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Festival of Ideas

The Rise of China’s Feminist Resistance Leta Hong Fincher

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Leta Hong-Fincher explains how the movement against patriarchy could reconfigure China.

On the eve of International Women’s Day in 2015, the Chinese government arrested five feminist activists and jailed them for 37 days. The Feminist Five became a global cause célèbre, with activists inundating social media with #FreetheFive messages. But the Feminist Five are symbols of a much larger feminist movement of civil rights lawyers, labour activists, performance artists and online warriors that is prompting an unprecedented awakening among China’s urban, educated women.

Leta Hong Fincher illuminates both the challenges they face and their “joy of betraying Big Brother” as Wei Ting – one of the Feminist Five – wrote of the defiance she felt during her detention. Hong Fincher traces the rise of a new feminist consciousness through online campaigns resembling #MeToo, and describes how the Communist regime has suppressed the history of its own feminist struggles.

She argues that the popular, broad-based movement poses the greatest challenge to China’s authoritarian regime today.

Leta Hong Fincher

Leta Hong Fincher is the author of Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China, named one of the top five China books of 2014 by the Asia Society’s ChinaFile and one of New Left Review’s books to read for International Women’s Day in 2017 and 2016, and in 2018 it was named on Time Out Beijing’s list of best books on women in modern China. Hong Fincher has written for the New York TimesWashington PostGuardianDissent MagazineMs Magazine, BBC, CNN and others. She is the recipient of the Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi award for television feature reporting. She was a Mellon Visiting Assistant Professor at Columbia University. Follow her on Twitter @LetaHong

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