The Problem with “Feminism”

Translating Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists – by Barclay Bram

We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TEDx-talk-turned-book, has been translated into Chinese. Released by the People’s Cultural Publishing House in June, the 84-page book closely follows the original’s format aside from one glaring change: the word “feminist” has been dropped from the title.

The book’s pale blue cover has in large text the English title We Should All Be Feminists, but the Chinese has been translated down to the more innocuous The Rights of Women. Why the inconsistency?

Feminism is an increasingly problematic term in China. While the Chinese Communist Party is proud of its record for overturning many of the patriarchal structures that had oppressed Chinese women for centuries – proclaiming that “women can hold up half the sky” – in recent years there have been high-profile crackdowns on feminist activists and feminist websites. In 2015 five feminists were detained just before International Women’s Day for trying to put together a campaign against sexual harassment. Earlier this year the Feminist Voices Weibo account, an influential microblog for the women’s movement in China, was forced offline for 30 days for posting content that was anti-Trump and that implored women to join in an international women’s strike.


Exhibition as Theater

Denise Y. Ho on Art and China After 1989 at the Guggenheim

The first time I saw Ai Weiwei’s art, I was appalled. Almost twenty years ago, long before he became an internationally-known contemporary artist, one of my Chinese-language classmates at Qinghua University brought me to Ai’s studio on the outskirts of Beijing. What I saw that afternoon remains imprinted in my mind’s eye: photographs of him giving the middle finger to monumental buildings, rows of ancient pottery casually whitewashed, and elegant Ming dynasty tables sawed in half and reattached at bizarre angles. It was not irreverence to power that bothered me; it was those last two artworks. Never having taken an art history course, and never having heard of the “readymade”, I was horrified that someone could take antiquities and destroy them.  Years later, as a graduate student in Chinese history, I researched and wrote about the idea of “cultural relics”. To this day, my seminar students at Yale take one session to debate the question of who owns art and artifacts.


The Party is Just Getting Started

Notes on the Nineteenth Party Congress – by Jude Blanchette

In August 1980, Deng Xiaoping, China’s paramount leader until his death in 1997, addressed an enlarged session of the Political Bureau (Politburo) of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Central Committee. Having just emerged from the wreckage of the ten-year Cultural Revolution in 1976, China was plagued with what the Party’s aging Marxist revolutionaries liked to call “contradictions.”

For Deng, four such challenges confronted the Party and the political system it dominated:

Chinese Corner

What About Tones?

How not to be tone deaf when speaking Mandarin – by Liz Carter

Many people are intimidated by the prospect of learning Chinese because it is a tonal language – the same syllable, pronounced differently, can mean a number of totally different things. Tackling Chinese may seem impossible, especially for the less than musically inclined, if perfect pitch is presumed to be a prerequisite.

However, tones are more of a speed bump than a brick wall. And the trouble with tones can best be tackled by breaking it down into three issues: whether it is feasible to learn tones; whether it is important; and how it can be done.

Staff Picks

Introducing Staff Picks

Our miscellaneous recommendations – a new occasional feature

Linda Jaivin’s The Monkey and the Dragon: A True Story About Friendship, Music, Politics and Life on the Edge (Text Publishing, September 2000), which straddles the line between memoir and biography, is by an author who is nothing if not versatile: Jaivin translates Chinese literature, pens commentaries on cultural issues, and writes novels with titles like Rock n Roll Babes from Outer Space. The book focuses on Hou Dejian, a folk singer who moved from Taiwan to the mainland in the 1980s and later became, as Jaivin puts it, the first straits-crossing gadfly figure to be “returned to sender” by the Chinese authorities. It’s a rollicking read that, among other things, has a long section on the 1989 movement.