Leftist (i.e. conservative) opinion leader Sima Nan, male, escalated the incident to a fight between different ideologies, commenting on his verified Weibo account that during the incident, so-called public intellectuals "boldly took advantage of the woman
who once was naked with Ai Weiwei to play dirty in the name of Children's Day and to propagate hatred of one's country." Ye's detractors have called her
use of her body "dirty" and "shameless" rather than brave.
In contrast, Ye herself has called for focus on the issues. In one of her last tweets before her detention, she wrote: "Please, everyone, don't be misled by the shameless talk online. Putting an
end to sexual abuse at schools is the main point; that's what the government, media, and society should care about, not whether or not Ye Haiyan is seeking
"Women hold up half the sky"
It has become almost cliché to say that in China, there are parallel realities for citizens' political lives; there is a real story, and then an official
version. Yet the issue is even more evident with regards to women's participation in politics at the grassroots level. While the pressures and obstacles
for women come partly from authorities, they also have a deeper and more enduring cause: culture.
A woman who takes part in a political demonstration, plays a high-profile role in a civil movement, or participates in government in China is apt to face
inconvenient truths. Within the political system, she must submit to one-party rule; on a cultural level, she must move within a long-standing patriarchal
There have been some improvements in women's political participation since the establishment of the People's Republic of China. In 1949, China implemented
one of its most basic laws, which states that "women shall enjoy equal rights with men in political, economic, cultural, educational and social life."
During the 1950s, Chairman Mao's famous quote, "Women hold up half the sky," further
promoted women's social status. A few years later, China had its first female Vice Premier, Wu Guixian, who held the position for one year during the
Cultural Revolution. Nowadays, one can see female faces on television, in governmental bodies, and among the leadership in the Chinese Communist Party. To
date, China has had
six female Party Central Committee members, two female party secretaries at the provincial level, four provincial governors, and four female Vice
, the latest being Liu Yandong, 67, who is responsible for the science, education, culture and sports sectors. At more grassroots levels, Chinese women now
almost half of the members
in urban neighborhood committees, a unique form of self-governance among city dwellers in China.
Open skies or glass ceiling?
But parallel to the narrative of Chinese women's rising status exists another narrative: the rise of traditional patriarchal stereotyping of women, and a
gendered division of labor, responsibilities, economic structures, institutional norms, and procedures. There is inadequate state intervention in a variety
of sectors; women are on average less educated than men, and political culture and male-centered social practices have made it difficult for Chinese women
to break through the glass ceiling.