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Internet New Battleground for Gender Equality
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Over one hundred women from the writing and publishing industry from both sides of the Taiwan Straits as well as Hong Kong and Macao attended the Forum on Women’s Reading and Images on Tuesday, one of the four parallel forums of the Third Cross-Straits Women’s Development Seminar held in Beijing on September 19-20.


Most participants contended that the Internet plays a strong role in promoting women’s social status while some warned that traditional reading habits are at risk with the rise of the Internet.


Liu Xiao, project manager of Taiwan Bokelai Online Bookstore, said that the Taiwanese female netizen population has grown rapidly in recent years. The emergence of blogs has kickstarted women’s enthusiasm for the Internet. Women’s dominant position online has been gradually increasing, due to the absence of any gender discrimination on the web.


Liang Xiaosheng, a prominent writer in the mainland and professor with the Beijing Language and Culture University, took part in the discussion as the only male speaker. He stated that the Internet helps women to better themselves, largely enhances their participation in various social and worldwide topics, and allows for an unprecedented capacity of self-expression. Women can fully present themselves through the Internet, communicating via an unparalleled method beyond geography, Liang said.


Wang Baozhen from the Chinese Department of Taiwan University also emphasized the importance of reading for women, saying that is a kind of investment in fostering a woman’s inherent beauty. However, she appreciates the Internet writing and regarded the Internet as a necessary tool in daily life. She advocated that all the women should enhance the ability in surfing the Internet.


When answering a question raised by the Taiwanese publisher and chief editor of Global Views Monthly, Wang Lixing, stating that easy and equal Internet access can affect the relations between the two sexes, Liang Xiaosheng said, “In the past, women observe themselves in mirror and man observe themselves from women’s eyes. Some secrets and privities should be sustained between the two genders, which can make men show reserve and respect towards women. The Internet lets theses secrets and privities open at an early time, harmful to the shaping of human nature.


“Additionally, what is my personal view is that young girl holding a book and reading, mother nursing, and old lady being deep in thought are the most beautiful moments. Men can be easily carried away by these postures of women. But, women hanging about in the Internet all day will age earlier and read even less books.”


Liang’s misogynistic opinion was strongly refuted by Huang Lin, chief editor of an academic publication The Chinese Feminism. Huang said the Internet is just a tool and women can operate it skillfully but not losing themselves in it. “That means we are in an era of intelligence, in which nothing is comparable to the Internet which offers such an equal space shared by men and women.


“I agree what the renowned writer Chen Ran has said – the woman who is using a PC is the most beautiful.”


(China.org.cn by Zhang Tingting, September 21, 2006)

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