It used to be rare for Chinese women to care much about their rights and how society valued them as people. Chinese female netizens nowadays would become incensed when encountering views against feminism or speeches persuading them to be the ones that they are "supposed" to be.
Last week, one comment left by a female netizen on famed dancer Yang Liping's Tik Tok post ignited a heated debate about women's roles on twitter-like Weibo, which attracted more than 600 million views.
The comment ridicules Yang's childlessness by saying: "The biggest failure of a woman is not having kids. … No matter how beautiful and accomplished you are, you can't beat time. When you turn 90 you won't enjoy the happiness of having grandchildren around.”
Yang, the 61-year-old "Peacock Princess," later responded gently while a slew of other female celebrities and netizens harshly disagreed, saying the biggest failure of a woman is "trying to define women" and treat the female as a reproductive tool.
Since last year, there has been an increasing number of TV programs, dramas and movies discussing women's social roles.
A reality show "My Little One," which originally tried to encourage older single female celebrities to date males and accept the norm of forming a family and having children, has shifted to revealing the ordinary life of them and their independence.
In one episode, Xu Huilin, actress Jiang Mengjie's father, said, "I respect the choice my daughter made. She has my support to be single, to get married or decide not to have children." Xu's declaration has won him many female fans.
In the show "Older Sisters Who Brave Winds and Waves" that debuted Friday and received 2,500 million plays as of Saturday, female singers, rappers, dancers and actresses who are more than 30 years old were asked to form pop groups and to challenge themselves and showcase their potential in performances.
"Aged and married female performers are underdogs when competing with younger peers," Annie Shizuka Inou, a contestant of the show and a 52-year-old veteran actress from Taiwan, said in an earlier interview. "I have played my role as a mom for quite a long time. I don't want to be labeled. I regard myself as a young girl and I think I am just 25," she declared at the show.
Many netizens commented while watching Friday's program, expressed their support for the contestants. "Just like them, now I feel I can also challenge myself. There shouldn't be limitations for women," said one netizen.
There is a reason for the overnight popularity of those programs and drama. According to the data released by Guotai Junan Securities, in the past five years, the overall spending of Chinese women has increased 81 percent, reaching US$6.7 trillion. Last year, women's online spending accounted for 55 percent of the total. This has attracted more investment in women-favored products, including Internet products and streaming videos.
Guan Qingyou, a famed economist, said in November said the labor participation rate for women in China was 63 percent, ranking first in the world. Among those who have earned a master's degree, over 50 percent were women. "China has a larger oriental female market than what Japan once had in 1980s. In the luxury markets, no one dares to offend Chinese women," said Guan.
As women become more economically independent, they become more confident. Now they are also more mindful about how society evaluates them.
As singer Zhang Shaohan said in "Older Sisters," "I am the creator of my beauty and youth. … I want to tear off the labels on me and redefine myself, telling the world who I am."
(The author is head of Shenzhen Daily's Qianhai office.)