In Search of Celebrity Feminists in Contemporary China

  • Bin WangEmail author


This chapter explores the relationship between Chinese female celebrities and feminism. Discussion of feminism is becoming more widespread in Chinese media and popular culture, owing in part to the contributions of activists and some academics. In contrast, few Chinese celebrities have explicitly associated themselves with feminism. This chapter asks why this has been the case in China more than in other countries. Part of the answer, the author argues, lies in the reputational and political risks that feminists are exposed to. Thus, the chapter considers the fraught place of feminism in the Chinese public sphere, and what feminism might look like for Chinese celebrities.


Chinese celebrity Celebrity feminism nüquanzhuyi Weibo Xu Jiao 


  1. Barlow, T. E. (2004). The Question of Women in Chinese Feminism. Durham: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bulbeck, C. (2009). Sex, Love and Feminism in the Asia Pacific: A Cross-Cultural Study of Young People’s Attitudes. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Cai, S. (2015). Han Han and His Blog Entries: Voicing Concerns About His Country as a Public Intellectual. American Journal of Chinese Studies, 22(1), 35–57.Google Scholar
  4. Cai, S. (2017). Contemporary Chinese Films and Celebrity Directors. Singapore: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chau, A. (2015). A Public Intellectual in the Internet Age: Han Han’s Everyman Appeal. Chinese Literature Today, 5(1), 73–81.Google Scholar
  6. Chen, C., & Liang, Y. (2017, March 29). Xu Jinglei: I Have No Plan Fighting for Feminism. The Paper. Retrieved from
  7. Chen, Y. (2013). Cong maodun de fanyi dao maodun de lichang: Nüquanzhuyi shuyu zai jindai zhongguo de fanyi yu liuzhuan [From the Ambiguous Translation to the Ambivalence of Position: The Translation and Transformation of Feminist Terminology in Modern China]. Fudan xuekan (shehui kexue), 1, 105–114.Google Scholar
  8. Cotter, D., Hermsen, J. M., & Vanneman, R. (2011). The End of the Gender Revolution? Gender Role Attitudes from 1977 to 2008. American Journal of Sociology, 117(1), 259–289. Scholar
  9. Driessens, O. (2015). Expanding Celebrity Studies’ Research Agenda: Theoretical Opportunities and Methodological Challenges in Interviewing Celebrities. Celebrity Studies, 6(2), 192–205. Scholar
  10. England, P. (2010). The Gender Revolution: Uneven and Stalled. Gender and Society, 24(2), 149–166. Scholar
  11. Farrer, J. (2007). China’s Women Sex Bloggers and Dialogic Sexual Politics on the Chinese Internet. China Aktuell: Journal of Current Chinese Affairs, 36(4), 1–36.Google Scholar
  12. Farrer, J. (2014). Love, Sex and Commitment: Delinking Premarital Intimacy from Marriage in Urban China. In D. Deborah & S. Friedman (Eds.), Wives, Husbands, and Lovers: Marriage and Sexuality in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Urban China (pp. 62–96). Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Farrer, J., Suo, G., Tsuchiya, H., & Sun, Z. (2012). Re-Embedding Sexual Meanings: A Qualitative Comparison of the Premarital Sexual Scripts of Chinese and Japanese Young Adults. Sexuality & Culture, 16(3), 263–286. Scholar
  14. Hamad, H., & Taylor, A. (2015). Introduction: Feminism and Contemporary Celebrity Culture. Celebrity Studies, 6(1), 124–127. Scholar
  15. Han, X. (2018). Searching for an Online Space for Feminism? The Chinese Feminist Group Gender Watch Women’s Voice and Its Changing Approaches to Online Misogyny. Feminist Media Studies, 18(4), 734–749. Scholar
  16. Herinfilm. (2017, August 5). She Is the First Actress Speaking for Feminism, and She Is Just Over 20 Years Old. Ifeng. Retrieved from
  17. Jeffreys, E. (2011). Zhang Ziyi and China’s Celebrity-Philanthropy Scandals. Portal, 8(1), 1–21.
