A professor’s article about unofficial sexist standards at a Beijing university has triggered both disgust and support among net users, as well as an investigation by his school.
The professor, Qiao Mu, described with candor his 10 years’ worth of experience interviewing the university’s majority-female postgraduate applicants. “My taste is breasts first, face second, butt third, and legs fourth,” Qiao wrote, going on to describe an interview in which a student wearing a low V-neck top made him lose focus. “Interviewers are only people,” he said.
Qiao, an associate professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University, said the uproar is much ado about nothing. He told Sixth Tone by phone that the “standards” he mentioned in the article are just his feelings. “I am not talking about official admission standards,” he said.
“In fact, I never judge female candidates by their appearance in my interviews,” Qiao said. “I treat them with the utmost compassion and respect.”
Qiao said he wrote the controversial passages in a “fun, web-friendly” style, and that the main points of the article were its latter parts. Besides sexist double standards, the article mentions other factors that can influence admissions, along with interview tips. Admissions interviews for the school’s postgraduate programs usually take place in March.
Qiao first posted the article to his public account on messaging app WeChat on Jan. 11, but it only received significant attention when it was shared widely later in the month.
The article’s more explicit parts had some netizens wondering how Qiao was ever allowed to conduct student interviews. Meanwhile, others supported him for his honesty — “He speaks the truth; why is everyone cursing him?” wrote one user on microblogging site Weibo — or didn’t take him literally: “He’s just being sarcastic, showing you how those filthy minds work,” wrote another.
In response to the controversy, Beijing Foreign Studies University told state news agency Xinhua on Friday that the school is investigating Qiao’s remarks and will punish him if necessary. “The evaluation of candidates does not differ based on gender and appearance,” a representative from the university’s publicity office told Xinhua.
The university also announced that Qiao has not been in a teaching position since 2014 because he violated school disciplinary regulations. He now works in the university library.
Qiao is an active commentator on public issues. On his blog and his Weibo and WeChat accounts, he posts commentaries on a wide range of topics, including smog and Donald Trump. In November 2014, he criticized the way Chinese universities deal with sexual assault cases involving professors and female students. “Without pressure from the victims and the public, schools usually don’t act on these cases,” he wrote in the article.
That same year, he reported to the university that his colleague He Jiong, a well-known professor and actor, received a salary from the school without actually working. The university admitted that the allegations were true, and He subsequently resigned.
“I did nothing wrong as a teacher and as a civilian,” Qiao said. He never received a written explanation for his reassignment, but claimed that it was because he “dares to speak out.”
Qiao said that he used an informal tone in his most recent article because he can’t write about serious topics without getting in trouble. “My WeChat account has been taken offline about a dozen times, and my articles frequently get deleted,” he said.
(Header image: photosindia/VCG)