A Disturbing Return Of Chinese 'Female Virtues'

Tired of it
Tired of it
Zhang Ming

Over the past two years, so-called "Female Virtues classes" have become popular across China, particularly among the less-educated. The classes mainly promote antiquated ideas about how women should be submissive. It's obviously a shrewd businessmen's way of cashing in — but the fact that flocks of women attend them also demonstrates a certain deep-seated ethical confusion amidst China is swept up in an ongoing economic boom.

BEIJING — Even during the ancient era of the Xia-Shang-Zhou dynasties, spanning from 2,070 to 256 BC, China was already a patriarchal society. However, the strict requirements of what came to be known as "female virtues" probably didn't develop until the Eastern Han dynasty (25-220 AD). Before this time, even if the customary ideas of human morality and proper conduct existed, Chinese society's constraints on females was relatively loose. From the aristocracy down to the common people, illicit sexual relations or elopement were not unusual.

The bedroom frolicking explicitly described in the Shijing — the "Classic of Poetry," the oldest Chinese collection of poems dating from the 11th to 7th centuries BC — prompted this reaction from Confucius: "In one word, it’s natural." One of the princesses of the Emperor Jing of West Han (188-141 BC) even bluntly sought favors and a high position for her lover. One frequently discovers realistic and illicit sexual scenes inscribed on ancient Han tombstones. They are comparable to China's later development of erotic paintings. At that time, women had a certain social status and were entitled to a share of the family heritage. They were also consulted about whom they would marry.

After the Later Han, the situation started to change. Keeping women in line eventually became a virtual state ideology. Women were required to follow the “Three Obediences and Four Virtues” which were "to obey one’s father before getting married, to obey one’s husband once married, to obey one’s son if one’s husband dies, as well as to practice the four virtues of female morality, female proper speech, female appearance and manner, as well as female diligence."

The stress on women’s morality and virtue was upgraded to become a matter of great importance that could ultimately affect a country’s rise and fall. In her small book Lessons for Women, Ban Zhao, sister of a famous Han dynasty historian Ban Gu, further elaborated on the “Three Obediences and Four Virtues”. She wrote seven chapters guiding women in what they should abide by. In her opinion, the burden of society’s morals mostly lies with women.

Is that true? Certainly not. The point is that such words both please men and give them weapons to suppress women and maintain their own dominance in society.

Ever since these ideas spread, Chinese history has been written by and about men. Were women to appear, they were to be associated with some “disaster.” Famous beauties in Chinese histories such as Xishi, Diao Chan or Yang Yuhuan were blamed for the demise of dynasties. Their appearances in the history books were there only to carry the infamy of being responsible for a nation's subjugation.

A family's honor

From the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127 AD) onwards, women's fate dramatically worsened. Foot-binding started to be promoted and enforced. In the beginning, foot-binding was aimed at creating sexual desire among men. But it was soon found that this was also a good way to prevent women from eloping. Even if they did, it would be very easy to get them back.

Photo: jimmiehomeschoolmom

This awful practice started off in the upper classes but soon spread to the bottom of society. Without undergoing the suffering of small feet, a woman's chance of getting married was reduced to zero — thus forcing parents to harden their hearts and wrap up and deform their daughters' feet at a toddler's age to stop their development.

To guarantee that women abided by the female virtues, the Ming (1368–1644) and the Qing (1644–1912) dynasties began major efforts to reward female paragons of chastity, including widows who did not remarry and even unmarried girls who lost departed fiancés. Role models could be awarded a memorial arch by the court in the name of the emperor, and the longer a woman buried her youth and future, the more recognized she was.

The perversity did not stop here. An honest woman subjected to rape was to commit suicide, as quickly as possible, by hanging herself or jumping into a well. Therefore, whenever bandits attacked or wars occurred, it was not uncommon for fathers to force their wives and daughters to kill themselves to save the family honor before the marauders even broke in.

