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Empowerment in the Pills: Reproductive Rights and Postfeminist Rage in Modern China

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Part of the Palgrave Studies in (Re)Presenting Gender book series (PSRG)

Abstract

This chapter dissects the femvertising narratives of the oral contraceptive product Yasmin, specifically the ways they represent women’s sexual agency and reproductive rights via both their ‘successful’ and ‘unsuccessful’ campaigns for the Chinese market in 2016 and 2020. It also attends to the rhetoric of social media criticisms of the 2020 commercial. Scrutinizing representational messages against both audience reception and Chinese (post)feminism’s unique trajectory and current status, this study presents a case where reproductive politics, a market-state-feminist complex and female empowerment campaigns intersect in the context of modern China. This chapter finds a consistent maneuver of women’s sexual agency as material and immaterial power in Yasmin’s commercials, despite the fact that the 2020 controversial commercial is often seen as a retrograde step. It concludes that the Yasmin campaigns exemplify a cultural politic of femvertising with Chinese characteristics, grafting feminist rhetoric onto the state project of postfeminism.

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-99154-8_4
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Notes

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    The official English translation embedded in the commercial video released by Yasmin does not well reflect the actual Chinese language used by voiceover. For example, the official translation given for this line is ‘I won’t be defined by “marriage”. I will create my own empire as well’. While the English translation implies a critique of marriage by framing it as a social institution essentializing the ways women are defined, the actual Chinese line orients towards simply stating the fact that women get married with an implication that marriage is essential for women: ‘I am not simply going to marry’ (wo buzhi yao jiaren). Since my study focuses on how Chinese audience receives Yasmin commercials, I choose not to engage with the official English translation and instead use my own translation to better capture the connotation and rhetorical pattern of the original Chinese voiceover. The commercial with Chinese and English subtitles can be found here: Siyuan Li, ‘Beyond Good Enough – Yasmin Concept Video 不止于此’, YouTube (29 September 2016), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQ3wM-mA4eY (accessed 24 February 2021).

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Liu, R. (2022). Empowerment in the Pills: Reproductive Rights and Postfeminist Rage in Modern China. In: Gwynne, J. (eds) The Cultural Politics of Femvertising. Palgrave Studies in (Re)Presenting Gender. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-99154-8_4

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