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Betraying Big Brother: The Feminist Awakening in China

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  654 ratings  ·  110 reviews
How the Feminist Five and the rise of China's feminist movement threatens China's authoritarian government

On the eve of International Women’s Day in 2015, the Chinese government arrested five feminist activists and jailed them for 37 days. The Feminist Five became a global cause célèbre, with Hillary Clinton speaking out on their behalf, and activists inundating social med
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published September 25th 2018 by Verso
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Average rating 4.22  · 
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Soraya Chemaly
Nov 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Betraying Big Brother is an essential read for anyone interested in women's rights democracy, politics and the global resurgence of women's activism. The cross-currents of change in China documented by Leta Hong Fincher here are important to understand in almost any context. So grateful for this book! ...more
Joseph L. Reid
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sinology, academic
(Originally a twitter thread).
The horrors that people go through for just a glimmer of hope. The laughter that can still be found amongst the terror.

It's a great book. Let's dig in:

1. The first focus of this book is on the Feminist Five who were arrested and imprisoned in 2015. Dr. Hong Fincher excels here in putting their stories at the forefront of this book, carefully weaving their experiences with the wider national & international context of the time.

2. The second chapter is a brilliant ent
May 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminism
Such a phenomenal review of feminism in one of the most controlled nations in the world.

Will write a longer review later once I can adequately describe how brilliant and heroic the Feminist Five are and the memorizing details masterfully cared for by the author Hong Fincher.

Looking forward to discussing this with the OSS Group
Jul 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The feminist movement in China feels like such a small drop in the ocean. Like a tiny flame that gets tamped down by the patriarchal authority before it ever has a chance to catch.

What this book does exceptionally well is illustrate how hard it is to be a feminist in China; not just because of the political climate, but because of strict online censorship and aggressive methods employed by law enforcement to intimidate and ultimately suppress any social unrest.

Social media accounts are quickly
Jun 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
A short but compelling look at contemporary feminist activism in China, focusing on the so-called "Feminist Five": a group of young women arrested and mistreated for protesting against sexual harassment on public transport. Their treatment is emblematic of the Chinese government's increasing repression of feminists—and indeed women more generally—in recent years. Leta Hong Fincher makes a strong case that this repression is tied to the government's attempt to shore up its own power base. The sub ...more
Apr 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Leta Hong Fincher is now one of my favorite researchers and writers. I’ve had this book on my to read list the moment I heard she is writing a new book and it was worth the wait. If you haven’t read any of her books I would recommend starting with her first book Leftover Woman.

This book sheds light on The Feminist Five and their feminist movement in China. I’m sad to say that I have not heard of them until I read this book nor did I hear of how they basically shook the government. I recall readi
Michael Forsythe
Oct 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Betraying Big Brother" by Dr. Leta Hong Fincher is deeply researched, extremely easy to read and addresses a topic of staggering importance: the rise of a vibrant rights movement in the world's most powerful authoritarian state: China. Dr. Hong Fincher draws on extensive interviews with women across China, from Beijing in the north to Guangzhou in the south, to paint a portrait of a burgeoning movement that is succeeding despite frequent crackdowns by the state. The core of the book is a grippi ...more
Jun 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A pretty harrowing read for the times. Shows how hard it is to keep a movement going with such a strong amount of watching, censorship, and government suppression of ideas. Seeing what's going on in America right now, it kind of feels like looking into our future and not in a good way. ...more
Frank Ashe
Aug 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An important book. You must read this to help understand China
Sam (she_who_reads_)
Oct 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
I find it so hard to review non-fiction, but let’s give it a go! I learnt a whole lot from this book- honestly at some points I was just floored by how unbelievable the situation is for women in China right now. This was also quite a short, fast read which would be good for anyone interested in learning more, but are intimidated by non-fiction books- it read more like an extended article. On the flip side, I wish the author had spent some more time giving us these women’s backstory and doing a b ...more
Jenny Whitaker
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: china, 2019-book-club
This was a page turner and eye opener for me. It was well organized/written and timely.
Anita Fajita Pita
The book strongly reminded me of a couple of fiction reads as I read it; Orwell's 1984 and Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Unfortunately this one is a non- fiction, and not the next great fiction read.
I had such a time wrapping my head around the idea that something as simple as protesting sexual harassment would get these women thrown into jail and essentially tortured through interrogation to the point that they suffered severe health collapse issues and aquired ptsd from it. However the focus
Stephen Black
Oct 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Dr. Leta Hong Fincher's book gives a complete picture of the modern-day feminist movement in China, while also putting it in the context of history. It's incredible to learn how gender equality played into the Communist revolution, especially in terms of the labor force, and Dr. Hong Fincher does an expert job of explaining how it was eventually minimized in favor of patriarchal culture and also authoritarianism.

