China and Inner Asia
Lancaster University, United Kingdom
Women’s voices and feminist expressions have become increasingly audible in the popular culture in contemporary China. However, does it mean that the popularity of feminism in the popular culture empowers Chinese women? This paper attempts to map the presentation of gender issues in Chinese popular media against the backdrop of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing (1995), introducing the Western concept ‘popular feminism’ as well as discussing the reasons and characteristics of the development and prosperity of ‘popular feminism’ in contemporary China. Using case studies as the method, this paper focuses on three popular programmes in mainland China: a reality TV show Sisters Who Make Waves (2020, 2021), an online series Hear Her (2021), and an advertisement of PROYA on Women’s Day (2021). Through analysing both these programmes’ contents and the audience’s comments, the research explores how ‘popular feminism’ cooperates with the discourses of the state and the market that legitimise the feminist discourse, during which the term ‘feminist imagination’ is proposed. It shows that although such co-operation between the state and the market-- “a co-operation field” in the “‘feminist imagination” -- raises people’s general awareness of feminism, not only does it combine with popular misogyny that launches a backlash against feminism, it also further exploits and excludes marginal groups.