What China's Talking About Today: A State Exam Asks About Menstruation

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The Chinese civil service exam asks female applicants to report when they typically menstruate.

civilservice march21 p.jpg

People crowd into a building to take China's annual civil service exam / Reuters

A fourth-year college student taking the Chinese civil service exam told Sina News she "felt uncomfortable" being asked about her time of the month.

"I don't think it's necessary to know a person's menstrual cycle. How is that relevant to work? Are they saying that people who get their periods on the first of the month are more capable than people who get it on the 10th?"

The Chinese civil service examination includes a check for gynecological health and sexually transmitted diseases, in order to make sure that illness doesn't "interfere with the performance of one's duties."

The People's Republic has a tradition of inquiring after women's periods.

In the days of danwei, or socialist work units that enveloped many Chinese citizens professional and personal lives, unit leaders would monitor female employees' menstrual cycles in order to maintain urban-area birth rates.

Chinese gender equality activist have objected, pointing out that menstruation is irrelevant to a woman's performance in one of China's coveted civil service positions.

The menstruation question sparked a modest Sina Weibo trend, with the discussion spanning little more than 100 thousand micro-blogs. Apparently, attitudes toward letting authorities know about menstrual cycles have changed since the days of socialist work units.

Angry little bird lalala wrote: "Are you kidding me? They can't be that perverted!"

Other female micro-bloggers were equally outraged.

"They even want to know a girl's little secret," said user Black Beauty Little Sister, using the ill face emoticon.

User qinlinapple turned the tables, asking with a laughing emoticon, "What kind of stuff do they need to check out for the gents?"

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Massoud Hayoun is a digital-news producer for Al Jazeera America.

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