Tea shop ‘sexism’ creates a stir in China’s chat rooms

Gender jokes force Modern China Tea Shop or Sexy Tea to apologize, highlighting the country’s attitude to women

It is more than a storm in a teacup. Based in Hunan province, the Modern China Tea Shop has been forced to apologize for using “sexist slogans.”

Customers were left boiling with rage after the brand also known as Sexy Tea started selling teabags captioned with “the mouth says no but the body says yes,” and “my dear, I want you.”

One cup even referred to women as a “big bargain,” insinuating that men could pick up an unexpected deal by meeting beautiful women while they waited for their tea to arrive, the Reuters news agency reported.

As the story went viral on social media platforms, an outpouring of outrage followed on chat rooms. 

“The tea shop argued that ‘picking up a bargain’ was a common phrase in Changsha dialect and it wasn’t meant to disrespect women. But it still removed the sentence from the mug after finding it inappropriate,” SHINE, part of the state-run Shanghai Daily group, said.

The facts:

  • Sexism has always been a problem in China.
  • Two years after the #MeToo movement took off in the country, women’s rights activists face a difficult political environment.
  • China’s ruling Communist Party has increased its grip on the internet and media, blocking feminist debate.
  • Discrimination against women is also a major issue in the workplace.
  • Sexual “objectification” of women is common in job advertising.

What was said: “The apology [by the Modern China Tea Shop] failed to soothe the anger among Netizens who accused it of avoiding the main issues. This prompted a second apology, taking responsibility for offending women, and promising in future not to mistake sexist jokes for creative ideas,” SHINE said.

Delve deeper: “Sexual objectification of women is common in job advertising in China. Many ads require women to have certain physical attributes – such as height, weight, voice, or facial appearance – that are irrelevant to job duties. Some ads use women’s physical attributes – often current employees – to attract male applicants,” Human Rights Watch revealed.

China Factor comment: Women made up 43.7% of China’s labor force in 2019, according to Catalyst, a nonprofit research group focusing on women in the workforce. It found that there were “few women in leadership roles” in a comprehensive study. “Women [also earned] just 84% of what [men were paid] for similar work as of 2019,” Catalyst pointed out. Chairman Mao Zedong might have proclaimed that “women hold up half the sky,” but back on earth, they appear to be second-class citizens in China.