Now, hints of this ugly past are returning to modern China. Over the past two years, "Female Virtues classes" have sprung up around the country. Despite often high prices, women have flocked in. One can stare dumbfounded at what these classes are promoting. It is exactly the same anachronistic dross of the Chinese tradition, packaged as the Four Principles: "Don't fight back when beaten, Don't talk back when reviled, get ready to conform to a husband's authority and never get divorced".

Though no more memorial arches are likely to be erected again for female paragons, alas, too many Chinese women remain convinced that any moral lapse of a society lies solely with the women.

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Running of the Bulls in Tafalla, northern Spain

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Здравейте!*

Welcome to Monday, where an apparent coup is underway in Sudan, Colombia's most-wanted drug lord gets caught, and Michael Jordan's rookie sneakers score an auction record. We also focus on a report that the Thai government is abusing the country's centuries-old law to protect the monarchy from criticism (lèse-majesté) to target pro-democracy activists and protesters.

[*Zdraveite - Bulgarian]


• Developing: Sudan leaders arrested amid military coup reports: Soldiers have arrested several members of Sudan's transitional government as well as civilian leaders, and Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok has reportedly been put under house arrest, in what the information ministry called a military coup. Pro-democracy protesters have taken to the streets of the capital city Khartoum where there are reports of gunfire and clashes.

• Colombia's most wanted drug lord to be sent to U.S.: Colombia's most dangerous drug trafficker, known as Otoniel, was caught after a joint army, air force and police operation and faces extradition to the U.S. He led the country's largest criminal gang, and was on the U.S. most wanted list for years.

• Xi speech marks China's UN anniversary: China's President Xi Jinping marked the 50th anniversary of Beijing's entry into the United Nations with a speech calling for greater global cooperation, adding that issues like climate change, terrorism and cyber security needed multilateral solutions. Taiwan was not mentioned.

• German ISIS bride jailed for crimes against humanity: A German court has sentenced a German woman and former member of the Islamic State to 10 years in prison for letting a 5-year-old Yazidi enslaved girl die of thirst in Iraq. The case is one of the world's first trials to prosecute a war crime against the Yazidis.

• COVID update: The Beijing marathon scheduled next weekend has been postponed until further notice as China seeks to stamp out Delta variant outbreak and return to zero cases ahead of the Winter Olympics next February. Meanwhile, coronavirus cases in Eastern Europe have surpassed the 20 million mark as the region fights against its worst outbreak since the pandemic started and vaccination efforts lag.

Goodbye, Gunther: U.S. actor James Michael Tyler, best known for his role as the barista Gunther on the TV show Friends, has died at 59 of prostate cancer.

• Sneakers record: A pair of Michael Jordan's white-and-red Nike shoes, which he wore during his rookie season with the Chicago Bulls in 1984, sold for $1.47 million — a new record price for sneakers at auction.


"The end of a boss," titles Colombian daily El Espectador, reporting on the arrest of drug lord Dairo Antonio Usuga, known as Otoniel, who had led Colombia's largest criminal gang and had been on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's most wanted list for years. He was captured in a raid and will be extradited to the U.S.



A Georgia man is being prosecuted for wire fraud after spending most of his business's COVID relief loan to buy one Pokémon trading card for $57,789.


How Thailand's "Lèse-Majesté" law is used to stifle all protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

👑 Thailand's Criminal Code "Lèse-Majesté" Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family. But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

🚨 The recent report "Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand," documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations." The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

💻 The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them. Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind.

➡️


"Children are going to die. People are going to starve."

— The United Nations warns that Afghanistan verges on a "total breakdown" as millions of Afghans, including children, could die of starvation unless urgent action is taken by the international community. The agency calls for the release of frozen assets to avoid economic and social collapse, despite concerns over the Taliban government. A recent report said that about 97% of Afghanistan's population may sink below the poverty line, and World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley warned that more than half of Afghanistan's population of 39 million were facing acute food insecurity and "marching to starvation" in comparison to 14 million two months ago.


Dutch cities have been secretly probing mosques since 2013

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talked to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Are you more Chicago Bulls or running of the bulls? Let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world!!

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