In China, many are self-conscious when it comes to speaking up about sex and consent owing to the country’s overall sex-shy culture. Similarly, period shame causes many to tiptoe around the topic of menstruation, let alone openly discuss it online. But not Alex Chang.
Known as @Alex绝对是个妞儿 on Weibo, where she has more than 1 million followers, the feminist influencer frequently uses her social media platforms to raise awareness of women’s issues in China. For example, she has made videos related to reproductive freedom, sexual harassment, and women’s professional development.
Recently, she released a new series titled International Menstrual Report, which covers global news related to gender equality and female representation.
“Although there are things that we can’t talk about, I still believe we can talk about lots of other topics,” writes Chang on Weibo. “We can see small changes are happening in other countries and different industries.”
While RADII recently gave Chang’s series a shoutout, here’s properly introducing our readers to the vocal women’s rights activist and content creator who is pushing for greater gender equality in China.
Born and raised in Beijing, Chang studied journalism at Fudan University in Shanghai. Even in her teens, she considered herself open-minded regarding sex and sexuality and shares that her father took it upon himself to impart sex education in their household. In middle school, she enjoyed watching the hit American TV series Sex and the City.
“I just think girls shouldn’t feel the need to be bound by the concept of virginity,” Chang tells RADII. “I don’t think having sex or sexual partners should be a big deal for girls.”
While exploring the gendered aspect of sex, she became aware of the inequalities between men and women.
She points out, “If women don’t have any proper sex education, they are more likely to be put at a disadvantage because they can get pregnant accidentally, be called a ‘slut,’ or catch HPV.”
Chang considers her husband, Cai, a big influence on her view of gender equality. He frequently introduced feminist concepts to her before she truly understood what being a feminist meant.
During her journey of discovery about feminism, the influencer makes it a point to share what she deems important and create videos around specific themes.
In August 2019, she launched her first video series, Absolutely a Girl. The first episode, which saw her speaking with three straight males about the word ‘consent,’ made waves on Weibo and has accumulated more than 3.2 million views.
“I had wanted to approach the topic for a long time. I want to tell girls that you can say ‘no.’ And you can say ‘no’ at any time, in any place,” Chang tells RADII. “Girls often feel that we already said ‘no,’ but their partners don’t seem to understand it.”
She continues, “I found that the three men I interviewed have lots of ways to interpret ‘yes,’ but have a narrow definition for ‘no.’”
The success of the video is what galvanized the aspiring influencer into believing she could make a difference and a name for herself.
After graduating from college, Chang worked on the PR team of a mobile phone company. However, she was fired and told by her supervisor that “she wasn’t a good fit for the company’s style.”
Chang was incensed as she felt she was treated unfairly: “I already improved my performance based on the company’s feedback. But why was I still fired?”
Her husband encouraged her to use legal means to protect herself, and Chang decided to sue the company. Eventually, she was compensated for wrongful termination. This event marked the first time she stood up for herself after being mistreated and emerged the victor.
Something shifted inside Chang after the incident. The fighter in her now uses her social media platforms to address rights and women’s issues. Besides consent, her videos touch on topics such as body image.
As demonstrated by her partnership with American-Canadian athletic apparel retailer Lululemon, Chang is something of a gym guru. After learning that her friend Amber Zhang’s New Year resolution was to learn a new sport, she invited Zhang, a self-identifying ‘chubby girl,’ to the gym. This invitation birthed a mini-documentary starring the duo.
“People can really relate to Zhang’s story,” says Chang. “She just started to work out and is not traditionally considered a ‘skinny girl.’ Many think that the gym is only for those who look fit, but that is problematic.”
Chang continues, “Take a look at sports ads. All the models look fantastic — like they have been working out for years. People who have just started to work out won’t feel like they belong in the gym.”
The video depicts Zhang experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions while lifting weights in the gym and trying to fit into activewear.
Chang learned something new about herself by vlogging Zhang’s story and confesses, “I didn’t really put myself in her shoes. I need to remind myself more that I don’t know what others are feeling.”
Since giving birth to her son in 2020, Chang has shared her experience of raising a newborn online. The influencer shows her vulnerable side while navigating her new role as a mom in the public eye.
Since going widely public, Chang has addressed a slew of topics that many in China avoid. She’s even added taboo or uncomfortable words to her vocabulary. She used to feel shy about saying certain words on camera, including ‘vagina,’ but has overcome her initial hesitation.
Nonetheless, being vulnerable online can incur unwelcome comments. Some have made condescending remarks on her mothering skills. Nevertheless, Chang shares her stories because she wants to be understood, not lectured.
On the flip side, Chang also receives a cascade of heartwarming comments from her followers. After coming public about her miscarriage in 2018, she received a genuine message that helped her heal.
“That message really made me feel understood and validated. It made me understand that my sadness was okay,” she shares.
Since entering the public sphere as an influencer three years ago, Chang feels that she has grown as a person. She references one of her videos in which she shares a deep conversation with her father. Prior to that, the father and daughter lacked communication.
“Making videos forces me to face the challenges in my life,” she says.
What keeps her busy these days is working on her new series International Menstrual Report. The process reminds her to stay informed beyond the Great Firewall.
“I hope through creating this series, I can also actively look outside of China and learn what’s happening in other countries,” says Chang.
As for what she hopes to achieve with her videos, “I don’t have a clear goal in mind,” she admits.
“But I am sure I need to continue doing what I am doing.”
Cover image via Weibo