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Internet Doodles as a Gauge of Women's Status in China Today

Baidu's and Google's doodles on March 8. Screenshots.

Baidu's and Google's doodles on March 8. Screenshots.

Women hold up half the sky,” said an image from China's Communist Revolution in 1949, celebrating the liberation of women from the feudal system. And how are women treated in China today? It's hard to answer objectively, but a look at the doodle on Baidu, the country's biggest Internet search engine, for International Women's Day on March 8 gives some indication: a doll inside a music box.

Baidu's doodle offered quite a contrast from the Women's Day artwork at Google. One famous Chinese blogger, who writes under the name “Pretending in New York,” addressed the difference:

平心而论,谷歌的图也算不上有多优秀,只是刚好政治正确而已,但是这样原本没有什么好说的政治正确,一和百度的图比起来,就显得很可贵了。

To be fair, Google's doodle is not really brilliant, it's just politically correct. But such mundane political correctness, when compared with Baidu's doodle, is very precious.

Highlighting some of the comments from Weibo and WeChat in a blog post, the blogger explained why China could use more political correctness:

@鲸书

高下立判。
百度的图,把女性当成柔弱、可爱,需要被保护的小女孩;
谷歌的图,尊重女性职业、年龄、生活状态等的多样性。

It's so easy to tell which is better.
In Baidu's doodle, the woman is a fragile and adorable girl who needs to be protected.
In Google's doodle, it shows respect for women with different occupations, ages, and lives.

@lilyzoo
百度的图是个装在漂亮盒子里的玩具,连人都不是。

@lilyzoo
Baidu's doodle is a doll in a beautiful box, it's not even a human.

@匿名用户
苹果给系统加了几百个各色人种、性向的表情;谷歌为所有职业、所有年龄的女人一起庆祝节日,百度还在把女孩装在盒子里,漂漂亮亮结婚生子,任人赏玩。

@anonymous user
Apple adds a few hundred emotional icons for people with different colors and sexual orientation in its system; Google celebrates the festival with women with different occupations and ages; and Baidu puts girl in a box. She just needs to stay pretty, get married, give birth, and let others look at her.

@acel rovsion

某些互联网商在性别观念上显得相当愚昧,所以在性别表现上倾向了父权社会的刻板印象,甚至是某种矮化,用消费主义论调包装了一个男性中心话语视角下的空壳形象[…]完全忽视了女性本身的主体性。当然,这么做的原因,是因为大量相关的电商广告和节日活动的消费。

@acel rovsion
Some Internet companies are very backward in their perception of gender. That's why their representations of gender are full of the stereotypes of a patriarch society. Some even devalue women by wrapping them in empty images under man's gaze for his consumption. […] women's subjectivities are neglected. Of course, they do this to serve the needs of e-commercials and holiday consumerism.

@金子

为什么我作为一个女性会感到反感呢?嗯,因为我并不想当一个“公主”啊。我对音乐盒、珠宝、儿童玩具通通没兴趣,我只想做个独立自主的普通女性罢了[…]百度已经不是第一次在伤我的心了。我记得在上初中时上网查找资料,才在搜索框中打出“怎样”两个字,下拉栏中自动显示出一些内容,其中排名第一(抑或是是第二)显示的是“怎样生儿子”。知道那时一个13、4岁的女孩子心中是怎样的心情吗?不开心,真的很不开心。

@Jingzi
Why do I feel offended as a woman? Because I don't want to be a “princess.” I'm not interested in music boxes, jewels, or toys. I just want to be an ordinary independent woman. […] This is not the first time Baidu has insulted me. I still remember using the website once, when I was a junior in high school. When I typed “how to” in the search engine, the automatically suggested search was “how to give birth.” Do you know how that affects a 13- or 14-year-old girl? I felt so bad, really bad.

@Dora Chen

妇女节的意义应该告诉世界人人平等,不是女人需要特别的(尤其是金钱上的)关爱。百度准确地投影了中国社会对于女性“玩物性质”的定义,其实这也无形中增加了男性的负担,比如说“屌丝跪舔女神”,而“女神则倾心于高富帅”。所以说男人们,解放女性,也是解放你们自己啊!

@Dora Chen
International Women's Day is about telling the world that people are born equal, not that women need special (monetary) caring. Baidu reflects how the Chinese society defines women as “toy.” Actually, this definition is also a burden for men. [It reinforces the beliefs] such as the idea that “Diaosi [poor, ordinary looking guys] have to kneel down and lick their goddesses,” and “goddesses only love the best, most handsome, and wealthiest guys.” The liberation of women also sets men free.

“Pretending in New York” highlighted @LinaliHuang's workplace experience, which she shared on WeChat:

和某數一數二的互聯網公司合作,畫婦女節主題圖。畫了各行各業高矮胖瘦的女性,大家都笑得很開心。文案大概是「做你喜歡的自己」。前期審稿團隊基本是女性,過得特別順利,最後關頭被大老板腰斬,換上一張小女人在花叢中喝荼的圖,文案是你值得呵護。右圖是剛看到的今日 Google,我覺得很悲哀。

Worked with a big Internet company on the thematic image of the Women's Day. The drawing included women with different body sizes in different occupations. The team enjoyed the process and was very happy about the outcome. The image's caption was “Be yourself.” Most team members were women and everything went very smoothly initially. But the boss rejected the idea and changed the image to one of a little woman drinking tea in a garden. The new caption says, “You deserve special care.” I saw Google's today, and I just feel sad.

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