cover image Betraying Big Brother: The Feminist Awakening in China

Betraying Big Brother: The Feminist Awakening in China

Leta Hong Fincher. Verso, $26.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-78663-364-4

In this revealing history, journalist Hong Fincher (Leftover Women) documents the nascent feminist movement in mainland China and the threats to its existence, a peril brought to global attention in spring 2015 with the jailing of the women’s rights activists known as the Feminist Five. Hong Fincher explores the riveting stories of these women, their histories, their work, the brutal treatment they received while imprisoned, and the ongoing harassment by security officials that exemplifies the Chinese government’s increasing crackdown on feminist activism and social media. Feminism, she argues, presents a threat to the Communist Party’s patriarchal and authoritarian vision, which rests on the subjugation of women in the home as wives, mothers, and caretakers of elders. Hong Fincher asserts that swarms of young educated women are becoming interested in feminism and recounts victories, such as an anti–domestic violence law passed in 2016, but social and legal trends relating to economics and marriage—a 30-year increase in the wage gap, social pressure to turn money over to boyfriends and husbands, and a 2011 court ruling that marital property will default to deed holders, nearly always men, in the event of a divorce—suggest that on some fronts gender inequality is deepening in China. In Hong Fincher’s estimation, the official hostility toward feminists in China as part of a global rise of authoritarianism and backsliding of democracy will affect not only China’s women but its economic future and will have worldwide repercussions. This is a fascinating and earnest book. (Sept.)