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Betraying Big Brother. A book talks about feminism…

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Betraying Big Brother.  A book talks about feminism…

In the last few days we found ourselves talking indirectly about China on two occasions, both times referring to TikTokthe controversial social network frowned upon in the West, because it is accused of spying on profiles and passing information to the Beijing government.

And so, the approval of the US House of Representatives has arrived for a law that puts the ropes on ByteDance, owner of the social network (obliged, if the law were to become operational, to sell the platform to a US company, under penalty of being banned from the entire United States territory).

And a few hours later, our AGCM fined the social platform for unfair commercial practice.

Let’s talk about China and its contradictions now, with a brief review of Betraying Big Brother. The feminist awakening in China. The volume, written by Leta Hong Fincher, was released by add editore in March 2024 (translation by Margherita Emo and Piernicola D’Ortona).

The author

Leta Hong Fincher is a Chinese-American journalist and scholar.

She was the first U.S. citizen to receive a doctorate in sociology from Tsinghua University in Beijing. You have written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, Ms. Magazine, the BBC and CNN.

He also dedicated the essay to the women’s issue in China Leftover Women. The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China (2016).

Betraying Big Brother

Betraying Big Brother is a retrospective on feminism in China in recent years. The volume hinges on the story of the arrest of those who have been called, par excellence, the Five Feminists, which occurred on the eve of March 8, 2015.

Repression and awareness

The arrest of the Five Feminists, writes the author, “marked a watershed in the history of women’s rights in Chinashowing the world that a relatively small group of young feminists was capable of putting the Chinese Communist Party in serious trouble” (p. 19).

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Perhaps talking about “serious difficulty” is excessive, but certainly in that space of months the government showed all its authoritarianismadopting a truly ruthless repressive plan against young activists (of which Betraying Big Brother is dealt with in a chapter). However the repression has only sharpened awareness and allowed “the emergence of a broader feminist awakeningwhich is beginning to transform the women of Chinese cities” (p. 20).

We are thus witnessing the birth and development of important initiatives and associations, such as Feminist voices, which spread through the Internet and was later suppressed by the government. But capable of preparing the #MeToo movement, which will arrive in China in 2018.

China and chauvinism

Reading Betraying Big Brother one has the feeling that feminism in China has almost heroic valuesgiven not only the intimidating and repressive attitude already mentioned, but also the highly subordinate role that, by Xi Jinping’s explicit admission, the Beijing government would like to reserve for women.

The author writes: “The Chinese government expects women to be reproductive instruments of the state, obedient wives and mothers at home, who help maintain political stability, bear children, and raise the workforce of the future” (p. 215).

The prevailing chauvinism in China does not only concern espionage, intimidation and violence perpetrated by the police more or less incognito towards feminists (and of whom the book gives several testimonies). But even, and this is the indicator of the widespread misogyny in the country, it also resulted in real harassment by men involved as activists in the human rights movement.

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Betraying Big Brother: what feminism in tomorrow’s China?

The volume, reaching the present, highlights another risk that should not be underestimated. The fact that, in a certain sense, Chinese feminism risks becoming a pop phenomenonas several large companies are beginning “to recognize the commercial power of consumer feminism and tap into a potentially huge market for brands that represent women’s heightened sense of empowerment” (p. 245).

Why the feminism of tomorrow’s China is called to a double commitment. Not only that of resisting a sexist and liberticidal regime, but also that of keeping the struggle independent from any commercial appeal. Which, if on the one hand it would help to amplify its notoriety, on the other – it goes without saying – it would weaken and distort it.

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