The Problem with “Feminism”

Translating Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists – by Barclay Bram

We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TEDx-talk-turned-book, has been translated into Chinese. Released by the People’s Cultural Publishing House in June, the 84-page book closely follows the original’s format aside from one glaring change: the word “feminist” has been dropped from the title.

The book’s pale blue cover has in large text the English title We Should All Be Feminists, but the Chinese has been translated down to the more innocuous The Rights of Women. Why the inconsistency?

Feminism is an increasingly problematic term in China. While the Chinese Communist Party is proud of its record for overturning many of the patriarchal structures that had oppressed Chinese women for centuries – proclaiming that “women can hold up half the sky” – in recent years there have been high-profile crackdowns on feminist activists and feminist websites. In 2015 five feminists were detained just before International Women’s Day for trying to put together a campaign against sexual harassment. Earlier this year the Feminist Voices Weibo account, an influential microblog for the women’s movement in China, was forced offline for 30 days for posting content that was anti-Trump and that implored women to join in an international women’s strike.