Yuyang Liu for The Washington Post via Getty Images
Karen Fratti
June 26, 2018 11:18 am

Women have already done so much to break through sexist and discriminatory gender stereotypes. But there’s a lot more to do, both in the U.S. and abroad, to advance women’s rights. Take this Chinese college course that teaches women how to be “perfect,” for example. It’s borderline Gilead stuff, and it’s definitely not pushing for women’s equality. The basic gist? Be seen and not heard.

The course was launched in March at Zhen­jiang College, at the New Era Women’s School. The “new era” refers to President Xi Jinping’s Communist administration, which wants women to be educated, but also wants to reinforce the idea that a woman is most useful at home while a man should head out to work and bring home the proverbial bacon.

The course was launched in collaboration with the All-China Women’s Federation and is offered only to female students. The Washington Post spoke with Duan Fengyan, who is studying to be an accountant, but also has to take this course about how to dress, pour tea, and even sit on a chair.

Duan, 21 years old, told the newspaper, “You must sit on the front two-thirds of the chair — you cannot occupy the whole chair. Now, hold in your belly, relax your shoulders, legs together, shoulders up.”

The Post reports that it was the first media outlet allowed on campus to interview students. According to its report, the goal of the program is to make women “wise,” “sunny,” and “perfect.” Students study Chinese history, take oil painting and etiquette classes, and learn how to apply makeup the “right” way.

Duan explained, “According to traditional culture, women should be modest and tender, and men’s role is working outside and providing for the family. I want to be a model for my children.”

The class, though, is really all about pushing women back intro traditional roles that President Xi believes are necessary for China to prosper. Although he has called women’s rights a “great cause” in the past, his actual policies hurt women. Under Xi, China has detained five young feminist women and shut down LGBTQ activism.

Here’s a lesson: The fight for women’s rights is not just about equality and an end to discrimination. It’s about the freedom to choose who you want to be — or at least how you sit on a chair.

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