These Chinese Women Are Standing Up To Inequality One Toilet At A Time

It seems the everyday sexism movement has taken route in China...


by Sophie Cullinane |
Published on

China isn’t necessarily the first country you’d think of as a vibrant hub for the women’s movement, but a small but significant number of Chinese women are now conducting performance-art style protests in order to raise awareness of the many challenges they face in their country today.

Recently – in an act of defiance made famous by Femen and the Free The Nipple Movement – six topless women took to the roadside in Guangzhou holding signs asking for more equality. And this week the same group of activists staged an artistic and somewhat light-hearted stunt when they occupied some of the men’s toilets holding signs challenging the lack of female facilities (who hasn’t had that thought at some point in their lives?).

Another group shaved their heads to draw attention to the fact that women had higher college admission requirements than their male counterparts, while others donned wedding dresses doused in red paint to draw attention to domestic violence. Another young woman trecked 1,240 miles from Beijing to Guangzhou to raise awareness of domestic abuse.

So one thing’s clear – the feminists in China mean business.

‘In the past, women had a strong and independent image,’ says activist Da Tu, who believes that discrimination is getting much worse in China. ‘Now on TV, it’s just big-breasted women cleaning the house. There are insults about gold-diggers. Across the media, they just have a really bad image of women and never show their achievements.’

As such many of the women are optimistic that their actions will eventually make an impact. ‘This is still the beginning; you don’t have to fix your identity to a certain circle. As a feminist you should rethink things for yourself and not become one of the middle class who just deals with issues that only affect a certain number of women,’ Li Maizi explained.

It’s no wonder women are beginning to take a stand. Women, on average, earn 17.5 per cent less than their male counterparts, which puts them in the top 20 worst offending countries for the gender pay gap. Companies are highly unlikely to face punishment for sexual discrimination– which is illegal.

Women’s wages have dramatically fallen as a proportion of men’s since economic reforms began and women’s rights to marital property have been reduced by legal changes in 2011. The recent spectacular Chinese property boom now almost entirely benefits men, while government-backed campaigns call unmarried women over 27 ‘leftovers’.

The situation for women in China is pretty bleak. So while these women are certainly making a stand and increasing international interest around the issue of women’s rights, it’s clear there’s still a long way to go.

Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophiecullinane

Picture: Corbis

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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