Women’s Rights in China – an Interview with Feng Yuan

This interview was conducted by CDB's Zhai Yan

中文 English

Editor’s Note

For this year’s International Women’s Day, CDB published a series of interviews with outstanding women in Chinese civil society. One of those interviewed was Feng Yuan, a well-known feminist activist who has been promoting gender equality since the eighties. Feng Yuan is the co-founder of Equality (Beijing), an NGO for women’s rights and gender equality. She has jointly facilitated several women’s NGO initiatives, such as the Media Monitor Network for Women (1996-), the Gender and Development Network in China (2000-), the Center for Women’s Studies at Shantou University and the Women Network for Combating HIV/AIDs (2009-). She is also a founding member, once acting Director and then Chairperson of the Anti-Domestic Violence Network (2000-2014). Below you can find our translation of the interview into English. 

252331641028873208

Feng Yuan

CBD: How do you view raising and improving the status of women in Chinese society?

Feng Yuan: Currently, there is a consensus in many countries that the state, the government, bears the primary responsibility for improving the status of women. The government controls vast public resources, and it dominates drawing up and implementation of public policy, as well as distributing resources. Therefore there is no question that it’s up to the government to take the lead on the issue of improving women’s status. The function of other forces is to aid, urge, and supervise the government as they work to raise women’s status.

CBD: Some say that the world will be led by women in the future. What do you think about this? (This question is asked in light of the Prime Ministers of the UK and Germany and the leader of Taiwan all being women).

Feng Yuan: Is this a quote from Goethe’s “Faust”? The tragedy ends with the line “eternal feminine draws us ever upward.” If the future of the world exists in literature, then many works of literature have this type of description in which women act as leaders. In the real world however, I cannot see a future where the world is led by women. In addition, this world is comprised of different sexes: men, women and the sexes in between. This world is our shared world, similar to how Xi Jinping described it as “humanity’s community of shared destiny.” Therefore, a member of any sex in this community of shared destiny can become a leader, and everyone should partake in and contribute to this leadership. Some countries have women who assume top positions, which is not the same as women leading, because [that nation’s] values, policies and government structure don’t clearly enshrine women’s rights and they don’t focus on promoting gender equality.

CDB: When facing the challenges of the external environment, what course should the women’s movement follow?

Feng Yuan: Women have been facing external environmental challenges all along, and the women’s movement itself began, formed and developed in response to these challenges. Because of the various forms of denial of women’s rights brought about by the external environment, exploitation and unequal treatment arose. Therefore women’s movements have always been oriented towards striving for equality and, while advancing in this direction, obtaining equal opportunities, the fruition of equal resources and equal benefits. Of course this equality does not take men as the standard, but rather the rights that people should inherently possess. For example, men do not have a need for the protection that women need during their pregnancy. Even though we advocate for men to take child-care leave and share the responsibility of raising a child, this is still a right that women need to have, but men do not necessarily need. So the women’s movement in China and elsewhere has always been advancing in the direction of striving for equality. This goal is still far off in the distance, but we need to keep moving forward.

CDB: How does a feminist behave with regards to her family and marriage? How is she seen by her family?

Feng Yuan: This is a very interesting question. One’s behavior at home can be evaluated by oneself and by others. These “others” include the husband, the children, other family members, people outside the family, and society itself. However, not all people have husbands or children, whether or not they are feminist. If the feminist is narrowly defined by her behaviour with a husband or a child, then she has lost her identity. At the same time, a woman who isn’t a feminist should not be defined only by her husband or children either. There also needs to be some self-evaluation, because the judgments of the husband and children, as well as those of others, are more often than not based on stereotypical, rigidly-defined gender roles. Regardless of whether the woman is a feminist or not, she will not be perceived well if she falls short of these stereotypical standards. On the other hand, feminists that fit these standards can still be viewed negatively because of the stigma attached to feminism itself. Finally, feminism does not necessarily have to be limited to those who are physiologically female.

CDB: Does feminism conflict with the notion of female self-sacrifice (女性奉献)?

