A Chinese celebrity with a reputation for slapping her partners and kicking their cars is now being applauded on social media for allegedly attacking her second husband with a knife and then announcing she will divorce him.
On Thursday, the agent of Zhang Yuqi — also known as Kitty Zhang — announced her client’s divorce from husband Yuan Bayuan on microblogging platform Weibo. According to a partial copy of a police report posted to Weibo on Monday and later verified by Pear Video, Yuan accused Zhang of attacking him with a fruit knife, leaving two small scratches on his back. The police report says Zhang denied the accusation, and police did not find a weapon at the scene.
Divorcées have been subjected to public shaming in Chinese society, which has historically viewed them as disgraceful failures, as evidenced by the derogatory term “worn-out shoes.” But over the past 14 years, China’s divorce rate has risen steadily, thanks in part to a cultural shift toward encouraging and protecting a woman’s right to divorce and remarry, and to more liberal views on sexual freedom.
“Oh my God, she’s so brave to love and hate!” reads one comment with over 20,000 likes posted under the divorce announcement. “She dares to divorce whenever she finds her relationship isn’t working — I can only admire her!”
With over 7.6 million followers on Weibo, Zhang is known for her leading roles in the 2016 blockbuster “The Mermaid” and the 2008 sci-fi film “CJ7,” both directed by acclaimed Hong Kong actor and director Stephen Chow. But apart from Zhang’s appearance, her combative nature, the way she expresses her emotions without inhibition, and her fiercely independent attitude in a male-dominated industry have helped smash gender stereotypes. This summer, Zhang made headlines for her unapologetic pomposity after recommending a Hermès Birkin bag — valued at $12,000 — for its “convenience for grocery shopping.” She has also tried to discourage women from buying diamonds smaller than 1 carat, calling such gems “worthless chips.”
Since Zhang entered the public eye, her personal life has been a relatively open book. In 2010, entertainment media reported that Zhang and her then-boyfriend, Wang Xiaofei, had allegedly slapped each other during a quarrel. A year later, her impulsive marriage to award-winning director Wang Quan’an, 21 years her senior, made headlines too — as did Wang’s arrest for solicitation in 2014. Zhang announced her divorce from him less than a year later, then in 2016 married Yuan and gave birth to twins.
Many netizens have grown accustomed to female celebrities forgiving their husbands’ follies. “Being in love is easy, but being married is not — go on and cherish,” actor Ma Yili wrote in 2014 in response to her husband’s cheating. In light of this social context, Zhang and other celebrities who divorce their husbands are often considered refreshing deviations from the patriarchal norm.
Luo Beibei, an entertainment industry commentator, described Zhang as a “tiger woman” for her boldness, and for living life according to her own rules. “The three best moments for a woman are: promotions, pay rises, and dumping douchebags,” she wrote in an article on Thursday.
Editors: Bibek Bhandari and David Paulk.
(Header image: A promotional poster for the 2008 film ‘All About Women’ shows a character played by actor Zhang Yuqi smoking at a bar.)