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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.

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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.”

And:

“#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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Pandas wants to give Latin American businesses buying power in Asia

Pandas connects Latin America’s small businesses directly with Asian manufacturers to reduce logistical problems and high fees often imposed by importers…

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Access to global supply chains can be difficult for small businesses in Latin America, but companies like Meru, which raised funding in March to source and import goods between Mexico and China, and now more recently Pandas, are tapping into overseas relationships and technology to make this easier.

In Pandas’ case, the company is doing something similar to Meru, but starting in Colombia, connecting small businesses directly with Asian manufacturers, so that they can reduce the high fees often imposed by half a dozen importers and intermediaries as well as logistical problems that all businesses are facing right now where inventory is now taking many more months to arrive than during pre-pandemic times.

Co-founders Rio Xin and Marcos Esterli started Pandas just three months ago to provide Asian-origin inventory to micro-businesses in Latin America. Their collective background includes careers at McKinsey and Treinta for Esterli, and McKinsey, with more than seven years spent in China, for Xin, where he told TechCrunch he developed a strong network in the region.

“The main issue that we’ve seen is people who don’t understand the Chinese language or how Chinese manufacturers work and then you add in the logistical problems,” Xin added. “We are able to bridge the breach, while at the same time having our team in China to overcome all these logistics problems.”

Pandas B2B marketplace. Image Credits: Pandas

Here’s how it works: Businesses order products via the Pandas marketplace, touting lower pricing, in which the business can make purchases in a few clicks. Pandas takes it from there, offering one-day-delivery and customer support.

Esterli explained that people in Latin America have been using smartphones for their personal finances and other tasks, but that has not translated as quickly to the business side.

“A lot of customers told us Alibaba was something they wanted to use, but that it was very complicated to figure out,” he added. “We wanted to build an easy solution that was super intuitive because business owners don’t have that time to spend.”

Initially providing basic electronics products — think headphones, accessories and cables — and with a new round of funding, $5.8 million pre-seed, Pandas will move into categories like textiles and home accessories. The company touts the pre-seed investment as “the largest pre-seed financial in Spanish-speaking LatAm to date.”

Third Kind Venture Capital led the round and was joined by Acequia Capital, Picus Capital, Tekton Ventures, Partech, Liquid2 Ventures, Clocktower Technology Ventures, Gaingels and a host of individual investors, including Tul’s Juan Carlos Narvaez, Jose Jair Bonilla from Chiper, Treinta’s Man Hei and Lluís Cañadell, Pablo Viguera from Belvo, Nowports’ Alfonso de los Rios, Sujay Tyle from Merama and Ironhack’s Gonzalo Manrique.

So far in its young journey, the company is growing 100% month over month and has amassed a supplier network of about 300 out of 5,000 in China, Xin said.

In addition to moving into those new inventory categories, the new capital will enable Pandas to scale its operations, technology and product development and make new hires.

Xin expects to be in most of the main markets across Latin America in the next three years. In the meantime, new features coming down the pipeline in the next 12 months include a suite of fintech and analytics tools like financing.

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Monkeypox cases are rising. Should we be worried?

The World Health Organization has said the current outbreak of monkeypox is the largest ever recorded outside sub-Saharan
The post Monkeypox cases are…

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The World Health Organization has said the current outbreak of monkeypox is the largest ever recorded outside sub-Saharan Africa, with cases rising above the 100-mark a few days ago and the UK top of the table with 56 as of yesterday.

Top of the list of concerns is how the virus – which does not spread easily between humans and requires skin-to-skin contact – is spreading so quickly in so many countries in Europe, the Americas and Australia where the disease is not endemic.

There is speculation that monkeypox may be being spread between sexual partners, even though it is not normally considered a sexually-transmitted infection. Thankfully, there have been no deaths reported so far, although the WHO notes monkeypox has a fatality rate of between 3% and 6%.

While health authorities are on alert, the WHO said it thinks the outbreak can be contained and that the overall risk to the population remains low. It also stressed there is no evidence that a viral mutation is responsible for the unusual pattern of infections.

Monkeypox is considered less likely to mutate quickly because it is a DNA virus rather than an RNA virus like influenza or COVID-19.

Several countries including Belgium and the UK are already advising a three-week quarantine period for anyone who contracts the virus and their close contacts.

The increasing case numbers in the current monkeypox outbreak are certainly concerning,” commented Dr Charlotte Hammer, an expert in emerging infectious diseases based at the University of Cambridge in the UK.