Feng Yuan: Why don’t we ask if the followers of other ideologies are able to self-sacrifice? Why aren’t ordinary people asked if they can self-sacrifice? If we talk about sacrifice, we should talk about the sacrifices of everyone in this society. If no one in society needs to sacrifice themselves, then everyone only needs to do their duty and nothing more. Certainly, if sacrifice was inherently equal and women had the freedom to choose, I think that feminists would also be willing to sacrifice themselves. They would be willing to make sacrifices for their loved ones. However, one must pay attention to the meaning of self-sacrifice, and its implication of being selfless – can a person realize that entirely? Even if someone manages to be selfless, they still need to survive. If one needs to survive, one cannot be entirely selfless. If we are talking about devotion and sacrifice, feminists have made great sacrifices for and contributions to this world, which are too often overlooked or underestimated.

CDB: How do we find a balance between feminism and extremism (in other words, how do we prevent women’s rights activism from slipping into an extreme role)?

Feng Yuan: Advocating women’s rights is meant to promote equal rights for women. How is this, in itself, extremist? In the film “Suffragette”, British women of the time demonstrated for the right to vote with drastic actions, like throwing stones at property, because their peaceful actions had produced no results. They had to use radical means to get the attention of society. So for many people radicalism is not the purpose, but the means. Extremism is a means to garner attention to a cause when little attention is given.

CDB: How do we distinguish and separate a viewpoint from a fact?

Feng Yuan: This is a very good question. Many people cannot distinguish between facts and opinions. Often, that which is expressed as a fact is truly just a point of view and mistaken as fact. Considering this, those who advocate for gender equality are very careful to distinguish facts from viewpoints. It is very common to confuse facts and viewpoints when discussing gender issues, especially because assumptions based on biased precedent are mistaken as proven facts. For example, are the common sayings that “women have long hair but short sights” (女人头发长见识短) or “women’s natural dispositions are warm and gentle, while men’s are brave and strong” facts or opinions?  If we do not seriously reconsider these sayings, then people will naturally assume that these gender distinctions are facts of life, rather than realizing that these are man-made presumptions that are used as the basis for a social and gender system.

CDB: From a women’s rights perspective, how should we understand terms like and ? (These Chinese terms literally mean “strong women” and “tomboys”, and are used to refer to independent and strong-willed women).

Feng Yuan: I think there are many women who don’t have a feminist way of thinking who still have a bad reaction to these words. The words themselves are used to describe competent women who do not conform to stereotypical gender expectations. It is a kind of backhanded compliment, or it can be straightforwardly derogatory. But we can see in our actual lives that there are many, many men and women all around us who don’t conform to stereotypes and conventions, and if we use derogatory words towards them, we are discriminating against them. This is why many women refuse to be addressed this way. There are some individual women who may accept these terms, but the terms are nonetheless still discriminatory.

CDB: In judging whether something is discriminatory towards women, where do we draw the line?

Feng Yuan: What is the standard for discrimination? Look at China’s signing of the United Nation’s “Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women” – this has been the second most signed international treaty in the world. China was among the first group of nations to sign this treaty. It defines discrimination as anything causing disadvantageous consequences for women as well as limitations to and the rejection of women. Whether there is subjective intention behind it or not, it all counts as discrimination towards women. If you take the proverb “男人三十一枝花,女人三十豆腐渣” (men blossom at age thirty, while women whither: a Chinese saying implying that men’s circumstances improve during their 30s and 40s, while women’s deteriorate), isn’t this a form of discrimination? And isn’t this excessively negative image of feminism also a form discrimination? That’s why resisting discrimination involves reflecting upon attitudes towards gender that we accept as normal. Everyone should pursue their interests and realize their potential in accordance with their own natures, passions, and objectives. Currently, China has laws against discrimination, but discrimination is not clearly defined. This should be changed.

