This is not the first time that the Chinese comedian, Yang Li, known as the “Queen of Jokes”, has stirred controversy among her Chinese audiences. She is now one of the most famous comedian actresses in the country.
The 29-year-old rose to prominence recently due to her participation in a Chinese TV program called “Rock and Roast”, in which she deals with controversial issues, and is watched by millions of her followers every week.
Yang Li presents the program in a style unfamiliar to many Chinese viewers; It is a stand-up comedy, meaning stand-up comedy.
She attracted a large following, but her joke – which deals with hot topics – did not appeal to everyone, and is now facing the biggest backlash in her career.
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In the episode presented by the young woman last month, she told her fellow comedian during the show her latest new jokes, and he answered her: “Are you testing the patience of men?” .. She replied in a comedic sarcastic way: “Do men have patience at all?” This response sparked a new wave of criticism Against her, as internet users on social media accused her of “hating men”, and at the same time a group that says she defends men’s rights has called on internet users to send a complaint about Yang Li to the country’s media regulator, accusing her of “insulting all men Frequently creating a kind of division between the sexes ”.
But her supporters defend her by saying that male critics are overly sensitive and lack a sense of humor.
There is no doubt that Yang’s jokes have sparked a new controversy in China, where both feminism and stand-up comedy are a relatively new cultural phenomenon in the country.
Do you The Chinese are a laughing people؟
Humor is not absent in Chinese culture, as Xiangsheng – the Chinese comedy – enjoys great popularity, and is usually based on what two comedians make fun of each other to make viewers laugh and entertain them.
But when the audience becomes the target of the joke, as is sometimes the case in some stand-up comedies in the West, the show turns out to be boring and not funny for some Chinese.
“In the West, some stand-up comedy events may revolve around challenging the audience or mocking them, authorities or social norms,” Tony Chu, comedian and owner of the Beijing Comedy Club. But this type of comedy is still viewed by some in China as rude or disrespectful.
Comedians say they hope that these kinds of jokes will be transmitted faster than the virus.
For example, Chu says, one time in his club, a comedian was assaulted by a member of the public for making a joke about Henan residents. But the irony, as Chu explains, “The comedian himself was also from Henan.”
And he adds: “As a result, some comedians tend not to disclose their personal opinions, not only because of cultural red lines, but for fear of repercussions that are often unfortunate.”
Chinese comedians are divided over the controversy surrounding their co-star Yang.
In a post on the Chinese social networking site Weibo, which has gone viral and seen more than 100 million times, Chinese comedian Chi Zi said: “Yang does not perform a real stand-up comedy.”
But the Chinese-American comedian, Jo Wong, said that he supports Yang, because comedy gives an opportunity “for the underprivileged to breathe for themselves and mock those who enjoy privileges in society.”
The deeper issue in this debate is the difficult path of feminism in China.
Although Yang Li has never declared that she is a feminist, her online critics have coined a new phrase to describe her and the tens of thousands of her supporters as “fighting feminists.”
The word “no kuan” in Chinese literally means “women’s rights” or feminism.
Internet users have replaced the word “kwan” which means “rights”, with another word that has the same pronunciation but means “fist”, making it a very offensive term for feminists.
“Feminists are irrational, challenging governments everywhere and then demanding privileges,” Yang, a 23-year-old college student and critic of comedian Yang Lee, told the BBC.
“Gender policies are nothing but Western policies that threaten working class unity, and will lead to hatred against normal men,” said Zhou Yin, a prominent Beijing law professor, on Weibo.
Meanwhile, supporters of Yang Li argue that the backlash proved Yang’s view in many of her jokes, as voices with a female perspective are often suppressed by those who believe that men are more superior than women.
The two sexes are associated with largely purely traditional roles in China, and men and women are subjected to social pressure to perform their assigned roles to the fullest.
Chinese women’s rights activist Xiong Jing says men are also victims of these gender stereotypes.
For example, in a country overflowing with bachelors eligible for marriage, men are expected to own homes and cars as the main breadwinner for the family.
“Many men have to bear a lot of the burden that falls on them, and end up feeling resentful and depressed, but they have to think about what they need to make a fundamental change in society,” she says.
“Feminists in China face unique political and social pressures compared to other countries,” Lu Bin, a prominent Chinese feminist activist, told the BBC.
In 2012, women’s rights activists organized a demonstration against domestic violence and walked out in bloodstained bridal outfits to express the violence against women. In China, “critics under patriarchy have more support from the authorities than their feminist counterparts.”
As feminists challenge entrenched gender stereotypes in the country, the authorities accuse them of “causing unrest in society.” This means that they have become a target of the Chinese government, which has made maintaining social stability among its top priorities.
In 2015, authorities detained five feminist activists for seven weeks for planning to launch a campaign against sexual harassment on public transport.
In 2018, the social media accounts of Feminist Voices – a leading feminist organization in China – were censored after the authorities had closed their accounts several times.
And last December, when a Chinese court heard a high-profile case related to the Me To movement, the state-controlled media did not cover the event.
Amid this silence, some influential accounts published unfounded allegations on the Weibo website claiming that “foreign forces” were behind the controversy.
“Many critics and observers now claim that Chinese feminists are linked to” foreign powers, “says Lu Bin.
The question, “Why are these allegations so effective and valid in convincing the public?”
“Because they repeat what the state says and follow its vision of the issues.”
The Mi Tu movement strengthened women’s rights activists in China.
Such a social background is the reason behind the controversy surrounding comedian Yang Li when she utters a joke about men.
It is not clear whether the authorities have opened an official investigation into the incident or not.
The group’s Weibo account was deleted.
Meanwhile, Yang Li did not make any statements and her team did not respond to the BBC’s request for an interview.
However, Yang Li recently wrote in social media in what appears to be a covert comment on the controversy surrounding her, saying, “This will never end, it is now somewhat difficult to work in this field.”