China internet celebrity attacked as bad feminist after giving baby father's surname

PHOTO: Weibo/papi酱

A Chinese internet celebrity famous for her feminist views was subjected to an online Mother's Day attack after it was revealed her newborn son had been given his father's surname.

Jiang Yilei - known online as Papi Sauce - was mocked and lambasted by internet users who accused her of failing to live up to her feminist principles. The attacks began on Sunday when a post by Jiang, in which she said she felt exhausted after becoming a mother, was shared on Weibo, China's popular microblogging site.

Entertainment blogger Enhe-I, who shared Jiang's post, added the comment, "still her son adopts the father's family name" which generated a flood of angry responses online.

"Papi Sauce has previously said she and her husband are independent. They each go to their own parents' home for Spring Festival and she has never visited her parents-in-law's home," one response read.

"She also said she didn't want a child. However, not long afterwards she got pregnant and now her child has the father's surname," another said.

Jiang, 33, shot to fame several years ago for her videos - which have more than 33 million fans on Weibo - in which she comments on social topics in an exaggerated, sarcastic and often self-deprecating way. Many of them depict women as victims of society's gender stereotypes and call on women to be themselves.

She has previously attracted attention for contradicting many of China's family traditions. There was consternation, for example, when Jiang, who married in 2014, said years later that her parents had never met her husband's mother and father - a rare phenomenon in Chinese society. On another occasion she said the most important people in an independent woman's life were, in order, herself, her spouse, her child and her parents.

Jiang did not respond directly to the latest criticism but pinned a video from last year to the top of her Weibo page, in which she insinuated there were people in society who were so picky they were not satisfied with anything others talked about.

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In addition to the abuse, there were other internet users who supported Jiang in the Mother's Day controversy.

"I think she has correct world views. Whether a woman is independent or not, and her kid's surname, is not relevant," one commenter wrote.

Wei Tingting, a feminist and psychologist based in the southern city of Guangzhou, said Jiang's attackers were not feminists at all and described the attack as "internet violence".

"It is not necessary to require people who advocate feminism to be 'feminist' in everything they do," she said. "It is every woman's choice and it should be respected. Denouncing women's choices is against the spirit of feminism."

Huang Lin, a feminist researcher and professor at Capital Normal University in Beijing, said she did not agree with people using feminism to attack others' legal rights but it was exciting to see such a high awareness of feminism among young Chinese.

"Previously, people fought for equal rights in political and economic fields. Naming rights were rarely mentioned in public," she said.

China's marriage law stipulates that children can be given either their father or mother's surname but, in reality, most people follow the traditional practice, going back thousands of years, of following the father's family name. This has been changing in recent years, with more newborns being given their mother's surname.

Yang Xueyan, a professor from the school of public policy and administration at Xian Jiao Tong University, said the shift was because of the country's improving gender equality, caused by the migration of people from the countryside to cities and the consequent loosening of traditional pressures to extend a family's lineage.

The country's universal two-child policy, effective since 2016, had also contributed to the rise in children following their mother's surname, Yang said, with many modern families giving the father's surname to their first child and the mother's surname to their second.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post