Chinese women react to sexual harassment of men

Grab from Sina Weibo, showing the trending topic Image copyright Sina Weibo
Image caption The news provoked a fierce backlash online, from China's vocal female netizens, keen to point out perceived hypocrisy

Reports that a Chinese woman is in custody suspected of sexually harassing men has prompted acerbic responses from women eager to highlight the rhetoric they say is normally reserved for female victims.

On Sunday local media reported that men travelling the buses of eastern Shandong province had been subject to harassment by a woman. The Jinan News TV station said that a woman was being held in police custody.

"The irony of this situation, how the tables have turned," commented Weibo user Junwei Han. "What I want to know is how the men reacted, whether they are as traumatised as female victims of sexual harassment."

Significant numbers of women took to Weibo, to confront male commenters for perceived chauvinism.

One male user said: "This was disturbing to read, can't believe a woman could have been so daring to target not just one but many men. She ought to be taught a lesson in knowing her place in society."

Image copyright Sina Weibo
Image caption It was one of Weibo's biggest trending topics of the day

He was met with little tolerance as Cherry Gan from Beijing sarcastically replied: "Oh, don't you feel that the men were just asking for it? I'm sure the way they dressed had something to do with it. Shame on them for inviting harassment."

But this is an incident that spurred heated debate among women on Chinese social media. The story itself has not been widely reported on China's main state media outlets, but "indecent assault of men by a female bus passenger" was among Weibo's biggest trending topics for the day, being discussed tens of thousands of times.

"When a woman is sexually harassed, which happens so frequently, it's hardly news. But now that it's men on the receiving end, somehow the news seems bigger and more alarming," one remarked.

In China, sexual harassment reports, typically filed by women against men, generate huge amounts of interest on the internet. But many women saw this as an opportunity to shine a light on what they saw as the hypocrisy of discussions around issues of gender.

"Did the men dress promiscuously?" This was a question posed by many women on Weibo.

As the comments poured in it became clear that pent-up resentment was being vented through sarcasm.

"There's no smoke without fire. What were the men doing, riding the bus on their own? They must have been dressed like sluts," said one Weibo user.

But not all felt the same anger. Many netizens were at pains to say that sexual harassment "was wrong on all levels; whether it happened to a girl or a boy".

"Being on the receiving end of inappropriate, uncomfortable behaviour is never okay...It's wrong and should never be tolerated," said Xiao Mei Hao.

Others also pointed out that most men would condemn such incidents as inexcusable behaviour, no matter who was the perpetrator.