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Feminist responses on Weibo aim to fight the misrepresentation of women during COVID-19 in China

Feminists across China came together on Weibo to fight back against under- and misrepresentation of them during the early days of COVID-19.



On Weibo, a Twitter-like social media website in China, feminists created hashtags such as "#她能" (#SheCan), "#看见女性劳动者" (#SeeingWomenWorkers) with the aim of helping women feel empowered. (Shutterstock)

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has caused political, economic and social impacts globally, with women being affected disproportionately across the world.

In China, the gendered impacts of COVID-19 have manifested in various ways. In mainstream media — like on TV shows and state-run media — women and women front-line workers in particular were underrepresented or misrepresented. These depictions were highly controversial and provoked backlash led by feminists on social media.

Misrepresentation of women front-line workers

Heroes in Harm’s Way was the first TV series about front-line workers fighting the outbreak in China that aired during September 2020. Although claiming to be “based on real-life stories” of front-line workers in Wuhan — where the outbreak was first reported — it sparked severe criticism for portraying women medical workers as subordinate and showcased them as reluctant to head to the front lines.

In addition to portraying women as subordinate, the lack of basic supplies such as sanitary products, making their jobs even harder, was often neglected across dominant narratives. To avoid talking about these everyday problems, state media called women medical workers who shaved their heads “the most beautiful warriors” praising them for their devotion.

This under- and misrepresentation of women triggered waves of backlash led by feminists across social media.

Re-writing history by making visible ‘herstory’

My recent research has been examining how feminists took advantage of social media to respond to gender inequality and injustice during the COVID-19 outbreak in China. The research reveals that Sina Weibo has become an essential site for women fighting against stereotypical media representations.

On Weibo, a Twitter-like social media website in China, feminists created hashtags such as “#她能” (#SheCan), “#看见女性劳动者” (#SeeingWomenWorkers), “#逆行中的她们” (#HeroinesinHarmsWay) with the aim of helping women feel empowered. The hashtags worked as a counter-narrative to what was happening in the mainstream — a narrative that neglects and degrades women’s contributions in fighting COVID-19.

Their hashtags are meant to serve as a rally cry that invites users to share their personal stories and feelings. They are also a means to rewrite herstory and showcase the role women played in fighting the pandemic.

Under a post that criticized the TV series Heroes in Harm’s Way, there were two comments, each of which got over 3,000 likes. These comments read:

“During the most serious time of the epidemic, when the community needed volunteers, no one was willing to go, and finally my mother took the initiative to sign up, the trash screenwriter has no heart.”


“#SeeingWomenWorkers I am angry I went to Hubei to support a local hospital, and the vast majority of medical staff are women. I witnessed them cut their hair, hug for farewell, I cannot accept this kind of drama.”

Weibo allows each comment to open a sub-thread, where other users can respond to a specific comment. Under the two comments listed above, other commenters posted multiple testimonies that endorsed the original comments and posts. This work contributed to re-constructing the misrepresentation of women.

Archiving feelings against “correct collective memory”

Feminist responses to the dominant narrative are loaded and social media posts are full of of anger. Emotion has long been taken seriously in feminist studies.

Anger in the collective sharing of testimonies highlights women’s contributions during the outbreak and functions as a means to connect individuals with similar experiences and feelings.

Emotive expressions and terms such as memory (“记忆”), mesmerizing (“记住”), documenting (“记录”), correct memory (“正确记忆”) and collective memory (“集体记忆”) frequently appeared in Weibo posts that clawed back against the mainstream narrative. This suggests that women are using Weibo as a means to archive feelings, and to problematize how collective memories are being created about who is involved in fighting COVID-19.

Women look at a computer
This under- and misrepresentation of Chinese women triggered waves of backlash led by feminists across social media. (Mimi Thian/Unsplash)

A shift of media attitude

Since the COVID-19 outbreak passed its peak its peak in China, state-run media outlets in the country have begun picturing women as an essential force in confronting the virus. If and to what extent the feminist counter-narratives on social media influenced mainstream media’s agenda are worth further study.

These counter-narratives did play an important role in raising awareness of the stereotypical media representation of women during COVID-19. And the interconnection and interaction, commenting in particular, enabled by Weibo, helped facilitate the process.

