#12 Gender and Power 2

Parallel sessions on Saturday 26.11. at 9.00-10.15
Location: Room 8, Metsätalo

Men Qianxing (Nagoya University) – Women's language in cyberspace - A case study of Chinese feminism discourse on the social networking platform

My research aims to share an observation on how Chinese feminists take advantage of the characteristics of the Chinese language to develop their expressions to provoke opinions and attitudes on gender issues under the strict censorship and reporting system of social networking platforms in China. In recent years, more and more Chinese females have chosen to speak for themselves on social media platforms. Still, their statements are often censored by the platform's system or reported by other users for deletion, usually resulting in account bans. On the other hand, feminists have started to consciously refrain from using traditional swear words in Chinese, in which women are always the target of insults. Therefore, they reject common languages but created a series of coded words (mostly nouns) designed to counter the authority from speech control and traditional patriarchal discourse.

First, I will explain how feminists have transformed the Chinese language through concrete examples. Since online platforms limit censorship of user comments to written words and not to phonetic sounds or spelling of pinyin or emoji. Feminists take advantage of this gap by substituting homophones, splitting Chinese characters, and using pinyin or pinyin initial or emoji for the content they want to express to avoid or counteract censorship. Next, I will discuss the significance of these coded words. Most importantly, unlike other anti-languages, feminists did not create these words to construct a language that could only be recognized within the community, but rather to counter censorship and express attitudes. In addition, feminists can gain a sense of identity by using these words. Many subcultural communities have created Internet phrases that circulate among the general public, but because the coded words created by feminists contain too explicit a political slant, they are rarely circulated in general.

Amir Barjasteh (Tampere University) – Authoritarian governmentality: Justification of dividing practices in two opposite policies of women’s attire in Iran’s pre- and post-revolution 1979  

The study asks how authoritarian practices are constituted in Iran’s modern history. To do that, it investigates two seemingly opposite policies on women’s attire. Those authoritarian policies are “banning all veils” in 1936 during the Pahlavi era, and “mandatory hijab (Islamic veiling)” in 1982 during the Islamic republic period.  The elimination of freedom in new authoritarianism is not merely tantamount to an infringement of rights (Opitz, 2010). But they often come from the very attempt to model governmental interventions on the imagined values and interests that justify dividing practices (Dean, 2009). Following governmentality scholarship, the study addresses positive means through which actors govern people’s conduct and justify authoritarian practices. Employing securitization theory (Buzan et al., 1998), the study points out that invocations of national security can promote the implementation of novel measures of governmental intervention. The study uses Foucauldian discourse analysis as elaborated in the approach to Epistemic governance (Alasuutari & Qadir, 2019) on the leaders’ and activists’ talks and editorials published in press media.

The results reveal how national interests were framed, and dangerous subjects to those interests were constructed. In 1936, 'progress' was introduced as the primary interest of the nation, then veiling was represented as its existential threat. In the 1980s, also, authoritarian actors constructed unveiling as the dangerous subject against the revolutionary nation that needs to be excluded. Such speech acts turned regular affairs of women’s clothing into security concerns and justified the extraordinary measures. Hence authoritarian practices were governed epistemically, and disciplinary policies on women’s attire were enacted in both cases. The study highlights the subtle techniques of governance used in new forms of authoritarianism.