Spring Festival Gala sketch highlights sexism in society

Source:Global Times Published: 2015-3-15 18:28:01

A group of media and feminists recently posted an open letter online that criticized a sketch on China Central Television (CCTV) Spring Festival Gala for being sexist.

The sketch, which featured the actors Jia Ling, Qu Ying, Sha Yi and Li Jing, make heavy use of Chinese buzzwords to tell the story of a mannish woman who learns to overcome her flaws and beat an ideal Chinese beauty in a talent competition.

Jia plays the nühanzi, or masculine woman. She is brawny and obsessed with food. In the sketch, she desperately wants to get onto television talent shows, but has failed every one of her numerous auditions. She is upset, so her two brothers, Sha and Li, introduce her to Qu, the nüshen, or feminine goddess - the ideal Chinese beauty. Qu gives Jia some pointers about how to be less of a nühanzi and more of a nüshen. In the end, Jia manages to get on TV and ends up beating Qu in the competition.

The ending is supposed to be encouraging, but it came under fire from feminists and the media. Four prominent feminists - Ma Shu, Qianqianhefeng, Xiaoyan, Sophia - discussed the problems with the sketch at a forum organized by Jianhu Salon.

To begin with, said Ma Shu, a lecturer on gender studies, employing the incarnations of nüshen and nühanzi was supposed to praise the diversity of women, but actually the feminine goddess was depicted according to the standards of men.

Women are stereotyped in media, which undermines the confidence of those who aren't slim or submissive. In another part of the CCTV Spring Festival Gala, divorced women were compared to "secondhand goods." Ma said the aggressive phrase served to objectify women.

While Qianqianhefeng, a feminist psychological consultant, said that there are some people in the audience who don't recognize the discrimination. Those people see it as humor instead. In Chinese civil society, humor is increasingly based on discrimination and stereotypes.

In the minds of Chinese people, discrimination is something personal - one person looking down on another, rather than at a cultural or social level. It is then plausible that many believe the program was simply making fun of nühanzi, which is far from being discriminative.

Also, satirizing vulnerable groups such as children, women, the elderly and the disabled, remains an easy way to get laughs, which indicates the possible deficiency of the country's cultural resources.

Sophia, director of play The Vagina Monologues, was offended that the sketch depicted Jia as a loser. Unlike in China, nühanzi means tomboy in the West. When the nüshen on the show said that she was proud that many men had been comforting her and lending her a hand after she broke up with her boyfriend, it is again depicting a stereotype - a good woman always relies on men. It is even worse that some women think they'll never win other women's respect if they are not loved by any man, which makes Sophia feel like China is decades behind.

Speaking of the censorship in the gala, director Xiaoyan thought discrimination lies in censors themselves. But nowadays people are less guided by the media. The advertising for matchmaking in last year's Spring Festival Gala was criticized, as was the sketches about pushed marriages this year. Xiaoyan also realized that feminists will have more complex work to do when taking prostitution and sexual harassment into consideration.

Global Times

Posted in: Society, TwoCents, Metro Shanghai, Pulse

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