‘Ban women drivers’: China’s sexism surfaces after bus plunges into river

  • Social media posts rail against female motorists when reports say the bus collided with a car driven by a woman
  • Two bodies have been found, but search efforts continue for a vehicle believed to be carrying a dozen passengers
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 October, 2018, 4:45am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 October, 2018, 12:24pm

Sexist attitudes quickly surfaced on Chinese social media after a bus carrying around a dozen passengers veered off course, hit another vehicle and plunged off a bridge into the Yangtze River on Sunday.

Two bodies have been found and the recovery operation is continuing, state media reported.

Fears for missing passengers after Chinese bus plunges off bridge into Yangtze River

Social media users began attacking women drivers after early reports from local media like People’s Daily cited an eyewitness account that a woman wearing heels driving in the wrong direction caused the accident in the southwestern city of Chongqing.

Many commenters on Weibo, the popular Chinese platform, wrote messages such as “The traffic management authorities should just ban women from driving.”

“The bus should have just run her over to prevent more deaths,” others wrote.

Other commenters quickly saw sexism in the headlines and pointed out the disparity in reporting. “When a male driver causes an accident gender is never emphasised, but women are insulted and blamed,” wrote one Weibo user.

It was later reported that the woman was driving normally. She suffered minor injuries and was hospitalised. However, the woman was briefly held by police after the accident, her husband told Thecover.cn.

His wife was a better driver than he was and had six years’ driving experience, her husband told Thecover.cn, adding that people would always jump to conclusions when they heard that a woman driver was involved in an accident.

Some posts that women should not be allowed to drive were later removed, the Beijing News reported. But many comments and posts about the injured woman are still on Weibo and can be found by searching “female driver”.

Despite the declaration by Mao Zedong that “women hold up half the sky”, the feminist movement in China has faced pressures its Western peers do not. Feminist activists are often harassed by law enforcement and even arrested.

Recent high-profile sexual harassment cases have galvanised Chinese women, but they still face significant hurdles in their fight for equality. The women who have accused well-known television host Zhu Jun of harassment are being sued for defamation. They are now pursuing their own civil action suit against him.

As the #MeToo movement spread across the world, China’s internet censors removed posts with the tag, as well as others with similar messages. Chinese internet users and activists had to come up with creative ways to spread their message, like using Chinese homophones – the characters for rice (mi) and bunny (tu) – to tag feminist and #MeToo posts online.

And the younger generation seems to be more critical of the traditional patriarchal view – the blockbuster Chinese TV drama Mother’s Life drew heavy criticism for highlighting the heroine’s obedience to her husband and in-laws, as well as her obsession with having a son.