‘Promiscuous women get gangrene’ – what Chinese summer camps taught teens about gender values

  • Classes teaching children about women’s values promote reactionary ideas and scaremongering, video exposé finds
  • Authorities intervene to halt the latest such classes and central legal body calls for further action to promote equality
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 December, 2018, 11:47pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 December, 2018, 3:30am

“I dressed myself up in a fashionable and revealing way, and that’s an invitation for others to insult me and rape me,” says a sobbing woman in a video shown to teenagers at a summer camp in Wenzhou, in eastern China’s Zhejiang province.

“Three drops of sperm are equal to poison, and they will hurt unclean women. I’m afraid my body will rot, will stink and ache, and they’ll have to amputate my legs.”

Her words were supposed to reinforce another video that was shown, which instructs that “women who change boyfriends frequently will develop gangrene on their bodies, and will rot and turn black, until their limbs will have to be cut off”.

In a series of videos shot in secret that went viral on Chinese social media over the weekend, Pear Video reported that in August a group of children aged between five and 18 were taught “filial duties” and “women’s values”.

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The topic “women’s virtue classes for teens” was viewed 54 million times on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, at the weekend. The figure represents the total number of views of the videos and articles including those by Pear Video.

After seeing the videos, the Wenzhou government ordered on Monday that the classes be halted immediately, according to local media.

The Communist Party’s political and legal affairs commission also condemned the classes on Monday.

Most of the staff at the camp also worked at a “women’s values study class” in Fushun, in northeast China’s Liaoning province, that was shut down last year by the authorities after creating an online backlash.

Teachers there taught teenagers that “men are the heaven and women the earth, women need to follow their place and do what they are supposed to do”.

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Other than women’s values, the children learned to respect their parents. A teacher claimed that after being dutiful to her parents, her fever and cancer were cured. Children were asked to stand on stage and confess how disrespectful they had been to their parents in public and to criticise their own behaviour.

The camps were not the first of their kind in China and did not only target teens. Besides the classes in Fushun last year, examples have been reported all over the country in recent years. In 2014, a class in Dongguan, in the southern Guangdong province, encouraged women to “not fight back when beaten and not talk back when yelled at”.

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Each time such classes have been exposed by local media, authorities have moved in quickly to close them down, but without eradicating the phenomenon.

The frequent resurfacing of the classes shows there remains a large audience for them in today’s Chinese society, said Fang Gang, a sexology professor at Beijing Forestry University.

“Our culture isn’t one that has achieved complete gender equality,” he said. “Some people are still stressing traditional gender roles, such as women needing to be a ‘good mother and wife’.”

There needs to be more action than only shutting down the classes, argued an article on Monday in the Changanjian, the official new media outlet of the Communist Party’s political and legal affairs commission.

“Eradication of these classes first lies in the economy: women need to be provided with more opportunities to be independent,” it stated. “Then it lies in education. Finally, it lies in social governance. We need to make sure women are no longer treated unfairly.”