While in Beijing, our class met with Xiong Jing, Executive Director for Media Monitoring for Women. This nonprofit is the self-proclaimed most popular feminist group in China and has over 10,000 followers on Wechat (*China’s favored social media platform). Known in the community as Feminist Voices, the organization is over 20 years and started as a volunteer run organization. With the majority of supporters consisting of women in their 20s, the organization has evolved immensely since its founding. Starting in 2012, Feminist Voices began tackling issues facing today’s working young activists such as gender discrimination in employment and sexual harassment.
Inside of an unassuming apartment building, the office is filled with feminist images, boxes tucked away, and folded up chairs. As soon as Jing is asked by our group about the status of her 5 previously arrested coworkers, she quickly gets up and locks the office door which they “normally keep locked.” The five women, now conditionally released, were arrested for handing out sexual harassment awareness stickers and disrupting “social harmony.”
Working for Feminist Voices for the past 5 years, Jing started out as an office assistant intern before eventually becoming the Executive Director. In college she majored in Chinese Literature and first identified as a feminist when she was 20 years old. It was difficult for her to find information about feminism due to the lack of written materials in Chinese. She pointed to the single shelf of Chinese feminist literature in the small office. After undergrad, she pursued a graduate level course in Hong Kong on gender studies before coming to Beijing. Like so many other women in China, Jing benefited from the one child policy and the opportunities provided her as an only child without a male sibling.
Her parents have unconditionally supported her throughout her educational and advocacy work. Jing calmly describes how before her mother’s recent visit to Beijing, her parents were invited to ‘tea’ with the national security officers (* tea invitations were frequently mentioned by many people in China to demonstrate the party’s authority and knowledge of activities). They asked Jing’s parents to speak with Jing about her activities and encourage her to stop. Before this incident, Jing stated that she “didn’t think [she] was that important.”
Due to the recently implemented restrictions on Chinese nonprofits, organizations that have traditionally received financial support from outside country donors are forced to adapt to the new funding environment. This new legislation especially affects nonprofits who work on non-Communist Party of China (CPC) supported issue areas, such as LGBT and gender equality, which are less likely to be funded by local foundations.
Transitioning from the crisis of un-humanitarian detainment to a more subtle bureaucratic targeting, our class anxiously wait to see how Feminist Voices will handle these new challenges in the next year. We wish them the best as they tackle the important issues of sexual assault, domestic violence, and workplace equity.