Parts of this book read like a spy novel. It's astonishing and often heartbreaking t
Gail Pellett
Oct 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Leta Hong Finscher reports on the contemporary feminist movement in China whose leaders have been harassed, arrested, sometimes beaten and imprisoned. She places this growing feminist activity within the context of 20th Century Chinese feminism before and after the victory of the Chinese Communist Party and its contradictory approach to women's rights. Hong Finscher draws a clear line between the misogyny, patriarchy and authoritarianism of the Chinese Communist Party and outlines the challenges ...more
Winnie Li
Sep 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Betraying Big Brother is an informative read for readers like me who come from mainland China. I appreciate how this book documents the arrest, the detainment, and the final release of the Feminist Five in great detail. I am not very fond of the writing style of this book as the author quotes a lot from other sources directly.
Nov 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Essential reading on contemporary China that intertwines the state's authoritarianism with the oppression and exploitation of women. Includes harrowing tales of hardship for Chinese feminist activists but also highlights their courage in fighting patriarchy. ...more
Lotus Luo
Sep 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
As I was flipping through the whole book, I found notes on almost every page. It’s difficult to organize my thoughts on this book properly, but I’ll do my best.

I’m tremendously infuriated by the treatment The Feminist Five got when jailed for simply distributing stickers against sexual assaults. I’m one of the many young feminists awakened by internet movements mentioned in the 2nd chapter of this book, and I can’t believe I knew nothing about this. Innocent family members were threatened, reque
Dec 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: asia, china
This was a shocking eye-opener to me about the state of gender relations in modern China. As someone with a great interest in China I was aware of the deep patriarchy which exists in Chinese culture but I had no idea of the specific and intentional ways that Xi's government is systematically denying women access to economic prosperity and personal freedom. The women profiled in this book are inspiring, but the overall message about the state of feminism in China is deeply troubling. She ends the ...more
Fiona Mackie
Jul 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An eye opening read. I had no idea about the Feminist Five or the feminist groups rallying across China. I’m really glad I read it and have learned more.
Jul 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know a lot about China, apart from what I learnt into schools and have picked up from online over the years—I definitely didn't know about the feminist movement there. This is such an incredible insight into what's happening in China. It's introduced me to a number of badass women that I'll be following from now on. ...more
Jul 17, 2020 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book, and the subject matter should form part of worldwide feminist discourse. But I don't feel like this book did enough justice to explaining the patriarchal authoritarianism that Chinese women face.

