter compared her to AOC.  Her presentation focused on labor rights, mixed with some feminism (in one effort involving sanitation workers, like 80% involvement was women, but they were not in the first photo). Recall her husband is a labor activist in prison. She spoke about the importance of telling stories and showing the humanity of the workers.

Each gave a presentation with a slideshow (around a hour plus) and then there was questions (after over a half hour, I left -- at 9).  Deeply respect what they are doing (the one in particular was imprisoned and the book covers multiple means of harassment by the government) and again the whole thing feels familiar with the #MeToo movement here as well.  It was nice to see such activists in person along with the person behind the book and Twitter feed.  

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