They cook, clean, and send the kids to school every morning — for some, all on top of a day job. You might think what these women need are better partners, but a startup in the southern city of Guangzhou has a different solution: an online platform aimed at stressed wives.
Jianzhi — which translates as “simple knowledge” — is a mini-program within ubiquitous social media app WeChat that provides book clubs, online and offline courses, and audiobooks aimed at 35- to 45-year-old Chinese wives and mothers. The content covers topics such as marriage and parenting, career advice, self-help, and health and beauty. Users of Jianzhi’s online academy can choose among courses like “Easy Ways to Ask for a Raise,” “How to Talk About Sex With Your Kids,” and even “Top Tips to Please Your Husband” for up to 199 yuan ($30) per class, each of which includes homework and quizzes.
On Thursday, Jianzhi announced that it had raised 16 million yuan in its first funding round. “We are targeting a huge demographic that is largely ignored by Chinese app developers — most other online platforms only focus on the ‘head users,’” Jianzhi founder and CEO Xie Guanpeng told Sixth Tone on Thursday, using a term that refers to young, smart, and highly educated netizens. “These audiences know where to go on the internet when they feel like they need help. However, housewives in China are often clueless [about where to turn] when facing problems such as a dull marriage or parent-child conflicts.”
Launched in August 2017, Jianzhi now has 100,000 paid users — and over 95 percent of them are women, said Xie. “Chinese housewives are probably one of the most stressed demographics in China,” he added. “Many of these women have to sacrifice their careers and friends to move from China’s third- and fourth-tier cities to bigger cities with their families. They have to take care of their husbands, kids, and in-laws, and often encounter problems dealing with these relationships.”
There are a range of content creators targeting China’s female web users, from hyper-conservative love guru Ayawawa to clickbait blogger Mimeng. Other platforms offer fertility advice or sex education. “Ayawawa and Mimeng are more opinion-oriented. I see Jianzhi’s courses focusing more on teaching women skills and strategies,” said Li Sipan, a Guangzhou-based journalist specializing in women’s status in modern China.
However, Li doesn’t think Jianzhi’s financial success proves that it is contributing to married Chinese women’s progress. “The courses about pleasing one’s husband are disgusting,” she told Sixth Tone, admitting that there’s still a large number of people willing to pay for such content. “I don’t think the app is revolutionary — it’s merely catering to the current market. That’s why there’s not much content about politics or social issues.” Li doesn’t believe Jianzhi’s content truly helps wives solve their emotional problems, either. “I see it more as a placebo effect,” she said.
But Gan Baoyan, a 39-year-old medical examination center administrator in Zhengzhou, central China’s Henan province, credits Jianzhi’s online academy with helping her learn new skills while also working and looking after two children. “I’ve always been an avid reader, but now I don’t even have time to sit down,” Gan told Sixth Tone. She recently finished an online course from Jianzhi on improving parent-child communication, which she listened to while doing household chores like mopping the floor. “This app is my life coach and mentor,” said Gan. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t know who to turn to with my parenting questions.”
Through the online communication course, Gan also made a couple of WeChat friends; Jianzhi has 1,000 WeChat groups and hosts offline talks in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. “Chinese housewives deserve so much respect,” said Jianzhi’s CEO, Xie. “They take care of the whole family and are still willing to pay to improve themselves.”
Gan agrees. “We used to say that women hold up half the sky,” she said, referring to a famous quote by Mao Zedong. “For most of the women in China nowadays, it’s the entire sky that they hold up.”
Editor: Julia Hollingsworth.
(Header image: Two women are seen in a library in Xiamen, Fujian province, April 22, 2018. VCG)