By bringing a variety of users together, Weibo helped solicit feelings of belonging and community, or as political theorist Jodi Dean terms “community without community.”

We should not assume social media determined the way for the emergence of affective solidarity among women misrepresented in the dominant narratives. Nonetheless, social media has become an important site where fragmented voices can come together and find a voice.

Jinman Zhang does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Highlights of My Weekly Reading and Viewing

Timothy Taylor, “Some Economics of Pharmacy Benefit Managers,” The Conversable Economist, September 28, 2023. This is the nicest treatment of the facts…



Timothy Taylor, “Some Economics of Pharmacy Benefit Managers,” The Conversable Economist, September 28, 2023. This is the nicest treatment of the facts that I’ve seen. I confess that I’ve seen PBMs as something of a black box rather than doing the standard middleman treatment that Tim does.

Tim highlights the work of Matthew Fiedler, Loren Adler, and Richard G. Frank in “A Brief Look at Key Debates About Pharmacy Benefit Manufacturers,” Brookings Institution, September 7, 2023.

Ending paragraph:

As in most economic discussions about the role of middlemen, it’s important to remember that they (usually) don’t just sit around with their hands out, collecting money. Some entity needs to negotiate on behalf of health insurance companies with drug manufacturers and pharmacies. Some entity needs to process insurance claims for drug prices. I do not mean to defend the relatively high drug prices paid by American consumers compared to international markets, nor to defend the costs and requirements for developing new drugs, nor to defend some of the mechanisms used by drug companies to keep prices high. But while it might be possible to squeeze some money out of PBMs for slightly lower drug prices, and it’s certainly possible to mess up PBMs in a way that leads to higher drug prices, it doesn’t seem plausible that reform of PBMs is going to be a powerful lever for reducing drug prices.

Thomas W. Hazlett, “Maybe Google Is Popular Because It’s Good,” Reason, September 27, 2023. I think Hazlett is the best writer in economics. This piece is a good sample.

An excerpt:

The innovation was simple in design, complex in execution, and radical in result. The business achieved a rare triple play: First, a robust new web crawler devised a superior method for finding and tagging the world’s digital content, deploying cheap PCs linked in formations to achieve momentous computing power (Brin’s genius). Second, this more prolific database of global digital content was better cataloged. A clever “Page Rank” score evaluated keyword matches, countering the influence of scammers by scrutinizing the quality of their web page links (Page’s inspiration). Third, “intention-based advertising” displayed commercial messages to searchers self-identified as ready to buy. For instance, the internet user wondering about “coho salmon, Ketchikan, kids” gave Hank’s Family Fishing B&B in Alaska a digital target for its 10 percent off coupon, while signaling to Olay not to bother advertising its skin care products. This solved the famous marketing dilemma: “I know I’m wasting half my ad budget, I just don’t know which half.” Businesses loved these tiny slices of digital real estate, and Google mined gold.

Fiona Harrigan, “America’s Immigrant Brain Drain,” Reason, October 2023.


In June, The Hechinger Report outlined how foreign governments are welcoming U.S.-trained international students. The United Kingdom offers a “high potential individual” visa, which authorizes a two-year stay and is available to “new graduates of 40 universities….21 of them in the United States.” Recruiters from Australia are “attending job fairs and visiting university campuses” in the United States. From 2017 to 2021, according to the Niskanen Center, a Washington-based think tank, Canada managed to attract almost 40,000 foreign-born graduates of American universities.

Most international students want to stay in the U.S. after graduating, but very few are able to do so. The U.S. does not have a dedicated postgraduate work visa. Canada and Australia, meanwhile, have streamlined the steps from graduation to employment to permanent residency. Graduates in the U.S. can complete Optional Practical Training, but it does not lead to permanent residency and lasts a maximum of three years.

Personal note: Actually the maximum of 3 years for Practical Training sounds good. When I took advantage of the F-1 Practical Training visa to be on the faculty of the University of Rochester, the max was only 18 months.

