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Exclusive Interview:

Chen Yaya, Gender Studies Scholar

Guest Speaker: Chen Yaya, gender studies scholar, Shanghai Social Science Academy researcher

As a gender studies academia, Chen Yaya has launched a few campaigns that aim to raise awareness of gender equality among new media editors and fight gender discrimination in Internet language. Gender discrimination and gender stereotypes are yet common in China despite the effort, Chen said, but relevant research and campaigns have attracted some people.

“The key lies in raising people’s awareness of gender equality, which gives birth to the motivation to seek changes. We find gender issues increasingly popular,” Chen told HER forum.

Speaking of an increase in female political figures internationally, Chen pointed out that they nevertheless lag behind male in both number and rank of position. She calls it “simply a natural process of development.”

“In the year 2016, I feel that China’s gender studies field expanded its vision. While in the past it was more or less confined to domestic gender topics, today people have come to see a connection between China and the rest of the world. For example, Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump’s election campaign last year led to discussions on the future of feminism in China,” Chen said.

Meanwhile, she warned people of “extreme feminists”, by which she means people who are unfamiliar with the background and current issues of feminism, and comment according to their purely personal experiences, perceptions, and feelings.

How Do We Get Hurt by Intimate Relationships

How Do We Get Hurt by Intimate Relationships – 94 cases of gender violence, a book Chen Yaya edited, was published by the China Social Science Publishing House published in 2015. This is the first book in China that analyses and interprets various types of gender violence. The 94 cited cases took place between spouses, lovers, and parents and children, among many others.

“Editing the book gave me a better understanding of gender violence and domestic violence, and some skills on handling intimate relationships. When I was editing this, a long-time friend unexpectedly turned to me for help and suggestion as her boyfriend was violent to her. This incident gave me more faith in the book – I believe it has value in providing the public with knowledge and more importantly actually helping people as well as their friends and relatives,” Chen Yaya wrote in the foreword of the book.

She told HER forum that many victims of domestic violence choose to stay in disastrous relationships mostly because they lack financial support or housing, or for the sake of their children. Despite financial aide and therapy sessions, Chen believes it is important to organize various activities for the victims and help them realize there is a lot more in life other than family.

She added that a lot of attackers picked up their behaviors through victims or witnesses of violence, and that they ought to be dealt with compassion too.

“To eliminate violence and rebuild intimate relationships, we need to say no to violence of all forms, and give a helping hand to all victims and attackers,” Chen Yaya said.

Quotes from Chen Yaya’s social media account (ID:voiceyaya)

“I don’t deny that having high-ranked women in the workplace might promote gender equality, but I think it is only functional where there is a proper system that efficiently protects gender equality and the public as a whole is aware of gender equality. Or, it would be more of your beautiful imagination to think one high-ranked woman would lead to the promotion of another.”

“There are people who talk about how women should have self-respect, love themselves more, and don’t tolerate men everyday, but that doesn’t necessarily mean women rights, gender equality, or gender justice. These rights can only be achieved through protecting the rights of women who are weaker in relationships and families. This is difficult, but if it happens, people will be more at ease and be more confident when it comes to gender topics.”

“It has long been debated that prohibiting a woman from being a miner is a sort of protection or exclusion. I feel it is more of exclusion, since it is a job that physically weak men cannot fulfil and physically robust women can. It all comes to the individual, not gender. The right thing to do is informing the tasks and potential risks. Of course, efforts to improve working conditions are necessary, for a worker deserves better protection in spite of gender.”

Chen Yaya’s Book Recommendation

1) Feminist Literature Theory (Zhang Yanbing)

Chen was first introduced to the gender perspective through the book. It inspired her to become a gender studies scholar.

The book traces the birth and evolution of feminism in the West, carefully looks into gender politics as well as female literature traditions, writings, and language. It discusses feminist literature theory’s interactions with Marxism, psychoanalysis, and deconstruction among many others. The book also analyzes the situation of feminist literature criticism in China, and points out the problems the theory faces.

2) Feminism (Li Yinhe)

Chen Yaya calls it an excellent introductory book on feminism. Li Yinhe gave an overall examination of feminism’s “theories”, “movements”, “schools”, and “debates” with her analysis

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