Tag Archives: China

Chinese Women ‘Name and Shame’ Companies They Say Discriminate

30 Dec
An activist in Yunnan Province prepares to mail letters to her local government complaining of illegal gender discrimination by Chinese companies.

An activist in Yunnan Province prepares to mail letters to her local government complaining of illegal gender discrimination by Chinese companies.

Eight young Chinese women, most of them university students facing a tight job market, have “named and shamed” dozens of Chinese companies they say are illegally specifying that only men can apply for certain positions. They have mailed their complaints to government human resource departments in the cities of Beijing, Guangzhou and Nanjing, and in Yunnan and Henan Provinces.

Job advertisements in China have long listed a range of desired qualities in applicants, sometimes including height and weight. And the women say that they are aware that some job advertisements request women, especially in the service and handicrafts sectors. But they note that such jobs tend to pay less than the managerial positions that may specify male applicants.

The women, who call themselves “volunteers” and aim to highlight gender discrimination in China, provided photographs of themselves with dozens of letters of complaint they say they mailed to local government offices on Dec. 26. Most of the companies they list are privately owned and employ at least 500 people.

Contacted by telephone, two of the companies in Yunnan said they would drop the request for male applicants from their job advertisements.

Kunming Union Technology Company, the only state-owned enterprise on the women’s list, had advertised several positions for male engineers to maintain credit and debit card machines.

“This is a job that requires frequent travel and outdoor legwork. You need go to all those shops to install or fix the machines. Women are not quite fit for that,” said a woman who answered the telephone in the company’s human resources department. “But if there are female candidates we would still considering hiring them.”

So why say that only men need apply? “If women apply, we are open to them,” she said. “We support free choice.”

Kunming Daqiang Precious Metals Trading Company advertised for a male general manager with financial experience.

“If woman applies, we’d consider her also,” said a woman answering the telephone.

So why specify a man?

“What does it matter?” she asked. “I just love you journalists. They can apply. I’ll change the requirement right away.”

Faced with so many job ads that appear to shut them out, some female university students reason: “If that’s the case, then it’s more important to marry well than to study well,” said one “volunteer” in an emailed statement. She declined to give her real name out of concern for political repercussions over their action.

“We college students are facing serious employment problems, so we hope our action will breathe life into the laws and regulations that ensure equality of opportunity in employment,” she wrote.

Figures from the central government’s All-China Women’s Federation show that women’s average incomes have fallen relative to men’s since China embarked on market-oriented economic changes in the late-1970s.

Most shocking for the “volunteers,” they said, was the discovery that 80 percent of jobs that specified male applicants did not require physical labor. While many Chinese are aware of the gendered job ads, most believe they are aimed at ensuring that jobs that require physical strength, such as security guard, are filled by men.

The Saudi Driving Ban & The Five Weirdest Beliefs About Women

28 Oct

Saudi Arabia is the only country where women are not allowed to drive. On Saturday, dozens of Saudi women took to their cars in defiance of the de facto driving ban and posted videos of their protest online. While some 17,000 people signed a petition in support of their campaign, plenty of conservative Saudis are happy to keep things just the way they are. Among them is Sheik Salah al-Luhaydan, a top cleric who last month warned women that they risk damaging their ovaries and rearing defective children if they drive.



In honor of the Sheik’s comments, a Time Magazine article recently cited a group of outrageous convictions against women dating as far back as the 2nd century.

1. Wombs go randomly wandering


The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates believed that a displaced uterus, or a wandering womb, was to blame for 

a range of medical problems that plagued women, from excessive emotion to knee problems. The symptoms of the disease, known as hysteria, varied depending on where in the body the uterus wandered. This is how Aretaeus of Cappadocia later described the condition: “…on the whole, the womb is like an animal within an animal. When, therefore, it is suddenly carried upwards, and remains above for a considerable time, and violently compresses the intestines, the woman experiences a choking, after the form of epilepsy, but without convulsions. For the liver, diaphragm, lungs and heart are quickly squeezed within a narrow space; and therefore loss of breathing and of speech seems to be present.”

2. Crippled, broken feet are super hot

footbinding (12)

Over ten centuries, millions of women in China had their feet broken and bound with bandages to conform to beliefs about tiny feet being beautiful and a desirable status symbol. Foot binding was banned in 1912 but the practice continued underground for years. NPR spoke to one of the last foot-binding survivors in China’s Yunnan province in 2007.

3. Put down those books ladies, don’t you know that reading makes you sterile?

In 1873, a physician at Harvard, Dr Edward Clark, published a book arguing that women who read too much could suffer from sterility, as well as atrophy of the uterus and ovaries. It was all about blood flow, you see — too much thinking caused blood to rush to the brain and away from the uterus, and reproductive organs withered.

4. Autism is caused by bad mothers

Leo Kanner, a psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins University identified autism as a neurological condition in 1943. Using a small research sample, Kanner observed that autistic children usually had detached, intellectual parents, He attributed the condition, in particular, to mothers who showed a lack of parental warmth.

5. American women don’t actually want to vote


As women in the U.S. fought for the right to vote at the turn of the 20th century,  one major campaigner against the idea, the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage, published a pamphlet explaining why women’s suffrage was a bad idea. The best reasons included: “because 90% of women either do not want it, or do not care; because it means competition of women with men instead of cooperation; and because in some States more voting women than voting men will place the Government under petticoat rule.” The pamphlet also included housekeeping tips for homemakers, such as “You do not need a ballot to clean out your sink spout.”

And if you thought all the silliest ideas about women came from men, it’s worth remembering Queen Victoria’s views on women’s rights:

“I am most anxious to enlist everyone who can speak or write to join in checking this mad, wicked folly of ‘Women’s Rights’, with all its attendant horrors, on which her poor feeble sex is bent, forgetting every sense of womanly feelings and propriety. Feminists ought to get a good whipping. Were woman to ‘unsex’ themselves by claiming equality with men, they would become the most hateful, heathen and disgusting of beings and would surely perish without male protection.”

I think the article also should have highlighted female hysteria, which stems from the aforementioned Hippocratic corpus.


In the 19th century physicians thought that the stresses associated with modern life caused civilized women to be both more susceptible to nervous disorders and to develop faulty reproductive tracts. Women considered to be suffering from it exhibited a wide array of symptoms including faintness, nervousness, sexual desire, insomnia, fluid retention, heaviness in the abdomen, muscle spasm, shortness of breath, irritability, loss of appetite for food or sex, and “a tendency to cause trouble.” A lot of 19th century literature discusses, mocks, and even seeks to reform the diagnosis of female hysteria. Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a great short story to check out if you want to know more about of concept of the domestic sphere women of the period held.