Student-MadeJan 11, 2021

updated May 1, 2021

Using her voice

Chelsie ’21 tackles a major summer project

Everything started with some simple questions I asked myself: What happened to the #MeToo movement in China? Why do I keep seeing sexual harassment cases on the news and why are sexual abuse and domestic violence widespread in the country? Why hasn’t there been adequate laws passed against sexual harassment?

I started wondering, would anything be different if the #MeToo movement were more exposed to the public, giving women a platform to stand up, talk about their experiences and trauma, and support each other? Thus, during summer vacation in 2020, I started to dig into this issue and initiated a documentary project focusing on the #MeToo movement in China. The name of the documentary is called Talk to Her.

The process of creating the documentary was not easy. In fact, the Chinese government does not offer much support toward equal rights of gender or women’s movements. Through my research on the internet, I came to know about the “Feminist Five,” which is a group of five young Chinese feminists who planned a demonstration against sexual harassment on public transportation and were later arrested by the Chinese government for this demonstration.

I felt angry and depressed when I read about this news, and the unjust treatment of the activists made me determined to expose and advocate in my documentary. I eventually found their social media account — after lots of research — and sent them a long text about myself, introducing my intention and documentary project idea. Maizi Li replied and offered to add me on WeChat, and this was the beginning of me engaging with China's underground women's rights organization.

After creating the documentary, I found a consistent theme: victims are ignored and shamed, and they have virtually no legal rights .... My documentary is my first step in exposing and combating gender-based assaults and encouraging women’s empowerment.

Horizons Media Team

Later, I connected with Xianzi, who gained international attention after reporting that Zhu Jun, a famous anchor on CCTV, molested her. When she went to the police, they said that Zhu Jun was a powerful national figure who couldn't be touched. When Xianzi posted the incident on Weibo, the government deleted her account and all mentions of the incident on the Chinese internet within hours. Xianzi and Zhu Jun’s case marked an important stepping stone in China’s fledging #MeToo movement and showcased the inequality and the deficiency in the protection of women by law. Last but not the least, I contacted Yi Yi, a famous Chinese lawyer who specializes in women’s rights, to be a part of the documentary, in order to provide a view from a judicial level.

Overview of the three main characters:

  • Xianzi — a screenwriter and women's rights advocate. Publicly accused prominent TV host Zhu Jun of sexual assault. Emerged as a hero of China’s fledgling #MeToo movement;
  • Maizi Li — a Chinese campaigner and activist for gender equality, sexual harassment awareness, and sexuality. Known as one of the Feminist Five in China. Detained by police on the eve of International Women's Day for protesting sexual harassment on public transport in 2015;
  • Yi Yi — a famous Chinese lawyer. The founder of the largest marriage and family law firm in China. Specialized in cases of female sexual assault, domestic violence, and women's rights.

Each of the interviewees in the documentary talks about their stories and experiences, examines the current situation of the #MeToo movement in China, seeks space for improvement, and makes a prospect for the future of women rights. I submitted my work to several film festivals, and I’m glad to announce that, so far, I have received the winner at the 22nd season of L’Age d’Or International Arthouse Film Festival. I also won the Eastern Europe International Movie Awards and was selected as the best documentary short film.

After creating the documentary, I found a consistent theme: Victims are ignored and shamed, and they have virtually no legal rights. The imbalance of power between the perpetrator and victim causes most assaults to remain hidden. My documentary is my first step in exposing and combating gender-based assaults and encouraging women’s empowerment. Going forward, I hope to instigate change, and show the next generation of girls that they’re worthy, strong, and deserve equality.