24/11/2022 (Thursday) 13:00-14:00 E21B-G002

Rethinking Chinese Popular Feminism Through Sisters Who Make Waves


The reality TV sensation Sisters Who Make Waves has recently garnered public attention in China, receiving many critical comments and sparking debates about middle-aged women. This talk focuses on the role of tears in configuring Chinese popular feminism and its contradictions. It explores how the show addresses the theme of female empowerment and examines how the contestants’ enactment of tears creates public visibility through which to consider Chinese popular feminism’s political implications regarding middle-aged women’s status and identity. The tears in the girl group survival show register the paradox of contemporary Chinese female imagination. On the one hand, they reproduce the female stereotypes that sustain Chinese patriarchy; on the other hand, the enactment of tears contests such perceptions and expresses the desire for female empowerment. It suggests that popular Chinese feminism is a double-edged sword, reinforcing gendered neoliberalism while revealing its emotional consequences. The unhappiness women experience and the sisterhood they formulate constitute complex emotional struggles. The contestants’ narratives of personal redemption illuminate complicity with the status quo while exposing the achievement subject’s emotional disturbance. Such ambivalence creates a space for exercising female agency and produces visibility for the failure and frustration encountered by contemporary Chinese women.


Wei Shi is an Associate Professor of Communication at the University of Macau. She received her PhD from Goldsmith, University of London. Her research interests are Media and Cultural Studies and Emotion Studies. Her publications include Wandering in China’s Las Vegas: Migrant Workers in Macau (City University of Hong Kong Press),and her articles appear in Taiwan: A Radical Quarterly in Social Studies, Router: A Journal of Cultural Studies, Social Movement Studies, Journal of Youth Studies, Chinese Journal of Communication, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies and Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies.