Date: February 1, 2018
By: Leta Hong Fincher
When Xiao Meili entered her freshman year at the Communication University of China in
2008, she was inundated with sexist messages that made her feel bad about herself.
“In high school, we were never allowed to wear makeup, then when we started university, all of a sudden, becoming a ‘pretty woman’ became a very important responsibility,” said Xiao. “I tried hard but it was just impossible for me to live up to all these ridiculous standards placed on women.”
Ten years later, Xiao has become a prominent feminist activist and one of many Chinese women who have seized on the momentum of the global #MeToo movement against sexual harassment to call for change at home.
As the #MeToo campaign spreads from one university to another in China, it is demonstrating the extraordinary resilience of a feminist movement that has posed a unique challenge to China’s male-dominated, authoritarian regime. For the first time since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, organized feminist activists, independent of the ruling Communist Party, have tapped into a broad discontent among Chinese women and developed a level of influence over public opinion that is unusual for any social movement in China.