Feng Yuan’s message to women for International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is approaching, and as people often say we should not forget its original goal. The goal was to have women’s demands—both bread and roses—heard. That is, the point was to fight for equal rights in both the spiritual and material spheres of life. Therefore International Women’s Day is not merely a time for consumption and leisure, but rather a day to go back to fighting for women’s equality.

 

采访冯媛——女性权益路上的践行者

2017-03-08 10:13:18  来源:中国发展简报  作者:柬言    点击数量:199

       【者按】三月,是春意复萌的季节,也是女人的节日。让我们在这个充满温暖的日子里读“女人自己的故事”。为此,中国发展简报特邀请不同领域的女性代表畅谈自己的观点和故事。希望大家喜欢。中国发展简报祝福每一位姊妹:自信美丽、幸福安康、节日快乐!

 

 

 

 性别平等工作者,1980年代以来通过新闻、扶贫和社区发展、教学、研究和NGO工作推动性别平等。        中国简报(以下称简报):如何在中国社会境下提高女性的地位?

 

       媛:目前世界各国的共识是,提升妇女地位的首要责任者是国家,是政府。政府掌握了大量的公共资源,主导了公共政策的制定,执行和分配。所以,提升妇女地位是政府的主要责任,不存在抗衡的问题,其他力量的作用是协助和督促政府来提升妇女的地位。

 

       简报:有人将来个世界由女性领导,您怎么看(是出于今英国首相、德国理,台湾领导人等都是女性)?

 

       媛:这是引用歌德的《浮士德》吗?它的结尾是“永恒的女性引导我们飞升”。如果将来的世界存在于文学的话,文学很多作品当中都有关于女性有引领作用的这样描述。但是在现实的社会当中,第一我看不到将来的世界由女性领导这样的前景,第二这世界是由不同的性别组成的,有男性和女性,还有男女性之间的其他性别,这个世界是我们共同的世界,就像习近平主席说的这个世界是人类命运共同体,所以,这个命运共同体当中的每一个性别的人都可以成为领导,都应该参与和贡献于这个领导。一些国家有女性担任领导人,不等于就是由女性领导了,因为其价值观、其政策方向、其内阁主体都没有凸显女性的平等权益,没有着力于推动性别平等。

 

       简报:在面外部境挑的当下,女运何去何从?

 

       媛:妇女运动从来都面临着外部的挑战,而且妇女运动本身就因应外部的挑战而发生、形成、发展的。就是因为有外部环境对妇女的权利的种种否认、剥削和不平等的待遇才产生的。所以,妇女运动的方向向来都是明确的,就是想争取平等。朝这个方向前进,获得平等机会、平等的资源享用和平等的受益。当然这个平等不是以男性为标准,而是以作为人应该有的权利。比如说妇女孕产期的保护,男性没有这个功能,虽然倡导男性在新生儿出生后休产假,分担养育的责任,并享受为父的权利,但有些妇女应该有的权利,男性不需要有。所以,妇女运动中外古今都是朝这个方向在前进,争取平等。这个目标还远未达到,还需要继续前进。

 

       简报:女者在家庭婚姻中的表?(主要是家人怎么看)

 

       媛:这个问题很有意思,人们在家庭当中的表现有自我评价和别人评价。别人评价包括丈夫、孩子、家人和其他人,也包括社会的观念。其次不是所有的人,无论是女权主义者还是非女权主义者都一定要有丈夫和孩子,所以如果把女权主义者在家中的表现,狭义为丈夫和孩子的评价,女权主义者就失去了她的主体性。任何人,就是非女权主义者的女性在家中的表现,也不能仅仅由丈夫和孩子来评价。还应该包括自我评价,因为丈夫和孩子的评价,以及其他人的评价,大部分的情况是按着陈规的、僵化的、性别角色来评价。这样的评价,不管这个女性是不是女权主义者,只要她不符合这样的常规,或者按这样的常规不完美的话,都得不到很好的评价。相反,有些女权主义者即使得到了这些好的评价,对女权主义者的标签还是会把他们污名化。最后,女权主义者不一定都是生理女性哦。

 