  18. Jeffreys, E. (2012). Modern China’s Idols: Heroes, Role Models, Stars and Celebrities. Portal, 9(1), 1–32.
  19. Jeffreys, E. (2015). Celebrity Philanthropy in Mainland China. Asian Studies Review, 39(4), 571–588. Scholar
  20. Jeffreys, E., & Edwards, L. P. (2010). Celebrity/China. In L. P. Edwards & E. Jeffreys (Eds.), Celebrity in China (pp. 1–20). Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Johnson, K. A. (1983). Women, the Family, and Peasant Revolution in China. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  22. Kaplan, Ann E. (2011). Affect, Memory, and Trauma Past Tense in Hu Mei’s ‘Army Nurse’ (1985) and Xu Jinglei’s ‘Letter from an Unknown Woman’ (2004). In L. Wang (Ed.), Chinese Women’s Cinema: Transnational Contexts (pp. 154–172). New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Larson, W. (1998). Women and Writing in Modern China. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Li, J., & Li, X. (2017). Media as a Core Political Resource: The Young Feminist Movements in China. Chinese Journal of Communication, 19(1), 1–18. Scholar
  25. Li, X. (1983). Renlei jinbu yu funü jiefang [The Progress of Humanity and Women’s Liberation]. Makesizhuyi yanjiu, 4, 142–166.Google Scholar
  26. Li, X. (1987). Dangdai funü wenxue zhong de zhiyefunü wenti: Yige bijiaoyanjiu de shijiao [The Issue Concerning Professional Women in Contemporary Women’s Literature: A Comparative Perspective]. Wenyi pinglun, 1, 24–28.Google Scholar
  27. Li, X. (1988). Xiawu de tansuo [Eve’s Exploration]. Zhengzhou: Henan renmin chubanshe.Google Scholar
  28. Li, C., & Zhang, X. (2017). What Happened to Those Fans Several Years Later?: Empowerment from Super Girls’ Voice for Girls in China (2007–2015), Critical Studies in Media Communication, 47(6), 400–414. Scholar
  29. Liu, L. H. (2002). Invention and Intervention: The Making of a Female Tradition in Modern Chinese Literature. In S. Brownell & J. N. Wasserstrom (Eds.), Chinese Femininities/Chinese Masculinities: A Reader (pp. 149–174). Berkeley: University of California Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. McRobbie, A. (2009). The Aftermath of Feminism: Gender, Culture and Social Change. London and Los Angeles: Sage.Google Scholar
  31. Queen C-cup. (2017, January 21). Han Han Bites the Ground, and Duckweed Cannot Redeem Itself: But Women Still Lose the Game. Xinlang Weibo. Retrieved from
  32. Roberts, R. A. (1994). Chinese Women Writers and Their Response to Western Feminism. Asian Studies Review, 18(2), 27–51. Scholar
  33. Scharff, C. (2011). Repudiating Feminism: Young Women in a Neoliberal World. Farnham: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  34. Strafella, G., & Berg, D. (2015). The Making of an Online Celebrity: A Critical Analysis of Han Han’s Blog. China Information, 29(3), 352–376. Scholar
  35. Sudo, M. (2006). Concepts of Women’s Rights in Modern China (M. G. Hill, Trans.). Gender & History, 18(3), 472–489. Scholar
  36. Tan, J. (2017). Digital Masquerading: Feminist Media Activism in China. Crime, Media, Culture, 13(2), 171–186. Scholar
  37. Taylor, A. (2016). Celebrity and the Feminist Blockbuster. London: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  38. Tencent Entertainment. (2017, January 21). Han Han’s Exclusive Response to the Accusation of ‘Straight Man Cancer’: It Does Not Matter to Say I Am Low, But Do Not Overreact. Tencent Entertainment. Retrieved from
  39. The Beijing News. (2014, December 6). Fighter Li Yinhe: Of Course I’m a Feminist. The Beijing News. Retrieved from–12/06/content_550601.htm?div=-1.
  40. The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China. (2015). Gender Equality and Women’s Development in China. Zhongguo fuyun, 11, 16–24.Google Scholar
