University student turning camera toward Chinese rural women
Published: May 19, 2022 04:40 PM Updated: May 19, 2022 04:34 PM
One of interviewees in Alexander's video Photo: Courtesy of Alexander
One of interviewees in Alexander's video Photo: Courtesy of Alexander

"My name is Feng Xiaohua and I'm 43 years old. I am one of the ordinary rural women living in Xiping village in Yuzhong, Northwest China's Gansu Province. I have been running a store for 17 years, and through managing the store, I have accumulated lots of management experience. After getting married and having children, I realized how important it is for a woman to have financial independence, so I opened this store to sell cosmetics."

Feng is one of interviewees that appears in a short online documentary about Chinese rural women who have their own business. The documentary's producer is Alexander, a Chinese university student who is spending his last year on campus.

One of interviewees in Alexander's video Photo: Courtesy of Alexander
One of interviewees in Alexander's video Photo: Courtesy of Alexander

 The title of the documentary, Roses Blooming On the Loess, refers to the colorful rural women who take center stage through the lens of his camera.

"In the current online environment, there are not many rural women visible to the public eye. Their voices are not heard by most people, and their images are misunderstood on the internet as ignorant, conservative, and lacking a sense of independence," Alexander said.

To tackle these stereotypes, he turned his camera toward his hometown, a small village in Gansu Province, to observe the realities of these rural women. To help their voices get heard by more people, Alexander turned to Bilibili, a video-sharing platform popular among young people in China, to publish his shorts about rural women on his channel named "Vasilevski."

Different sides

The first video about rural women was shot two years ago. Alexander told the Global Times that the idea was inspired by World Rural Women's Day, during which he saw some works focusing on rural women such as videos and articles that were viral online, so he decided to find more stories of the group by himself and the plan started from his hometown.

There are other women like Feng in Alexander's hometown who run their own businesses, which include small food stalls, grocery stores and restaurants, to increase their income. Alexander said that one of the biggest issues facing these women is how to balance household duties and their businesses, which is also a dilemma for many urban women.

Other difficulties include gender discrimination.

Some women running grocery stores or food stalls told Alexander that sometimes they have run into problems while dealing with male customers since one woman who runs a food stall was sexually harassed one night.

A middle-aged woman running a barbershop in the town left the greatest impression on him. She had opened a barbershop in Lanzhou, capital of Gansu Province, but because of an accident that led to an employee's death, she had to move back to the town to avoid punishment?.

And women's families do not always support their decision to become entrepreneurs, especially when their jobs entail having to interact with other people.

Alexander noted that he has been shocked for numerous times while filming the series by the views of the women, and discovered that they are not the same as the stereotypes about them.

These women understand the importance of financial independence, so they try hard to stand on their own two feet. They also know the importance of learning. When they asked what advice they'd give today's female college students, most of them emphasized that they should spend more time learning.

When Alexander mentioned feminism in the interview, to his surprise, these rural women did not avoid the social issue butgave similarly simple answers: feminism just means gender equality.

"After shooting the videos, these women are not just the owners of a shop or a restaurant to me. I now have a better understanding of their social roles," Alexander said.

Alexander has released two videos so far, and the young man said he will launch new works when he has the opportunity.