MICHAELA MERTZ WRITES — The highly followed social media account, Feminist Voices, was suspended on International Women’s Day after initiating a discussion on issues of sexual harassment. The campaign began on March 6, when the account asked users to post their own photos about sexual harassment with the hashtag #March8againstharassment. The Sina Weibo account had more that 180,000 followers, and its posts have addressed issues of sexual harassment in the hope of getting its followers to be involved in the cause.
On March 8, the account published nine separate posts, which were viewed more than 170,000 times, to celebrate International Women’s Day. These posts created a lot of traffic on the site, which didn’t go unnoticed by the people in charge of Weibo. A few hours later, the account was suspended. Weibo claimed that Feminist Voices was, “distributing sensitive content that was in violation of regulations.”
While it might seem like Weibo itself was in charge of deleting the account, many individuals believe that the Chinese authorities were at the heart of the suspension. Leta Hong Fincher believes that “Chinese authorities waited until the day after #InternationalWomensDay to pounce on Feminist Voices, knowing full well that journalists will not be paying close attention anymore.” While it is not known for a fact who caused the account to be deleted, the suspension caused a lot of tension between Chinese feminists, Weibo and the Chinese authorities.
This isn’t the first time, however, that the account has been suspended for its posts. Following the election of Donald Trump, many Weibo accounts that supported feminism, including Feminist Voices, were censored. The Feminist Voices account posted about a proposed “women’s strike” which ultimately lead to the suspension of the account for 30 days. The reasons for these controversial posts were that many of the people in control of these accounts believed that with Trump in charge, they would no longer be backed by the US government. Just like in the U.S., Chinese women feared that Trump’s rise to power would encourage misogynistic and sexist opinions among his supporters in China. The posts that appeared on the page were similar to the posts that got them censored more recently. Both incidents were efforts to stand up for female empowerment and to tackle the lack of women’s rights.