“It is very unusual to see community transmission in Europe – previous monkeypox cases have been in returning travellers with limited ongoing spread. However, based on the number of cases that were already discovered across Europe and the UK in the previous days, it is not unexpected that additional cases are now being and will be found, especially with the contact tracing that is now happening.”

Vaccines and drugs are available

Meanwhile, attention is now being turned to other measures to control the outbreak, including the use of vaccines against smallpox – a related virus – in a ‘ring vaccination’ approach designed to control the spread among contacts.

Vaccines used during the smallpox eradication programme can provide around 85% protection against monkeypox, according to the WHO, which notes that one newer vaccine – Bavarian Nordic’s Jyneos – has been approved by the FDA for prevention against both viruses.

There’s also a licensed antiviral drug for monkeypox. SIGA Technologies’ oral drug Tpoxx (tecovirimat) is approved for smallpox, monkeypox and cowpox in Europe, and in the US and Canada for smallpox, although it can be used off-label for the other disease. The US FDA also approved a new intravenous form of the drug last week.

The WHO says there is no need for widespread vaccination, as other control measures like isolation of patients should be enough to curb the spread and in any case supplies of vaccines are limited.

Monkeypox causes symptoms similar to but milder than smallpox, typically beginning with fever, headache, muscle aches and exhaustion. It is transmitted to people from various wild animals, such as rodents and primates, and is usually a self-limited disease with symptoms lasting from two to four weeks.

In 2003, the US experienced an outbreak of monkeypox, which was the first time human monkeypox was reported outside of Africa. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is making some Jyneos vaccine reserves available for close contact inoculations, including healthcare workers tending to patients.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said yesterday it had identified 36 additional cases of monkeypox in England, and that vaccination of high-risk contacts of cases is already underway.

“A notable proportion of recent cases in the UK and Europe have been found in gay and bisexual men so we are particularly encouraging these men to be alert to the symptoms,” said the agency’s chief medical advisor Dr Susan Hopkins.

“Because the virus spreads through close contact, we are urging everyone to be aware of any unusual rashes or lesions and to contact a sexual health service if they have any symptoms.”

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UK’s Johnson Urges Talks As Unions Threaten “Biggest Rail Strike In Modern History”

UK’s Johnson Urges Talks As Unions Threaten "Biggest Rail Strike In Modern History"

Authored by Alexander Zhang via The Epoch Times,

British…

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UK's Johnson Urges Talks As Unions Threaten "Biggest Rail Strike In Modern History"

Authored by Alexander Zhang via The Epoch Times,

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged rail unions to talk to the government before causing “irreparable damage” with strike action.

The National Union of Rail, Maritime, and Transport Workers (RMT) is holding a ballot of its 40,000 members on plans to strike over jobs, pay, and conditions. The ballot is set to close on Tuesday, and the union has claimed that a yes vote could lead to “the biggest rail strike in modern history.”

Another union, the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA), has also warned of a “summer of discontent” with similar action on the way unless pay disputes are resolved.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said on Monday:

“Railways are going through difficult times with passenger numbers down. We need to make sure they’re fit for the future.”

He said the government wants “a fair deal for staff, for passengers, and taxpayers” so that “money isn’t taken away from other essential services” such as the National Health Service.

“The prime minister is firmly of the view that unions should talk to the government before causing irreparable damage to our railways—strikes should be the last resort not the first,” he added.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told The Sunday Telegraph that ministers are looking at drawing up laws which would make industrial action illegal unless a certain number of staff are working.

Shapps said the government hopes the unions will “wake up and smell the coffee” and suggested that strikes could put more people off rail travel.

He also accused unions of going straight to industrial action rather than using it as a last resort, adding that railways were already on “financial life support” because of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.

Referring to a pledge in the Conservative Party’s 2019 election manifesto, which promised minimum services during rail strikes, he said:

“We had a pledge in there about minimum service levels. If they really got to that point then minimum service levels would be a way to work towards protecting those freight routes and those sorts of things.”

Unions have reacted to the threat with anger.

RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said, “Any attempt by Grant Shapps to make effective strike action illegal on the railways will be met with the fiercest resistance from RMT and the wider trade union movement.”

He said the government needs to “focus all their efforts on finding a just settlement” to the rail dispute rather than “attack the democratic rights of working people.”

Tyler Durden Tue, 05/24/2022 - 02:00

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