Zhejiang University professor claims women unfit for academia, refuses to apologize

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A post written on Weibo in 2013 by Feng Gang, a sociology professor from the prestigious Zhejiang University, has recently resurfaced and led to a heated discussion online. In his controversial post, Feng Gang discussed the selection of candidates for master degrees and claimed that “based on past experience, women rarely take academia as their career path after they complete their master degrees; and during the program, they rarely focus on studying — most of them only care about getting a job after completing their degrees.”

The post didn’t cause too much fuss at the time, but on October 19 the professor suddenly became the target of much online criticism for his assertion, with many calling him a sexist. Feng Gang continued unfazed to defend his old Weibo post, and even used some vulgar language against those criticising him. He then claimed that “history has proven that academia is not a domain for women”, infuriating many. On October 23 a Sociology PhD from a Taiwanese university launched a petition on Douban, demanding an apology from the professor. The student claimed that the assertion regarding academia not being women’s domain was definitely sexist, and this prejudice expressed on a public platform has hurt many people’s feelings. In response to the petition, Feng Gang insisted that he had nothing to apologize for since he didn’t do anything wrong.

Luo Dong, a reporter from Narada Insight (南都观察), reasons that this controversy shows how gender issues have become a resonant topic, especially on the internet where people find it easier to make their voices heard. Today the generations born after 1985 have become the dominant group when it comes to expressing their opinions on social media; they have also become familiar with the concept of gender equality and have made it a part of their worldview. This will represent a challenge for academics from a previous generation still entrenched in their own past experiences, if they want to take part in online life. Pursuing gender equality, he concludes, is a part of social development and cultural progress.