Female-friendly Shanghai has long way to gender equality
Published: Feb 17, 2016 06:28 PM Updated: Feb 17, 2016 06:31 PM

Illustrations: Chen Xia/GT

Misogynist troll group Return of Kings recently attempted to bring their perverted brand of chauvinism to Shanghai to teach foreign expats here how to sexually seduce Chinese women, but were "bitch-slapped" back to their home country after locals forced founder Daryush "Roosh" Valizadeh to cancel his seminar.

Valizadeh, a Muslim-American who is infamous around the world for his quest to "make rape legal" while earning millions of dollars from his "teaching men how to rape women" classes, hoped that he could cash in on China's popularity with Western expats, but once word got out, the event was shut down.

It was a small victory for Chinese women in our battle against sexism, but we still have a long way to go to win the war for equality. In fact, Return of Kings' pathetic attempt to penetrate (pun intended) Shanghai was comically ironic considering how notoriously henpecked Shanghai men are.

Unlike other provinces across China where a woman's place is still considered at home, Shanghainese husbands historically have pulled their own weight in housework. They are known for ceding family finances to their wives, being extremely obedient to their mothers and rarely daring to raise a hand to a woman.

Because of this docile reputation, provincial men tend to look down on Shanghainese men as spineless and effeminate. That disparity of course shouldn't surprise anyone, as men from northern China have an age-old reputation as "wife-beaters" and bruisers.

For centuries, sociologists and Sinologists have debated why women in Shanghai have been treated with more respect than women in other provinces. Many historians agree that concepts such as gender quality were imported by foreigners who made this international port city their home.

As the expatriate community here grew and Western influences began to pervade all aspects of Shanghainese society, locals unconsciously co-opted their behavior - including treating women nicely - until the city evolved into something different than any other region in China.

Shanghai's esteemed educational system, our exposure to Western languages and the huge number of foreign enterprises based here also have helped place women in prominent positions of leadership and success, all contributing to Shanghai's global reputation as extremely female friendly.

So is Shanghai also some kind of utopia for feminists, nags and matriarchs seeking sexual equality in our male-dominated motherland? As a woman, mother and manager, I'd say no. If anything, the "Model Chinese Husband" reputation of local men here is a reflection of the inequality that still exists in Shanghai.

Why should men be praised for doing housework or treating women with respect? Aren't such things an integral part of just being a decent human being? Patting a husband on the back for holding the door open for his wife or for spending more time at home than out every night playing cards is like praising a child for NOT breaking something.

Personally, however, I would never dare tell my friends that my husband does most of the housework or cooks dinner for me and my daughter because I return home from work later than him. Why not? Because he is a successful executive with a network of high-powered colleagues and clients. To tell them that every day after work my husband takes off his expensive suit and puts on an apron would cause him to lose infinite face.

Because I have concealed my husband's true nature as a considerate and loving man who cares just as much about his family as he does his career, I am equally as guilty of sexism as Daryush Roosh Valizadeh or any other chauvinist pig who thinks that women belong in the kitchen. It brings a tear to my eye to realize this.

I suspect - nay, I'm certain - that I'm not alone. Millions of other wives in Shanghai also keep their husbands' "secret identity" undisclosed to the public, thereby contributing to the chauvinism that continues to pervade Chinese society.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.