Ayawawa, Wang Ju, and China’s Confusing Female Role Models

Complex and contradictory images of women allow a hyper-conservative relationship guru to exist alongside an empowered, independent pop singer.

Ayawawa, Wang Ju

Last month, I met with a team of producers who hoped to bring me onboard as a consultant on women’s issues while they shot a variety show to be broadcast online later this year. The directors were keenly aware that the show’s success lay in whether it stimulated debate, adding that gender issues — in particular, the role of women in Chinese society — were a surefire way of increasing views and stirring up controversy. Apparently, this was where I came in: The producers enjoyed several articles I had written in Chinese about women’s issues, including a recent viral piece titled “How Can Marriages Be Equal When Our Society Isn’t?”

Chinese social media users are discussing women’s issues with increasing openness. At the same time, more and more media outlets — from online variety shows to so-called WeMedia accounts — are reaching out to predominantly female readerships.

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A highly successful product of this trend is the self-styled relationship guru Yang Bingyang — aka “Ayawawa” — who recently courted controversy for making insensitive comments about Chinese comfort women kept by Japanese soldiers during World War II. Yang taps into the deep-seated fear of singledom held by many straight Chinese women: Many of her fans either feel immense pressure to get married or worry that their husbands might divorce them.

Yang has developed a panoply of pseudoscientific theories that she claims are guaranteed secrets to success in the marriage market. Most of her advice equates happy marriages with material comfort: On her WeChat public account, fans pepper her with questions like “Miss Wawa, will he ever propose to me?”, “How can I get my man to buy me the life I want?”, and “How can I get my name on the deed to the house? Continue to read the full article here.


-This is original content by Sixth Tone and has been republished with permission.