A university in central China has suspended one of its professors, also a prominent male intellect best-known for his speeches on gender equality, after he was called out for disrespecting women by engaging in several romantic and sexual relationships simultaneously.
The woman, who identified herself as Tan, accused Zhou Xuanyi, an assistant professor in the School of Philosophy at Wuhan University, of indulging in several relationships while together with his partner of three years and called his behavior “shameless.” Tan said she was aware the professor was not single when they started seeing each other, but it wasn’t until later that she found him secretly communicating with several other women, too.
“Many girls, including me, were initially fascinated by his ‘male feminist’ persona, and continually fell into this trap,” Tan wrote in a now-deleted post on microblogging platform Weibo on Saturday, adding she intended to warn others through her experience.
On Thursday, Wuhan University said Zhou had “violated” the university’s guidelines, without elaborating. The school has suspended his classes and barred him from assessing graduate student enrollment.
Zhou rose to prominence in 2015 after participating in the online debate show “I Can I BB” where he won over the audience with speeches sympathetic toward women. Since then, he has developed a fan following online, with nearly 1.5 million followers on Weibo alone.
Tan accused Zhou of using his “feminist persona” to lure female fans into sexual relationships, adding that she felt he had treated her as a sex object, according to her Weibo post. She added that she was disappointed by her feminist idol.
Zhou hadn’t responded to Sixth Tone’s request to comment on the allegations by time of publication.
In recent years, more men have come forward in support of women’s rights, with male celebrities using their influence to spread awareness on feminist topics. One famous example is the news commentator Winston Chen, who uses his platform to often speak up for women.
However, some self-proclaimed feminists have also been called out for abusing the same ideologies they claim to espouse.
In May, a woman claimed that one such male feminist, who identified himself as Dengaiaiai on Weibo, filmed a sex tape of her without her knowledge or consent. He later apologized for “hurting the woman’s feelings.”
Li Jun, a feminist scholar better known by her pen name Li Sipan, weighed in on Zhou’s case, saying women should not choose a partner based on their public views on feminism.
“Perhaps such ‘feminist’ statements are not a guarantee of a partner’s character, especially at a time when the feminist label is so popular,” she wrote on Weibo. “In fact, no one’s word is a guarantee of their morality.”
Responding to the university’s decision to fire Zhou, Chen Yaya, a gender researcher at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told Sixth Tone she felt the punishment was “excessive.”
“Although Zhou Xuanyi does have problems involving misconduct and frivolity, this is not directly related to his teaching job,” said Chen. “The (university’s) punishment is not necessarily a good thing because it’s a sign of stigmatizing other kinds of intimate relationships that are deemed non-conventional.”
In 2019, Peking University fired an assistant professor for “violating teaching morals” after a woman reported him for promiscuity and intimidation. The school investigated the professor after he was accused of seeing nine women simultaneously over a three-month period.
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: Left: A portrait of Zhou Xuanyi; right: Zhou and Tan walk together. From Weibo)