While many Chinese audiences laughed heartily over the sketch comedy program Joy Street, of China Central Television (CCTV), over 1,000 netizens signed a joint petition letter saying they would boycott this year's Spring Festival gala, citing as the reason what they said was "discriminatory" content against women.
This sparked a heated discussion online. A survey conducted on the news portal Netease.com showed that over two thirds of the 33,184 netizen respondents said that they did not regard these programs as discriminatory against single women of marriageable age or women of "manly" disposition and that pro–gender equality advocates were reading too much into it. Still, about 25 percent agreed that the gala contained extremely discriminatory messages.
Some critics say that a group of 1,000 netizens is negligible when compared to the total viewing audience of over 700 million. Unpopular among the masses as these naysayers may be, they have brought up an issue calling for more attention to and enhanced awareness of gender issues from the part of the public.
For many people, terms like "nü han zi" (“tomboy” or “woman of a more manly demeanor”), "nü shen" (beautiful and elegant woman) and "sheng nü" ("leftover" woman) are nothing but interesting buzz words on the Internet, indicating no gender discrimination. Instead, they think "nü han zi" a commendatory address for those who are independent and capable. They have, however, neglected the male-oriented value judgments involved towards women, which assess women from the perspectives of men and tend to be subjective and unfair.
Undoubtedly, the Spring Festival gala didn't intend to discriminate against women; but what has given rise to controversy is the weak awareness of gender equality and mutual respect among large swaths of the Chinese population. Year after year, more and more women's rights activists are keeping silent no longer and are standing up against issues and phenomena involving discrimination against women.
This controversy over the Spring Festival gala serves as a key opportunity to popularize the concept of gender equality and enhance the gender awareness of media personnel who play an essential role in spreading ideas among the public.
With respect to the Spring Festival gala, a gender equality consultant may be advisable and necessary. By avoiding programs involving gender discrimination, this great event will entertain millions of audiences and fulfill its social responsibility of fostering an environment where men and women enjoy equal status and equal rights.
(Source: paper.cnwomen.com.cn/ Translated and edited by Women of China)
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