In the northern Chinese city of Fushun, city officials recently closed an institution that was training young women in obedience. The Fushun School of Traditional Culture claimed that it taught “traditional values” but was ultimately closed down for demoralizing and shaming its students.
The institution, which opened in 2011, is among many that exist in rural parts of China. Its core messages were that women should not obtain any sort of career and should strive to say at the bottom level of society, women should unconditionally obey their fathers, husbands and sons, women should not fight back when being beaten or argue when being scolded, and women are not to have sex with more than three men in fear of catching a disease and dying.
A video from within the institution went viral after it was posted on the news website Pear Video. It showed teachers giving advice such as to never divorce and always reply “Yes, right away,” to the demands of any male. It also captured young girls cleaning floors and toilets with their bare hands.
The whole country was enraged when they learned of these institutions, which was the catalyst behind the swift closing of the Fushun School.
“The institution’s teachings went against social morality,” said Fushun’s education bureau in an official statement. “We must stop any phenomenon that violates the socialist core value.”
Some of the students that once attended the school spoke to BBC about their experiences there. 17-year-old ‘Jing’ was forced to attend the school by her mother who sent her there for being “naughty” when she was only 13 years old. Jing’s mother hoped that the school would teach Jing discipline, which she found more important than a formal education, having no education herself.
Jing’s curriculum, which can reflect on the curriculum of other students at the school, ranged from reciting ancient doctrines, to hands-on training for domestic chores, to psychotherapy-style group sharing sessions. Jing recalls having to clean toilets with her bare hands but says her worst memory from the institution was having to watch videos of “cured” women.
“[The women in the videos] claimed they had sex with more than one man and because of that they had festering sores all over their body, but they were all miraculously cured after they learned ‘traditional virtues’ and became good women,” said Jing. “The seven-day training camp was no place for a normal person. I couldn’t stand its brainwashing any longer. So on the fourth night, I climbed over the iron fence and ran away.”
These “female virtues” used to be a code of conduct for women in China, but it has been a long time since these ideals have been accepted by society. The rules taught by the Fushun School of Traditional Culture, and the other institutions that abide by the same values, are enslaving and suppressing women in China. They are actively reversing progress toward gender equality in rural China and all of these institutions need to be eradicated.
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