Disagreement Between Chinese Celebrities Sparks Online Accusations of Gender Inequality

A disagreement during a private New Year’s party has become the unlikely catalyst for a nation-wide  discussion over gender politics in no short part due to the number of famous Chinese celebrities involved.

Miao Miao as seen in Feng Xiaogang’s “Youth”

As seen from a video posted online, actor Chen Daoming rejected director Feng Xiaogang’s request to have Miao Miao, the star of his latest film Youth, perform a dance during the informal get-together.

Chen had just finished accompanying singer Zhang Yan on the piano when he attempted to tacitly refuse Feng’s request. Chen attempted to give all parties a face-saving way out of the predicament by saying it wasn’t convenient for the highheel wearing- Miao. When someone off-camera jokingly suggested that Miao just “gesticulate with her hands,” Chen swore at him.

Eventually, under Feng’s insistence and with other men physically dragging Chen back to the piano, Miao performed the dance with Chen’s accompaniment.

As much as this appears to be a mostly light-hearted disagreement without scandal, the incident provoked some netizens to criticize Feng and the men present (that even included actor Ge You) for pressuring Miao to do their bidding, an act that shows celebrities are susceptible to the same gender politics as the rest of society.

While some netizens simply saw it as a chance for Feng to help Miao by showing her off to this group of what may be other entertainment industry insiders, others saw it as him demonstrating his control over his new star – not least because Feng himself said (through slurred words) that he wanted to show them “the reason why I picked her for the role,” or the fact that Feng is seen holding Miao’s hand.

For a number of netizens, the incident reminded them of the way some parents force their children to perform for house guests. “Those that say this video is no big deal are the same people that force their children to perform on demand,” reads one top-rated comment.

Others criticized the cheering middle-aged men by calling them “oily” (油腻 yóunì), a negative term that shares connotations with “lascivious” and “lecherous”. As one person put it, “How many girls are jumping at the chance to perform for these middle-aged perverts?”

Others praised Chen for being the lone dissenter at this occasion, thereby demonstrating his “high morals” as a gentlement.

One point that doesn’t get discussed much is the fact that even though the entire disagreement is about her, Miao Miao doesn’t speak up for herself on the video. Although she says a few words in private to Feng, the discussion over her dancing is handled by the two men.

Recommended Reading‘Youth’: Feng Xiaogang’s Paean to NostalgiaBy Poornima Weerasekara

Miao is one of the main stars of Youth, Feng’s latest film that was unceremoniously bumped from its scheduled opening date last fall. Since its December release, the highly-stylized coming-of-age drama has recovered from its stumble, earning over a billion yuan at the Chinese box office and becoming Feng’s highest-grossing film to date.


–This article originally appeared on The Beijinger