In mid-October, China’s first “gender education” textbook for girls will be distributed to select primary schools in Shanghai, provoking another round of discussion on how to teach children about sex and gender.
Written for students aged 10 to 12, the illustrated textbook was published by Shanghai Educational Publishing House this week as a companion volume to a similar book for boys released last year that raised debate on whether its contents reinforced gender stereotypes.
Titled “Huayang Nühai,” or “Flowerlike Girls,” the female-focused textbook has drawn quick reaction from feminist groups. In a post on its Weibo microblog account on Wednesday, Beijing-based nongovernmental organization Media Monitor for Women Network questioned some of the book’s contents that maintain stereotypes of girls as being shy, tender, vulnerable, and in constant search of a “missing other half.”
The 113-page textbook touches on a wide range of topics, including interpersonal relationships, puberty, the pursuit of beauty, and social responsibilities. In one section about gender equality, the book calls for female students to challenge the limits of gender roles and seek equality while acknowledging biological differences. In another section about “self-protection,” the book advises girls to be mindful of guarding their private parts — a topic that some argue is vital for preventing sexual abuse, while others have questioned whether such thinking shifts the responsibility to the victim.