On the eve of International Women’s Day in 2015, the Chinese government arrested five feminist activists and jailed them for thirty-seven days. The Feminist Five became a global cause célèbre, with Hillary Clinton speaking out on their behalf and activists inundating social media with #FreetheFive messages. But the Five are only symbols of a much larger feminist movement of university students, civil rights lawyers, labor activists, performance artists, and online warriors prompting an unprecedented awakening among China’s educated, urban women. In Betraying Big Brother, journalist and scholar Leta Hong Fincher argues that the popular, broad-based movement poses the greatest threat to China’s authoritarian regime today.
Through interviews with the Feminist Five and other leading Chinese activists, Hong Fincher illuminates both the challenges they face and their “joy of betraying Big Brother,” as Wei Tingting—one of the Feminist Five—wrote of the defiance she felt during her detention. Tracing the rise of a new feminist consciousness now finding expression through the #MeToo movement, and describing how the Communist regime has suppressed the history of its own feminist struggles, Betraying Big Brother is a story of how the movement against patriarchy could reconfigure China and the world.