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Rising above girls day jokes

Updated: 2016-03-14 07:33
By Raymond Zhou (China Daily)

Rising above girls day jokes

Call it "etiquette" or call it "political correctness", one must not forget that there are invisible lines when cracking jokes that are gender- or race-related. As a rule of thumb, one should not mock the institutionally weak. Zhao Benshan, China's top comedian, was once lambasted for gags that mocked the handicapped.

The funny thing is, we are living in a storm of rapid changes. Female enrollment in college has risen so fast and women are so academically competitive that the "guys" could well feel threatened. There are unwritten rules in recruitment or employment to favor males because they are weak. I've heard of more than one employer, headed by women, that would lower the cutoff line by 20 or 30 points (out of 100) for male applicants.

If you dissect the tongue-in-cheek couplets, they actually assumed a lower status for men. They were pleading with the "girls" who would otherwise go for greener pastures. Let me put it this way: The slogans would have been unthinkable two centuries ago when women were socially designated as adjunct to men.

But does the appearance of the bad jokes imply women having equality in China? By no means. Old traditions die hard. Simply declaring women equal does not turn it into instant reality. But I dare say Chinese women may have moved further than their Western peers in some respects.

In China, when a supervisor or a CEO is a woman, it's generally taken for granted. If people hate her, rarely would they say "She is a woman". I consider that progress because we have passed the stage when female executives are used as tokens for equality.

More harmful than the college jokes is the popularity of costume dramas devoured by even the fair sex. For example, a typical on-screen tale of palace intrigue would have a phalanx of beautiful young women outwitting and outkilling each other so the last one standing would get the emperor's favor. Where was Empress Wu Zetian when we needed her?

Now, I'm no feminist. (By somewhat justifying the campus pranksters, I could have offended the nation's feminists.) But I think the subliminal message of so much of today's pop culture condemns women to second class-but subtly that even women seem to be floating on cloud nine after wallowing in it.

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