Censoring feminist discussions will not solve China’s population crisis
- Shutting down feminist groups on social media over ‘extremism’ has backfired and led to greater visibility for radical feminism
- If the government is worried about China’s population, it should address discrimination and other issues that hold back women
The “6B” stands for not having romantic or sexual relationships with men; not getting married or having children; not buying misogynistic products; and offering help to other single women. “4T” refers to their rejection of tight-fitting outfits, religions and idols.
Douban claimed the online forums associated with these groups were erased because they “contained extremism and radical political and ideological thoughts”. In a country where women are arrested for protesting against sexual harassment in public transport, such censorship is not a surprise.
Moreover, at a time when China’s population is shrinking, I can imagine the authorities don’t feel overjoyed by some women’s determination not to marry or to procreate. Are these women really radical, though?
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From what I understand, some of the 6B4T followers are lesbians, but not all of them. Some are disappointed or traumatised by their intimate relationships with men. They are mostly young, urban and educated.
The space for feminist activism has shrunk under President Xi Jinping. However, women have found creative ways to criticise their unfair treatment, even using songs and stand-up comedy.
At the same time, the attack on feminists has become increasingly vicious. Yang Li, the “punchline queen” who has offended some men with her biting humour, has received a barrage of online attacks and become a public hate figure.
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In April, when a woman and her friend demanded a man stop smoking in a hotpot restaurant, he splashed some hotpot broth on them along with a torrent of insults. The woman recorded the episode on her phone and later posted it online. While many female internet users praised her courage in speaking out, many men bombarded her with insults and exposed the personal details of her life.
Knowing her as confident and determined, I am sure Xiao will not be deterred by online trolling. In this hostile environment, it’s not surprising that many other women have chosen a new way to fight for the feminist cause and adopted “6B4T”.
Ironically, Douban’s banning of the groups had a Streisand Effect, which pushed 6B4T to trend on Weibo. Questions such as “is the idea of simply not wanting to have any relationship with men extremism?” were asked. Many women who don’t adhere to 6B4T expressed their support.
Naturally, not all comments were in favour of 6B4T followers. Some questioned if such a philosophy would make society more divisive while others hurled abuse. Some adherents didn’t understand what the fuss was about.
I don’t think this repression will achieve much since smart, young feminists will find a way to continue their fight.
Lijia Zhang is a rocket factory worker turned social commentator, and the author of a novel, Lotus