In the wake of the ever-growing list of sexual harassment allegations against Hollywood big shot Harvey Weinstein, the hashtag #MeToo has spread around the world on social media with women sharing stories about their experiences of sexual assault.
However, according to a recent opinion piece published by the state-run China Daily, China doesn’t have such problems. The English-language article, titled “Weinstein case demonstrates cultural differences,” was published on Monday before being removed a day later after social media users angrily tore it apart.
China Daily failed to explain why the article was removed and has not issued an apology. You can still read the whole thing in cached form. Here’s how it begins:
One may wonder what causes these frequent occurrences of sexual harassment in the US, and compare this to its limited incidences in China. One may pose an uncomfortable yet crucial question, which is: “Does sexual harassment occur in Chinese society in general, and in the workplace in particular?” As far as I can tell, China Daily appears to have deleted ridiculous piece about lack of sexual harassment in Chin
An honest answer would be affirmative, yet one must be objective and state it is not as common as in the West. The follow-up question should then be: “What prevents sexual harassment from becoming a common phenomenon in China, as it is in most Western societies?”
A frank and straightforward answer would be, “Chinese traditional values and conservative attitudes tend to safeguard women against inappropriate behavior from members of the opposite gender.”
It is a well-known fact that China is a traditional society based upon commendable values and virtues that respect the dignity and humanity of its citizens, regardless of their gender.
Chinese men are taught to be protective of their women. Behaving inappropriately toward women, including harassing them sexually, contradicts every Chinese traditional value and custom.
These are the thoughts of Sava Hassan, a Canadian Egyptian author, poet and educator who is teaching and residing in China. He has written articles for Chinese state media in the past and has even published a book, titled Thoughts of an Intellectual Man.
As evidence for his above claims about the low frequency of sexual harassment in China, Hassan cites conversations he has had with his Chinese acquaintances and students:
During my residence in China, I was able to affirm my preconceived notions — Chinese do possess conservative attitudes in their daily conduct, including dealing with members of the opposite gender.
Having the opportunity to interact with the Chinese youth through my teaching assignments, I discovered most of my male students were too timid to make sexual advances toward their female counterparts, and the same stood true for young ladies in dealing with male students.
When discussing the issue with some of my Chinese acquaintances and students, most of them were repulsed by the notion cases of sexual harassment might have happened to them or their friends.
They emphasized the fact they would not subject anyone to the humiliation of being regarded as a sex object, taking care to mention they would not like to have members of their families receiving that despicable treatment from others.
They stressed the Chinese authority deals harshly with those who disrespect themselves by behaving inappropriately toward others.
Hassan ends his piece by saying “Lastly, I must emphasize that my article reflects my own views and is not intended to offend anyone.”
Instead, the article has offended everyone, setting off a social media firestorm with critics picking apart Hassan’s ridiculous piece:
— Yuen Chan (@xinwenxiaojie) October 16, 2017
Heavy censorship! Reality of course is that the problem is rampant in both—all—places.
— Sophie Richardson (@SophieHRW) October 16, 2017
This is simply beyond awful. Ignorant and dangerous. Does this author exist or is it a pseudonym? https://t.co/ksPeE0DU9u
— Mike Forsythe 傅才德 (@PekingMike) October 16, 2017
— Rob Schmitz (@rob_schmitz) October 16, 2017
Sexual harassment such an intrinsic part of everyday life in China that women probably don't know what it's like without it. https://t.co/0eaAGoXscV
— Elyse Ribbons 柳素英 (@iheartbeijing) October 16, 2017
— Crystal Wilde (@wilde_crystal) October 18, 2017
Perhaps the most thorough response to the article comes from writer and filmmaker Christoph Rehage who attended the Beijing Film Academy. On Twitter, Rehage writes that the Chinese movie industry is “full of abuse” with many actresses “being treated like prostitutes.”
“China is still patriarchal and sexual abuse is widespread. It’s only for a lack of transparency that the problem can be swept under the rug,” Rehage writes. “Western societies have systemic sexual abuse problems and discuss them. Chinese society has the same problems but doesn’t talk about them.”
Uh, having attended China's most prestigious film school, the Beijing Film Academy, I can tell you that you are gravely mistaken.
— Christoph Rehage (@crehage) October 16, 2017
Meanwhile, Jiayun Feng, writing for SupChina, attacked the article by referring to actual facts, like a 2013 survey which found that 22.7 percent of Chinese males said they had raped a woman, while 50 percent admitted to sexually or physically abusing their partner.
— David Paulk 波大卫 (@davidpaulk) October 17, 2017
Evidentally, Hassan is not a Shanghaiist reader. It isn’t difficult to find stories about women being sexually harassed in public in China. Perverts particularly thrive on public transportation, exposing themselves, rubbing up against female commuters, and even relieving themselves on the women’s clothes.
This kind of culture extends to more private spheres where women are extremely reluctant to report incidences of sexual assault.
“There’s the pervasive misogyny in Chinese society, and then add to that this huge government crackdown on feminism, so any women who wants to come forward needs to take a huge risk,” Leta Hong Fincher, the author of a forthcoming book entitled Betraying Big Brother: China’s Feminist Resistance, told the Guardian.
“There’s also state media aggressively pushing traditional gender norms, where women are supposed to play these roles of a good wife and good mother who should be preparing themselves to have babies.”
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