|A screenshot of the first article by Buzz & Bloom. [Jane Willborn]|
Buzz & Bloom, an online social media blog that promotes sexual education, started by Chinese American and long-time women's advocate, Stephany Zoo, got over 2,000 views for its first article posted on Valentine's Day.
To get her message across, Zoo uses WeChat, one of the country's most popular social media apps, which is used daily by millions of youngsters and adults alike, who access it on their mobile phones.
The inaugural post begins with a short comic about a cartoon flower who is worried about whether she will still be accepted if she breaks her hymen through exercise. Another flower comforts her by saying "My dear, if a boy sees a little piece of membrane as more important than you, why would you still want to be with him?"
The article continues with a round-table discussion with Zoo acting as moderator between a biology teacher, the founder of a tampon company, the creative director of Buzz & Bloom, and a representative from Ladyfest, an organization that focuses on women’s issues and promotes events that empower women.
Zoo stated that the account is meant to put a focus on sexual education, explaining "I really believe that sexual empowerment and female empowerment can't be disassociated. If you're not comfortable with your body, you can't be comfortable with yourself."
When doing market research, Zoo found there were a variety of WeChat accounts about gender issues that had a number of different focuses, including those for the LGBT community, those that focused on pleasure, or periods, but that she hoped her platform could focus on bringing experts to unpack common misconceptions.
"In the late 2000s, the national government put out mandates that sex-ed needs to be taught in schools," Zoo explained, "but the issue is whether or not it's actually enforced."
She mentioned a lack of training for teachers, and an unwillingness to spend time on health education during middle school and high school when most Chinese students are already busy preparing for the college entrance examinations, or gaokao, as reasons for the knowledge gap.
"During middle and high school, all teachers care about is the gaokao, and any moment that you’re teaching sex-ed, you're basically taking away from this more important focus."
Zoo stated that "there isn't actually that much of a difference between the questions a western person would ask and what Chinese people ask", but that the tradition of Chinese medicine and social stigmas keep information from being shared as freely.
"I had a lot of girls tell me that they wouldn’t talk about sex even with their very best friends," she confided, adding that she hoped a WeChat account that can be shared privately would allow a less visible platform for girls to have access to information they need.
Although she is only 25, the Shanghai resident has a long history of working in women’s advocacy. From working in a women's shelter in Nepal to starting her own professional development community called the League of Extraordinary Women (LXW) in Shanghai, she has a very global view of the issues that affect women.
Zoo hopes to use her growing network of women’s groups to connect Buzz & Bloom to more experts and youth interested in sexual education. "It's good to work with other sex-ed platforms because we know that the people on those platforms are interested in reading our content as well, but also because we want to bring other women into the fold."
(Women of China)
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