Throughout, the book felt like an overblown university/high school essay. The sentence 'I argue that...' was used liberally, and there was a tedious overuse of acronyms for various NGOs. The book begins with an account of 'the Feminist Five' and their detainment by Chin
A well-written survey of recent feminist activism in China. The bulk of the book is based on interviews with feminist activists about their activities, but is organised thematically, allowing Fincher to provide context and background. I found the chapters dealing with the increasing state repression under Xi Jinping the most compelling, including changes in policies to encourage marriage and child-rearing (unless, of course, you are Uyghur).
Feb 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 中国, women, politics
Like Hong Fincher’s previous text, I should have loved this, but I found the structure frustrating and lacking a clear logic. The chapters don’t seem to fit together, and individually are encompassing of murky and wide-reaching levels of analysis, figures and stories. It sits somewhere in between suited to a China novice, for whom not enough is explained, and a China veteran, for whom too much is explained and not enough depth is provided. Overall it is an important text about an important event ...more
Feb 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: social-justice
Dang, this book. I knew nothing about the contemporary feminist movement in China, and this was such a clear, accessible, horrifying yet hopeful introduction to the topic.
Mandisa Mpulo
Jan 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A spectacular book!

The book depicts the modern day feminist movement in China, through the personal and political spheres of life. It does a wonderful job of connecting activism throughout the country's history, to its central protagonists, the "Feminist Five" who were arrested in 2015 for subversive acts like protesting against gender-based violence.
The book contextualises various accounts of activism by situating them in China's economic and political transformations. It reads like a diary of
Glen Jennings
Nov 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Dr Leta Hong Fincher's new book is a delight, an inspiration, and an important resource for anyone interested in contemporary China, feminism, and social activism. Betraying Big Brother is based on Hong Fincher's personal interviews with Chinese women, especially "The Feminist Five" who were detained by the Chinese State on the eve of International Women's Day in 2015 for their anti-sexual violence protests. Betraying Big Brother is enriched by Hong Fincher's experience living and studying in Ch ...more
Andrea Worden
Dec 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Betraying Big Brother is a fantastic read about a profoundly important social movement in China, and its transnational reach. Fincher examines the Chinese Communist Party's crackdown on feminist activists through the lens of what she aptly terms "patriarchal authoritarianism," while at the same time highlighting the courageous resistance, camaraderie and humor demonstrated by the activists.

Through interviews with the five famous feminist fighters who were detained for their activism in 2015, kn
Dec 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, feminism
After the 2016 US election, I wrapped myself up in figurative cotton wool. I was finishing grad school and starting a new job and the news hurt, in a physical way. I kept up with current events via a combination of what filtered through from friends and NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me. I went to the Women's March, I got much better about voting in every single election, and I chose a few organizations to regularly donate to. But I don't think I've read a news article since that winter and I know I ...more
Gunit Kaur Kalada
Women empowerment is a powerful cause and we see women everywhere fight for their rights. This book, focuses mainly on what it is like to be born as a woman in China, which has a highly patriarchal society.

I was aware of the gender discrimination problems in China, but this book was still an eye opener for me. I didn't realise how deeply rooted the problem was and how much effort and courage is being put by these activists to fight for their rights.

Hats off to the author for tackling a sensitive
"if sons and daughters are treated equally, raised and educated in the same manner, then the responsibilities assumed by men and women would surely become equal. when that happens, the nouns 'man' and 'woman' would no longer be necessary."

"as a woman, i have no country."

a five stars read. i didn't know anything about feminism in china, so this just hit me like anything. but this is such an important read. especially for anyone even mildly interested in "feminism". this is important. please read
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Leta Hong Fincher is a journalist and scholar who has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian, Dissent Magazine, Ms. Magazine, BBC, and CNN. She is the recipient of the Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi award for her reporting on China. Named by the Telegraph as an "awesome woman to follow" on social media, she lives in New York. Follow her on Twitter @letah ...more

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22 likes · 5 comments
“For Wang Man the most painful part of her experience was being absconded by her friends. Those within her closest circle, whom she mostly knew from development work, and not the feminist community, didn't consider themselves feminists and thought her actions too radical [passing out stickers]. Although they said the government was wrong to detain her, they also believed she bore some responsibility.” 2 likes
“On the inside "everything was black and white, she said. "I knew that I was innocent and done nothing wrong, so I just needed to survive the experience and get out."

Now, in the outside world, she had to face the heartbreak and disappointment of losing the support of so many she had relied on in the past.”
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