The Noxious Revival of Female Virtue Classes: The Dark Side of the Chinese Society

“Never fight back when you are beaten. Never talk back when you are scolded, and never divorce with your husband.”

These words sound ridiculous. And obviously these lectures make no sense. However, ‘female virtue classes’ just keep popping up in different cities in China. Claiming to be promoting Chinese traditional values and customs, these classes are in fact brainwashing young women and girls into believing that women are inferior and should be obedient to their husband at all times.

The most recently exposed virtue class was discovered in the east coastal city of Wenzhou. After intensive media coverage, Wenzhou city officials shut the classes down. Yet the trend is far from over. Earlier this year, similar classes were given in the Northeastern Liaoning province, and in 2017, lecturer Ding Xuan conducted her controversial female virtue lecture in Jiangxi province.

“Having sex with different men will poison you.” “Women should remain in the bottom of the social class.” “If you do not do the dishes you are not a good woman.” These are the words that you constantly hear during these lectures. They serve a common purpose: to put women down and make them succumb to the power and to unconditionally obey the orders of their husbands and fathers.

While these classes are absurd, unproductive, and backwards, holding such lectures is not against the law. This makes it difficult for authorities to act as they do not have any reasonable grounds to arrest the individuals who are promoting these conservative beliefs or to impose any forms of fines or financial penalties. Obviously, the lectures are not appreciated by the media or anyone who believe in gender equality, however, from a legal perspective, these lecturers and the organizers have done nothing wrong.

The Business of Stupidity: Some are Profiting by Fooling Around

It is easy for many of us to identify the problems that exist in these lectures: Instead of promoting hard work and equality, these lectures are advocating involuntary hardships, unconditional obedience, and giving in to injustices. People from western countries or larger Chinese cities would most likely not show any interest in these types of lectures. Yet, this is just not good enough to stop the lectures from spreading in hidden places: smaller cities, suburban areas, and in the countryside.

Although the Chinese economy is rapidly growing, the country’s development regarding gender equality remains slow and unsatisfactory. Women in China are still subject to various forms of discrimination in the workplace, schooling opportunities, and more critically, the right to inherit property and land.

The smaller cities where the lectures take place have little connection to the outside world. Due to limited economic opportunities, the cities’ residents often end up having views that are out-of-date when it comes to gender issues. And these factors impair their judgement on their children’s education. They want to see obedient children instead of kids with critical thinking abilities or the courage to question authority. They want to see future productive labors, instead of innovative leaders that promote changes for the better.

While these demands are backwards, the lectures nevertheless served the purpose of these rather ignorant beliefs. Examining the lecture content, it is clear that some part of these ideas are not only outdated but also just plain wrong. Evidence suggests that these lectures contain false information such as having the belief that some simple exercise could cure cancer and how being obedient to your parents can cure your disease. Obviously, neither of these claims were supported by scientific studies, and they show the true nature of these lectures: a complete hoax that aims to profit from those who are not educated enough to make good assessments.

It is a story similar to that of Yang Yongxin who gave teens electric shock treatment hoping to cure gaming addiction. Ignorant parents sent their kids into these unproductive camps to receive education that forces them to obey orders. These parents simply want their kids to be obedient. And they are willing to achieve this through radical and absurd measures like brainwashing, and in the case of Yang Yongxin, through electric shocks and violence.

Teaching controversial ideas about womanhood has now become a great business opportunity. It is not about teaching something new, but rather, cajoling parents into believing their hoax. With lies, absurd statements, and occasional violence, these lectures profit by torturing children to satisfy the ignorant beliefs and dated intents of the parents.

Under the rapidly developing Chinese society, these atrocities often take place under the radar. And with their actions exposed to the general public, it exposes a sad truth about China. Despite the country’s skyrocketing growth in certain areas, the need for civilized education on parenting, equality, and basic rights remain an imminent urgency.

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