At least nine radical feminist groups on Chinese social media site Douban were closed on April 12th, according to members of those groups.
Alice Wang, a Chinese feminist and foreign student currently outside China who wishes to remain anonymous (Alice Wang is a pseudonym), tweeted shortly after the banning about the “devastating blow” to Chinese radical feminists. She wrote that the disbanded groups were “the only discussion forums that Chinese feminists could find.” In addition to closing the groups, activists claim that mentioning key words like “6B4T” (the name of a radical feminist movement, borrowed from Korean feminists, persuading women to turn their backs on sex, child-rearing, dating, marriage, etc., with men) and the very names of the banned groups can get any user account suspended.
Although the reasons for the banning might remain “unclear,” Wang and members of the feminist groups that were closed, such as “SHEROS,” “6B4T team,” “Menstrual Blood Sisterhood,” and “I Women's Squad Team” believe that this latest round of censorship is due to their “uncompromising anti-marriage stance, which goes against the state’s instruction to fight falling birth rates.”
Wang told 4W that China’s surveillance is “omnipresent and permeates all over cyberspace.” All citizen’s activities are monitored, and radical feminists, particularly, hide their identity online and have “limited number of social networking platforms to connect.”
Talking about China’s alternative to Twitter, Weibo, she explained that radical or gender critical feminists endure constant harassment by men and many feminist accounts had been suspended permanently. China's most popular social media, WeChat, similar to Facebook, is heavily censored. Douban, on the other hand, could be compared to Reddit, with public forums that were still enabling radical feminists to “spread their ideas and find like-minded women.”
"China’s surveillance is 'omnipresent and permeates all over cyberspace.' All citizen’s activities are monitored, and radical feminists, particularly, hide their identity online."
In March 2021, according to Wang, feminists had set up a server on the Fediverse, a decentralized social network. The server was attacked and quickly closed, according to the site’s administrator. Many “Douban refugees” later moved to Spinster, another radical feminist server on the Fediverse.
China is in the midst of a population crisis, which has fueled violence towards women and sparked the recent feminist revival. After three decades of the controversial one-child policy, which saw the increase in sex-selective abortions/conceptions and female infanticide, China currently has about 37 million more men than women. The Guardian reported in 2019 that the population is “shrinking and ageing,” but that the current efforts from the Chinese Government to create a “baby boom” may be too late.
Reasons for the falling birth rates can be traced to decades of women resorting to contraception pills, improved education standards and income levels delaying marriage and childbirth, besides the fact that the single-child households became the norm due to the one-child policy.
According to Global Times, “China is faced with a huge gender imbalance, with the male population exceeding the female population by more than 30 million, data from China's National Bureau of Statistics shows. The imbalance in the post-2000s and population of marriageable age is even more urgent. In 2019, the ages with the most imbalanced gender ratios (males per 100 females) in China were children aged 10-14 years and 15-19 years. In these two age groups, the gender ratios were 119.10 and 118.39, respectively, meaning there were about 120 men for every 100 women, data shows.”
Another tragic consequence of China’s one-child policy is the alarming increase in human trafficking and forced marriage. In 2019, DW reported on a police operation that rescued more than 1,000 trafficked women from the neighboring countries who were being kept in safe houses, to be “sold” as wives, after being lured by promises of work in China.
"All those nine groups supported 6B4T, a radical feminist movement originated in Korea and was deemed compelling and feasible to protect themselves from men's exploitation by Chinese women."
A new law implemented last January, imposing a “cooling off” period for divorces has also sparked outrage, and is seen as “an omen of the state’s will to force women to enter marriage” by Chinese radical feminists, who also have to consider the “death rate caused by domestic violence in China,” according to Wang.
Online state censorship in China is often referred to as “The Great Firewall of China.” According to a piece from the Guardian in 2018, “Before Xi Jinping, the internet was becoming a more vibrant political space for Chinese citizens. But today the country has the largest and most sophisticated online censorship operation in the world.”
According to the group Free Chinese Feminists, 6B4T is “frowned upon” by the Chinese Government. “All those nine groups supported 6B4T, a radical feminist movement originated in Korea and was deemed compelling and feasible to protect themselves from men's exploitation by Chinese women,” says Wang. “6B4T is very similar to separatist feminism.”
This comes at a time when politicians, worried about their aging population and the scarcity of working population, promised to explore “subsidies for families with two children, encourage employers to offer more services for families, and support women returning to work after giving birth.” According to VICE, Douban claimed that the groups contained “extremism, radical politics, and ideologies.”
Wang says that, from her personal experience, “if a pair of parents’ first child is a daughter, most of them will choose to have a second child. If the first child is a son, they are not as likely to have a second child. In addition, although China banned the use of the ultrasound to see a fetus’ sex, there are still loopholes for Chinese parents to know the fetus’ sex.”
Sexism in China seems to be an issue not yet addressed. While Chinese women avoiding marriage and motherhood are considered “anti-nationalists,” men are still allowed to roam free online, often doxxing women and making death threats, unpunished.
The censorship is similar to that which radical feminists have faced from social media sites in the West. In June 2020, the radical feminist community r/GenderCritical was banned from Reddit.
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