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New Publication: From Women’s Space to Gendering the Public Sphere: Ai Xiaoming’s Practice of Everyday Life and Activism

Photo of Ai Xiaoming
Ai Xiaoming at the Office for Gender Education and Research at Sun Yat-sen University. Credit: Zeng Jinyan, 31 May 2013.

Jinyan Zeng and Xibai Xu has co-authored a book chapter in Routledge Handbook of Chinese Gender & Sexuality.

How do Chinese activists and intellectuals continue to make a social impact under heightened repression? In particular, how do female activists and intellectuals cope with political repression in addition to the structural gender bias already present in Chinese society? This chapter examines the life and activism of feminist scholar and independent filmmaker Ai Xiaoming. Despite being banned from public life by the Chinese authorities, Ai has made creative use of her residential spaces for social causes while fulfilling her traditional gendered role as the main caregiver in the family. In doing so, she has redrawn the boundaries between the personal and the political, transformed domestic space into semi-public space, created virtual and counter-public spaces, and reinvented the social meaning of her gendered role. As an example of ‘the personal is political’, Ai’s story highlights the gendered bias of the public sphere and invites us to rethink the domestic and the private as spaces where Chinese female intellectuals can make important social interventions.

The book chapter is available here.

Figure: Ai Xiaoming at the Office for Gender Education and Research at Sun Yat-sen University right after a nude breasts photography protest against child sexual abuse. The rainbow slogan on the wall reads, ‘Freedom, regardless of your convictions’. After the protest with nude breasts at her home, Ai put on her favourite dress and went back to the university to host the viva for her last PhD student. The office was shut down in the mid-2010s, and its collection of educational resources on gender and sexuality was removed from the university. Credit: Zeng Jinyan, 31 May 2013.