Reporting from China—at least the sort that appears in Western publications—tends to ignore the nation’s residents in favor of invisible-hand macro forces. Economy. Technology. Geopolitics. But Rest of the World presents a much-needed alternative to that approach, and Wanqing Zhang’s feature about feminism’s deepening foothold is a perfect distillation of why it’s necessary. If you want to understand what’s going on somewhere, you talk to the people who live there; it’s as simple as that.
Weibo, which has more monthly active users than X (formerly Twitter), remains the most popular platform for general discussion in China. But in part because of the platform’s harsh policing and relentless trolls, women have increasingly congregated on Xiaohongshu, where they outnumber male users more than two to one. Women have found ways to trick the app’s recommendation algorithm so their posts are shown mostly to other women. Douban, where many interactions happen within semi-secluded groups, is another feminist refuge.
Lü, the activist, describes the retreat from Weibo to Douban and Xiaohongshu as a shift from “a public plaza” to “a friend’s living room.” In the latter spaces, female empowerment is less about trying to create structural change and focuses more on less sensitive everyday topics: conflicts with boyfriends or discussions about whether to marry, have children, or use makeup.