Three Hong Kong academics challenge sexist attitudes with gender justice platform

(Left to right) Academics Petula Ho, Pamela Tsui, and Minnie Li, who have established Gender and Sexual Justice in Action.
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

A new platform, recently established by three female academics, vows to be a radar to expose gender injustice that otherwise might go unnoticed in Hong Kong, where patriarchal culture still prevails.

One of the latest campaigns by Gender and Sexual Justice in Action - launched by sociology lecturer Dr Minnie Li Ming, gender studies scholar Professor Petula Ho Sik-ying and her colleague Pamela Tsui Pui-kwan - was to demand Ikea Hong Kong takes down its promotion of a tofu ice-cream product, the tagline of which was said to have normalised sexual harassment.

The tagline - which translated as "you can eat my tofu whenever you like" - contains Chinese slang for groping someone or taking advantage of women. The three academics wrote to the Swedish furniture company and the chairman of the city's equality watchdog last month to express their discontent.

"We hope [our group] might be like a microscope that examines and detects gender injustice in all settings," said Li, of Education University.

The three academics wrote to Ikea Hong Kong demanding they take down an advertisement with a tagline which they said normalised sexual harassment. 
Photo: Facebook 

Li, who was also one of the city's leading campaigners for the #MeToo movement, came under the spotlight last year after she detailed the sexual harassment she endured in her church over the course of seven years. She lamented that the victims in the scenario were reluctant to speak up as they were often accused by their peers of sabotaging the church.

The new group has been encouraging victims to speak up, providing them with help and demanding churches establish a more open mechanism to handle such complaints.

Although the Chinese abbreviation of Gender and Sexual Justice in Action sounds exactly like Sheng Kung Hui, the local Anglican group, the trio said their focus goes well beyond the church, and even the #MeToo movement.

Minnie Li was also one of Hong Kong’s leading campaigners for the #MeToo movement.
Photo: AFP 

"There are not enough resources countering the patriarchy in Hong Kong," said Ho, of the University of Hong Kong. "We want to make them not only available, but accessible."

Tsui said members of the public, or victims of harassment, tend not to know where to look for information related to gender justice, and so the three have made full use of their social media platform to respond swiftly to related issues through appearances on talk shows and written articles.

The academics also hoped to fill in the gaps in services provided by existing women's groups, which usually focused on women's rights but not gender, or sexual, injustice.

"The existing groups often emphasise how women could be given a lift up in certain aspects, instead of questioning why women might need such help in the first place," Li said, adding that men should also shoulder family responsibilities.

"We want to take a step back … and challenge some beliefs or ways of doing things that people take for granted."

This article was first published in South China Morning Post

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