On March 8 each year, many people worldwide observe International Women’s Day to highlight women’s achievements and contributions to our fair (albeit often misguided) species. Yet, in recent years, retailers in China have found different ways to celebrate, with some relabeling the date as ‘Goddess Day’ (女神节) or ‘Queen’s Day’ (女王节) and using the monikers to promote their products on the nation’s ecommerce platforms, such as Taobao and JD.
While many happily celebrate ‘Goddess Day,’ the renaming has sparked debate in China, with some arguing it obscures the historical significance of International Women’s Day.
“International Women’s Day is not ‘Goddess Day’ or ‘Girl’s Day,’” a netizen posted. “The holiday is about feminism: It is a holiday that calls for more opportunities, freedom, and respect for women,” the post continues.
Similarly, many believe that giving International Women’s Day a different name is a tactic used by retailers to promote consumerism.
“These sellers keep calling the holiday ‘Queen’s Day’ and ‘Goddess Day’ because they are trying to get you to spend money instead of celebrating the progress made in gender equality,” wrote another user.
Others believe that the name change is because some don’t want to associate the day with the potentially negative connotation of the Chinese translation of ‘women’ — fu nü (妇女).
Although ‘fu nü’ refers to women who are above the age of 14, per definition in China, Shen Yifei, a sociology professor at Fudan University, says in a video that “‘fu nü’ is frequently associated with middle-aged women, moms, and the women who have age written on their faces.”
She continues: “But when we refuse to be called ‘fu nü,’ we, in fact, are invalidating a group of women’s life experiences. Behind this, there are bias and discrimination against these women.”
Never to be outdone in the quest to promote rampant consumption of their products, Western brands also seek to capitalize on the holiday’s rebranding in China. British luxury retail platform Farfetch has updated its app icon on Apple’s Chinese app store by adding the Chinese characters for ‘3.8 Queen’s Day’ under its logo.
Similarly, Italian luxury fashion brand Armani advertised its perfume as part of a ‘Queen’s Day’ promotion.
While corporations have been using terms like ‘Queen’s Day’ for at least half a decade, the pushback against the name change has been particularly notable this year, with the hashtag ‘You don’t have to call us goddess or queen today’ (#今天不必称呼女神女王#) racking up more than 450 million views on Weibo at the time of writing.
In addition, an unofficial ‘Girl’s Day’ (女生节) celebrated on March 7 was created as a variant of International Women’s Day, and the holiday is so popular that its related hashtag has accumulated more than 1.9 billion views.
Last Women’s Day, a video challenging gender stereotypes went viral in China. The latest pushback against the renaming of International Women’s Day is yet another example of Chinese people’s growing awareness of the power of language in shaping perceptions of gender.
Cover image via Wikimedia
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