Finding purpose: The new feminist initiative empowering Beijing

Although I now currently work in media, gender equality and women’s empowerment work is what initially brought me to Beijing. For some time, I felt like I’d forgotten that, and felt I was losing my focus on what mattered to me the most. Harrowing #MeToo stories, both face-to-face and online, as well as watching people engage in insensitive debates on WeChat about such topics, left me feeling like I needed to do more.

I remember calling my friend Jodie Warren about how such frustrating WeChat conversations about rape and other sensitive topics, and just outright trolling, left me feeling disheartened. This led to us realising how we felt we’d lost our ‘feminist flair’ since moving countries, and that a community-oriented event could provide a better space for people to voice their concerns and address such sensitive topics away from social media.

At the time of our conversation, a high-profile sexual assault case in Ireland had hit global headlines after the victim’s underwear was used as ‘‘evidence’’ in court that ‘‘she had consented’’. Feeling outraged and angered by this, we thought it would be a great idea to host a charity event about consent and rape culture based on this case. As such, we decided to establish an initiative called ‘‘北京 Wave’’ to support it – referring to a new wave of empowerment in the community.

We had a few meet-ups (some of them lasting half a day because we had so much to talk about!) and brainstormed ideas about the event as well as events that could follow. There, we realised that we could take this initiative to so many places, and that we have so many topics we want to address that we feel are important to the community.

The team is made up of myself, Jodie Warren, Hannah Coates, Spencer Kondak and Ripley Frances. Some of us are quite new to Beijing, whilst others have been here for a few years. A lot of us had been involved in event planning, charity work, women’s empowerment projects and academic work relating to gender studies back home. So, it made sense to bring our passions together and create a safe space for like-minded people!

We describe Beijing Wave as ‘‘a group of women striving to form a strong and visibly present community in Beijing that connects through gender equality and women’s empowerment. We aim to host events at which this community can discuss, share and educate one another on topics that are relevant around the world.’’

As mentioned before, our event will address the issue of consent in the wake of the high-profile Irish case that sparked global outrage and prompted the hashtag #ThisIsNotConsent to go viral. Using the famous hashtag as our event’s name, we aim to bring to the forefront discussions on similar high-profile criminal cases from around the world, personal stories from community members and issues surrounding sexual violence and consent, in an aim to break the stigma, support survivors and raise awareness. And all money we raise from the event, including raffle ticket sales, will be donated to the Beijing Gender Health Education Institute, an amazing local NGO that focuses on LGBT issues, gender, sexuality, sexual health and other important work. Our raffle prizes include vouchers for some of Beijing’s top restaurants like Taco Bar, Moka Bros and Homeplate as well as beautiful jewellery, skincare products, and gym and tattoo discounts – something for everybody! It’s certainly an event not to be missed!

At our first team meeting, we brainstormed a number of ideas for our first event and realised there were too many to pack into one event. Therefore, we decided it would be a great idea to host a number of events themed around specific issues. So, looking to the future, we hope to continue hosting seminar/discussion-type events as well as documentary screenings with the support of local NGOs and businesses so we can truly engage the community and facilitate discussions about issues we all care about. We also hope to host more events with themes that are topical and relevant to our diverse Beijing community, whether they be businesswomen’s empowerment, LGBT empowerment or events marking particular global observations like Women’s Day.

People can get involved in the Beijing Wave by attending our inaugural event ‘‘This Is Not Consent’’ at the Hatchery on Saturday, April 20th from 6:30 PM where community members will share personal stories, poetry and music. People can also join our WeChat group to join in on discussions related to gender equality and to find out more about upcoming events.

You can buy tickets for ‘‘This Is Not Consent’’ by scanning the QR code on the poster below:

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