China Power

Women’s Morality Education Comes Back to Life in China

A Chinese lecturer promoting women’s virginity triggered uproar among netizens.

Women’s Morality Education Comes Back to Life in China

Women in wedding dresses hold balloons at a wedding dress market during an event in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, China (October 7, 2016).

Credit: China Daily via REUTERS

China is a complicated country full of contradictory realities. After we just discussed China’s progress on gay rights, we have to face some regression on women’s rights.

Recently, a Chinese female lecturer’s lesson on women’s morality went viral on Chinese websites and triggered a wave of condemnation. Invited to give a speech to college students in Jiangxi Province, Ding Xuan said “virginity is a woman’s best dowry” and urged women to hold on to their virginity before marriage. According to the college’s advertisements ahead of the lecture, Ding was from a government-owned non-profit organization — the China Women’s Development Foundation — which claims its goal is to “safeguard women’s rights and interests, improve women’s quality of life, and promote the development of women and women’s causes in China.”

Soon, videos of Ding’s many speeches on various occasions were posted online, revealing that her point of view seems to be contrary to the Foundation’s goal.

Besides “virginity is a woman’s best dowry,” her other most criticized points included:

  • On sex before marriage: there is no difference between a prostitute and a woman having sex before marriage; when she gets married, her husband would think her disgusting.
  • On plastic surgery: Some women get plastic surgery in order to seduce men.
  • On domestic violence: Women should endure; the more beatings a woman has, the fewer diseases she will get.
  • On dressing: Showing too much skin is a sign of vulgarity. It not only invites slanderous gossip, but also causes diseases, misfortunes, unexpected financial ruin, as well as loss of virginity.
  • On divorce: Any women who gets divorces was not submissive enough.

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It’s beyond question that Chinese netizens were furious over Ding’s speeches and made numerous harsh comments. Even the Foundation said it has nothing to do with Ding, except for once having invited her to give a speech. The lecturer herself later made a reluctant apology, claiming she was just giving some advice to women for their own good.

However, the incident was just one outbreak of a troubling phenomenon: the long-dead education on women’s morality comes back to life in recent years.

In the name of “carrying forward the cultural heritage of Chinese traditional virtues,” many private schools promoting women’s morality have sprung up in China. Such schools don’t teach girls gender equality but China’s thousands-year-old suppression of women, such as Three Obediences and Four Virtues — which hold that a woman should be obedient to her father before marriage, to her husband after marriage, and to her son after the death of her husband. Although some schools have been banned by local government under social pressure, the trend hasn’t been stopped. The latest incident should raise the alarm for the public.