BY TARA SUN VANACORE
On August 13, members of Washington, DC’s chapter of NüVoices gathered over tea to discuss China’s feminist movement with activist Lü Pin (吕频).Lü Pin answered questions about the movement’s demographics, mobilizing strategies, and achievements both in China and in the US. Lü Pin’s associates are primarily young women, with some support from trans and gay men, though this has dwindled. These organizers work around the clock to expose instances of domestic abuse, harassment in the workplace, discrimination against single women, and policies that limit access to information about reproductive rights. While some of their work takes place in person, much of it takes place on Weibo, WeChat, and other online platforms. The simple act of saving information to repost once an account has been deleted has proven valuable in eluding censors, but this requires vigilance and speed on the part of users. Though she sees some hope in reform through legislation, such as an anti-domestic violence law that was passed in 2016, Lü Pin believes that the authorities can’t be trusted to implement such laws. Therefore, she encourages activists to focus on holding specific ministries accountable, and calling out instances where perpetrators go unpunished.
Asked about how feminists in the US can support the work of Chinese leaders, she said that lawyers, accountants, and those with fundraising skills are welcome to contribute resources. While she spends much of her time and mental energy guiding activists and friends in China—one of their online groups includes a “dream contest” where they start the day sharing stories from the night before, an important act of community-building and solidarity—she is committed to initiating dialogue here as well. She’s currently organizing a talk at Bluestockings, a progressive bookstore in New York City; forging connections with immigrant and sex worker rights groups; and planning a summer camp in upstate New York—for those who speak Chinese and aren’t afraid to talk about sex. She reflected that men can leave the movement but women can’t—and it’s clear that Lü Pin is in this battle for the long haul.
Lü Pin (吕频) is a leading Chinese feminist activist focusing on strategic advocacy to combat gender-based discrimination and violence, and is also an award-winning independent journalist. She started her work on women’s rights in the late 1990s. In 2009, she founded Feminist Voices (女权之声), China’s largest new media platform on women’s issues. Since 2012, she has been devoted to supporting the activism of young feminists across China. She now resides in Albany, New York, where she continues to follow the feminist movement in China closely.
Tara Sun Vanacore is a China Programs Manager at CET Academic Programs in Washington, DC. She has worked previously for the Global Fund for Children, the US-China Strong Foundation, the Shady Hill School, Putney Student Travel, and Portland Public Schools. She earned a Master’s in Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs at American University and a Bachelor’s at Middlebury College. Read her writing for the Women’s Wire blog, The Atlantic, and the Woodrow Wilson Center’s China Environment Forum. She has a forthcoming piece in Hold the Line Magazine. Find her on LinkedIn.