  41. Thornham, S., & Feng, P. (2010). “Just a Slogan”: Individualism, Post-feminism, and Female Subjectivity in Consumerist China. Feminist Media Studies, 10(2), 195–211. Scholar
  42. Wang, B. (2017). Chinese Feminism: A History of the Present (Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation). The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.Google Scholar
  43. Wang, L. (2013). Gender and Sexual Differences in 1980s China: Introducing Li Xiaojiang. Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, 24(2), 8–21. Scholar
  44. Wang, Z. (1999). Women in the Chinese Enlightenment: Oral and Textual Histories. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  45. Wang, Z. (2015). Detention of the Feminist Five in China. Feminist Studies, 41(2), 476–482. Scholar
  46. Wang, Z. (2017). Finding Women in the State: A Socialist Feminist Revolution in the People’s Republic of China, 1949–1964. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  47. Wang, B., & Driscoll, C. (2018). Chinese Feminists on Social Media: Articulating Different Voices, Building Strategic Alliances. Continuum. Scholar
  48. Wang, Z., Wang, A., Zhu, L., & Dai, Q. (1988). Wang Anyi, Zhu Lin, Dai Qing. Modern Chinese Literature, 4(1/2), 99–148.Google Scholar
  49. Wei, H. (1999). Shanghai baobei [Shanghai Baby]. Shenyang: Chunfeng wenyi chubanshe.Google Scholar
  50. Wei, W. (2014). Jietou, xingwei, yishu: Xingbie quanli changdao he kangzheng xingdong xingshiku de chuangxin [Street, Behavoir, Art: Advocating Gender Rights and the Innovation of a Social Movement Repertoire]. She Hui, 34(2), 94–116.Google Scholar
  51. Wesoky, S. R. (2006) “Pop” Feminism in China: The Expansion of Women’s Studies to Popular Women’s Magazines. In T. Hellwig & S. Thobani (Eds.), Asian Women: Interconnections (pp. 203–222). Toronto: Women’s Press.Google Scholar
  52. Wolf, M. (1985). Revolution Postponed: Women in Contemporary China. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  53. Yang, L., & Bao, H. (2012). Queerly Intimate: Friends, Fans and Affective Communication in a Super Girl Fan Fiction Community. Cultural Studies, 26(6), 842–871. Scholar
  54. Yu, H. (2007). Blogging Everyday Life in Chinese Internet Culture. Asian Studies Review, 31(4), 423–433. Scholar
  55. Yu, S. Q. (2012). Vulnerable Chinese Stars: From xizi to Film Worker. In Y. J. Zhang (Ed.), A Companion to Chinese Cinema (pp. 218–238). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Yue, A., & Yu, H. (2008). China’s Super Girl: Mobile Youth Cultures and New Sexualities. In U. M. Rodrigues & B. Smaill (Eds.), Youth, Media and Culture in the Asia Pacific Region (pp. 117–134). Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars.Google Scholar
  57. Zhang, J. (1986). Zhang Jie ji [Collection of Zhang Jie’s Works]. Fuzhou: Haixia wenyi chubanshe.Google Scholar
  58. Zhang, J. (1992). Dangdai nüxingzhuyi wenxue piping [Contemporary Feminist Literary Criticism]. Beijing: Beijing daxue chubanshe.Google Scholar
  59. Zhang, L. (2014). Dangdai daxuesheng xingbie pingdeng yishi zhuangkuang ji sikao [Thinking About the Situation of Gender Equality Consciousness Among Contemporary College Students]. Zhengzhou daxue xuebao (zhexue yu shehuikeyuan ban), 47(6), 37–40.Google Scholar
  60. Zhang, X. (1988). Zhang Xinxin daibiao zuo [Seletec Works of Zhang Xinxin]. Zhengzhou: Huanghe wenyi chubanshe.Google Scholar
  61. Zhong, X. (2006). Who Is a Feminist? Understanding the Ambivalence Towards Shanghai Baby, ‘Body Writing’ and Feminism in Post‐women’s Liberation China. Gender & History, 18(3), 635–660. Scholar
  62. Zhu, A. (2007). Feminism and Global Chineseness: The Cultural Production of Controversial Women Authors. New York: Cambria Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Qu Qiubai School of GovernmentChangzhou UniversityChangzhouChina

Personalised recommendations