David Friedman, “Consequences of Climate Change,” September 24, 2023. David does his typical calm, clear, masterful job of laying out the facts. He takes the IPCC reports as given and then follows the implications, uncovering a lot of misleading claims in the process. While David takes as given that the earth will heat about another degree centigrade by about the end of the century, he lays out why we can’t be sure that the net effects are negative or positive. Watch about the first 35 minutes of his speech, before he gets to Q&A. I would point out highlights but there is zinger after zinger. And he references his blog and his substack where you can get details.

The pic above is of David Friedman giving his talk.


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Russia’s Military Budget Set To Rise By 70%

Russia’s Military Budget Set To Rise By 70%

Via Remix News,

Russian military spending is set to rise by almost 70 percent — to €106…



Russia's Military Budget Set To Rise By 70%

Via Remix News,

Russian military spending is set to rise by almost 70 percent — to €106 billion — by 2024, according to a Russian Finance Ministry document published Thursday, an increase that illustrates Moscow’s determination to continue its military intervention in Ukraine despite the human and economic costs.

According to the document, Russian defense spending will increase by 68 percent in 2024 compared to this year and will reach 10.8 trillion rubles (€106 billion).

As a result, the amount allocated to defense will represent about 30 percent of total federal spending in 2024 and 6 percent of GDP — a first in Russia’s modern history.

The budget for internal security is set to rise to 3.4 trillion rubles (€33 billion), almost 10 percent of annual federal spending.

The priorities for this budget are outlined as “strengthening the country’s defense capacity” and “integrating the new regions” of Ukraine whose annexation Moscow has demanded, as well as “social aid for the most vulnerable citizens,” just months ahead of the Russian presidential elections in spring 2024.

Conversely, total spending on education, healthcare and environmental protection accounts for barely a third of the defense budget, according to ministry figures. Overall, federal spending will total 36.7 trillion rubles (€359 billion), a dramatic 20 percent increase over 2023.

The government, however, has explained little about how it will finance this large increase, as Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Musustin said last Friday that revenues from the sale of hydrocarbons will be down sharply and will account for “a third of next year’s budget” in 2024, whereas before the invasion of Ukraine, they accounted for half the budget.

The sector used to drive Russia’s growth, hydrocarbon sales are declining due to international sanctions and the European Union’s determination to move away from energy dependence on Moscow.

One indication that the government expects a delicate month ahead for the Russian economy is that it has announced that it has based its budget forecast on the assumption of a dollar worth around 90 rubles, thus betting on a weakening of the national currency in the medium term. The draft budget law for 2024-2026 is due to be sent to the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, on Friday.

Tyler Durden Sun, 10/01/2023 - 08:10

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Atlantic Overfishing: Europe’s Worst Offenders

Atlantic Overfishing: Europe’s Worst Offenders

Each year, agriculture and fisheries ministers decide on total allowable catches (TACs) for…



Atlantic Overfishing: Europe's Worst Offenders

Each year, agriculture and fisheries ministers decide on total allowable catches (TACs) for commercial fishing.

Scientific bodies, such as the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), provide information on the state of fish stocks around the world and recommend maximum catch levels per zone to ensure sustainable fishing.

However, this scientific advice is all too often ignored by the authorities, jeopardizing the sustainability of marine resources.

Statista's Martin Armstrong shows in the following infographic, based on the latest report from the New Economics Foundation, these European countries are the worst offenders for this, having on numerous occasions set their fishing quotas in the North-East Atlantic in excess of the sustainability recommendations in recent years.

You will find more infographics at Statista

Sweden exceeded its recommended TAC by almost 33 percent in 2020 (the latest year available), equivalent to 12,000 tonnes of fish, followed by Denmark (6 percent, 20,000 tonnes) and France (6 percent, 17,000 tonnes).

Ireland, Belgium, Spain and the UK all exceeded their targets by between 2 and 4 percent.

The year before, in 2019, the overshoot of the sustainable fishing threshold in the zone was even more pronounced: 7 percent of the recommended TAC for Spain, 9 percent for France, 10 percent for Belgium, 18 percent for Germany, 20 percent or more for Denmark, the United Kingdom and Ireland, and 52% for Sweden.

Tyler Durden Sun, 10/01/2023 - 07:35

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