China’s Female Intellectuals Are Called ‘Mister’

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In China, having an opinion in public makes you a man. According to a New York Times report, female professors and intellectuals are being referred to as “xiansheng” — “the most common way to address a man in Mandarin” — on Weibo, China's Twitter. Xiansheng used to mean “teacher” and historically was used to “elevate women to the status of a man,” for being brilliant, respected, or clever. Since then, it’s come to refer to any old guy but is still reserved for only the most exceptional women. The Times talked to Liu Yu "Xiansheng," a politics professor and author. “As a woman you have to be really outstanding to be called it, whereas if you are a man it can be anybody,” she said. She added that she was embarrassed to be addressed by it since she’s in her thirties, and it usually only applies to very old women. Other female “misters” include writer Yang Jiang, 102; Wang Guangmei, a politician and wife of former Chinese president Liu Shaoqi; and the late Bing Xin, a children’s author, as well as Bing Xin’s daughter, a politician, but she tells the Times she “doesn’t deserve it.”