International Women’s Day Means a Fashion Show? This Year in China It Did

4International Women’s Day, founded on March 8, 1910, is a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievement of women across the globe. In China, however, this day was celebrated in a different way; rather than honor the strength of women and their vital role in society, Chinese leaders put on a fashion show. Yes, you read that correctly: a fashion show.  

The All-China Women’s Federation (ACWF) hosted the hour-long event that took place Monday at the Great Hall of the People beside Tiananmen Square. According to its website, the ACWF, which was founded by the Communist Party in 1949, is a “mass organization that unites Chinese women of all ethnic groups and from all walks of life, and strives for their liberation and development. The mission of ACWF is to represent and uphold women’s rights and interests, and to promote equality between women and men.”

ACWF’s public mission statement, however, does not reflect the reality of the organization. It have been highly criticized for its rather overtly sexist statements (among other things), even going as far as urging women under thirty to “hurry up and get married” and warning them that “as women age, they are worth less and less, so by the time they get their M.A. or Ph.D., they are already old, like yellowed pearls.”

It is now easy to process the notion that this Chinese Communist-created organization fronting as a social rights group for women put on a fashion show as its celebration for what should be (and is for pretty much the rest of the world) a day for the social, economic, and cultural advancement and parity for women to be acknowledged and the honoring of those who fight for it.

A flashy acrobat show called “Spring Flowers,” two group dances with dainty names like  “Paper-Cutting Girls” and “The Valentine’s Day for Tujia Girls” (featuring performers twirling red umbrellas), and a serenade from a male opera singer do no such thing.

The L.A. Times commented on ACWF’s event, saying: “Hypothetically, the gathering might have been an ideal opportunity to engage in a serious dialogue on the fight for women’s rights in China. Though Chinese leaders frequently invoke Mao’s saying ‘women hold up half the sky,’ men still dominate in politics, business and many other realms.”

The statistics are: only 23 percent of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) are female, an even lower 17 percent of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress (CPPCC) are represented by women, and of the 25-member Politburo, only a meager two are women.  

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