       简报:女者与女性奉献矛盾

 

       媛:我们为什么不问别的什么主义者和奉献矛盾吗?为什么不问普通人和奉献矛盾吗?如果说奉献,这社会上每个人都应该奉献,如果说不应该奉献,社会上每个人都不应该奉献,而只是尽他(她)的本分。当然,如果奉献是在平等的基础上,是在女性可以有权选择她是要奉献还是不奉献的基础上,我想女权主义者也是愿意奉献的。就和任何人对于Ta相爱的人,Ta都愿意奉献。但要注意奉献的含义是什么,奉献意味着就是无私,无己,一个人可能做到无私吗?一个人能做到无私的话,自己还需要生存吗?如果她需要生存,就不能做到无私。如果说贡献,女权主义者对这个世界贡献很多很大,现在人们远远没有察觉或低估了这个贡献。

 

       简报:如何衡女与偏激(话说,如何的行不落入偏激的角色)

 

       媛:女权是指争取女性的平等权利,如果是这样的话,有何偏激可言。如果说有些人像电影《女权之声》那样,当年英国争取妇女选举权,投票群,采取了一些过激的行为,比如砸玻璃等等,是因为她们好好说话社会从来没有人听,希望引起社会注意。所以对很多人来说,偏激不是她们的目的,偏激是她们的手段,偏激是在无人倾听的情况下,让人倾听的手段。

 

       简报生活中的事点如何平衡和分开?

 

       媛:这个问题很好。在现实生活中很多人常常把事实和观点不加区分,本来表达的是观点,但自以为说的是事实。那么在这一点上来说,追求性别平等的人,是非常注意把事实和观点区分开来。在性别问题上习惯思维中,把事实和观点混为一谈是最常见的,而且这样混为一谈的谬误就是把未经辨析、为曾求证的、偏颇的观点当成事实,比如说,“女人头发长见识短”,“女性生性温柔,男性勇敢坚强”,这是事实还是观点那。如果我们不去对这些问题做一些反思,就会天然的以为社会层层相应的性别规范是事实,是天经地义的。而忽视了它是被人们建构的观念,是被人们用来去运作一套社会性别制度的基础。

 

       简报:用女的思如何理解“女人和女”?

 

       媛:我想很多不用女权思维的女性也反感这个词。因为这种词本身就是对于能干的或不符合僵化的性别期待的女性的一种明褒实贬,或者干脆就是贬义。但是我们可以看到现实生活中不符合这种僵化陈规的男性或女性比比皆是,如果我们对她们有这样贬义的话其实就构成了对她们的歧视。所以很多女性拒绝这样的称呼。也有个别女性接受这样的称呼,但无论如何这是歧视性用语。

 

       简报:判断是否女性歧的界限是什么?

 

       媛:歧视的标准是什么呢?看一下我们中国签署的联合国《消除对妇女一切形式歧视公约》,这是世界上签约第二多的国际公约,我们中国是第一批签约国。里面对歧视的定义就是指一切造成对妇女不利后果的,对妇女区别限制和排斥,不管是有主观故意还是没有主观故意的都是对女性的歧视。像“男人三十一枝花,女人三十豆腐渣”这些不都是歧视吗,以及对女权主义过坏的印象不也都是歧视吗。所以怎么排斥歧视呢,就是去反思我们头脑当中习以为常的这种性别常规,每一个人根据自己的性格、爱好、自己的预期去实现自己的兴趣和潜能。 目前我们国家的法律有反歧视,但是没有定义歧视。这个现象应当改变。

 

       三八节对女性寄

 

       在三八节来临之际,就像我们经常所说的,不忘初心。那么三八的初心是什么,就是倾听女性的诉求,既要面包又要玫瑰,就是要在精神的层面和物质的层面都要争取平等的权益。所以,让三八不只是消费娱乐的时候,更是让我们回归为争取女性平等权益的日子。

 

Translated by Dan Engel, Kelly McCarthy, Sophie Xiong and Sandy Xu

No related content found.

Share: