Online feminist groups seek new home as Douban cools off

As a platform that has been a haven for feminist conversation for years clamps down on free-wheeling newsgroups, its users have started looking for a new home on the Chinese internet. For now, they are still roaming the desert.

Douban started as a rating site for books and movies in 2005, but later developed into a social media platform after its group chat feature gained favor with interest groups. The platform’s invitation-only discussion groups have become a haven for prospects that are often shouted out elsewhere online, and especially women. With only 11 million monthly active users, Douban occupies a niche, but enjoys an inordinate cultural cachet.

Celebrity gossip groups have turned into places where women can discuss male misconduct and reject marriage and motherhood. It could get vulgar – it is not uncommon to see users wish for a “penile fracture” on male targets.

On December 1, Douban was fined 1.5 million yuan ($ 235,000) for “unlawfully disseminating information,” the 21st fine imposed on Douban this year. On December 9, regulators ordered Chinese app stores to remove the app from the list, meaning new users cannot join the platform.

It is part of our daily life. We feel like fish without water when we are not together.

In response, Douban shut down several gossip groups as well as some feminist groups that would have totaled more than one million members on December 2. It also suspended the reply feature in the app’s groups from December 2 to 17, making it difficult to continue One conversation.

Douban’s feminists have long caught fire on male-dominated social media like Zhihu, a Quora-like text content platform, and Bilibili, a YouTube-like platform where large numbers of users often consume content objectifying women and making fun of “radical feminists.”

Many newsgroups on Douban limit membership to eliminating trolls. A Douban profile showing a strong interest in the subject and a declaration of interest are often required when applying.

“Although most of the time it’s gossip, we bond this way. It’s part of our daily life, ”a Douban user nicknamed Wang told Sixth Tone. “We feel like fish without water when we are not together.”

“I’m more like a consumer on other platforms,” Wang said. “It is only in Douban that I can truly be myself and truly say what I think, but it looks like it will go away.”

A screenshot from Douban shows 豆瓣 鹅 组, one of the most popular gossip groups.

Exodus Douban

Over the past two weeks, thousands of group members have roamed the net, searching for each other on different social media platforms. Some Douban groups have set up temporary public discussion groups on the Weibo microblogging platform and the Baidu Tieba online forum. Conversations were more low-key in these open forums, however. Other groups continued conversations in cloud documents created by desktop software.

Finding a new Douban is not that easy.

One of the first places the Douban Exiles headed was Dodo, a niche app for Animal Crossing players. Over 80,000 members, mostly from the Goose Group, Douban’s largest gossip group, moved to Dodo just after the group closed on December 2.

It didn’t last long. The conversations of the group members were recorded and posted on Bilibili, attracting anti-feminists. The disappointed Goose members quickly evacuated Dodo.

“That’s why we need a space for girls to discuss gender issues,” Wang said.

During the 15-day suspension of Douban’s group response function, which ended last Friday, other groups switched to “Weibo Chaohuas” (Weibo Super Topics), forum-type groups on the platform. Weibo microblogging.

But Weibo is public and recently closed a number of accounts for “gender opposition.”

Xiaohongshu, another female-friendly social media platform, has seen many individual posts popping up from users expressing concern over Douban’s disappearance. However, because the app does not support group conversations, these messages did not merge into a conversation.

Half a dozen Douban users have told Sixth Tone that it’s almost impossible to find a place like Douban.

“Douban is unique in its ‘group’ function and interactive design similar to a bulletin board system,” said Eastern Dragon, who used a pseudonym to protect his identity. “Almost no other social media platform shares the same logic. “

Hang on

Other users stayed on Douban. But the recalcitrant see their groups become smaller and quieter. In the meantime, they are forced to welcome fewer new members.

Douban’s groups have shown resilience. However, the threshold for entering newsgroups is also getting higher.

Once a group is closed, another with a totally different name will soon be created by the former group leader. Only those who know a signal can be admitted. As signals are often tied to recent discussions, those less active in the old group will be lost.

“As there will be a loss of membership each time, some smaller groups, especially feminist groups, will be difficult to rebuild after being ‘bombed’ repeatedly,” Eastern Dragon said. “The members of the group are like sand washed away by the waves. “

Eastern Dragon has said that Douban’s gender focus groups will be difficult to replace. Most of the members were from gossip groups, looking for something deeper than the celebrity scandal.

I have attached a lot of my thoughts and memories on books and films to Douban. I will be very sad if he disappears.

“Both types of groups have an aggressive stance on gender, but the former focus more on entertainment industry scandals, while the latter more deeply reflect the vulnerability of women in each incident and contain more insight. social such as opposition to marriage or opposition to transmission. from names of men to children, ”Eastern Dragon said.

Luqiu Luwei, assistant professor in the School of Communication at Hong Kong Baptist University, told Sixth Tone that social media should serve as an important channel to “amplify and revitalize the power of storytelling for the ordinary, by introducing new issues on rights and inequalities. . “

“The proliferation of various feminist media, such as websites, blogs, forums, instant messaging, online discussion groups…

Dig a backup “grave”

While some find it difficult to continue their daily discussions, others have taken care of safeguarding their Doubanese heritage.

“I’m not happy with the change in atmosphere of these groups, but I can’t give up on Douban for its full catalog of books and movies and the reviews I’ve gathered,” a Douban user known as Ma told Sixth Tone.

Now, many have turned to a cloud storage space called Doufen, which literally translates to “Dou’s grave,” to save their collections of reading notes and movie reviews. But group conversations cannot be saved in the same way.

“I have attached a lot of my thoughts and memories about books and movies to Douban,” Ma said. “I will be very sad if he disappears.”

Publisher: David Cohen.

(Header image: visual of people)

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