Review: Betraying Big Brother by Leta Hong Fincher

Nearly one out of every five women in the world lives in China—more than 650 million women in total. Any major demographic shift as a result of women choosing to reject marriage and children—or perhaps even to rise up collectively against the Communist Party’s oppression—will inevitably reverberate throughout the global economy.

Betraying Big Brother

Summary and Thoughts

On the eve of International Women’s Day in 2015, the Chinese government arrested five feminist activists and jailed them for 37 days. The Feminist Five became a global cause célèbre, with Hillary Clinton speaking out on their behalf, and activists inundating social media with #FreetheFive messages. But the Feminist Five are only symbols of a much larger feminist movement of civil rights lawyers, labor activists, performance artists and online warriors that is prompting an unprecedented awakening among China’s urban, educated women. In Betraying Big Brother, journalist and scholar Leta Hong Fincher argues that the popular, broad-based movement poses the greatest threat to China’s authoritarian regime today.

Through interviews with the Feminist Five and other leading Chinese activists, Hong Fincher illuminates both the challenges they face and their “joy of betraying Big Brother,” as Wei Tingting—one of the Feminist Five—wrote of the defiance she felt during her detention. Tracing the rise of a new feminist consciousness through online campaigns resembling #MeToo, and describing how the Communist regime has suppressed the history of its own feminist struggles, Betraying Big Brother is a story of how the movement against patriarchy could reconfigure China and the world.


Queen Leta Hong Fincher has returned and once again I am STUNNED by her short but powerful examination of feminism in China. I have nothing negative to say about this book. Despite its small size, Fincher expertly details the imprisonment and activism of China’s Feminist Five and how their actions have reverberated throughout the country. To further explain their impact, Fincher lays out China’s historical and political background and how the rise of the feminist movement intersects with other resistance issues (such as labor rights and online censorship). Though reading Fincher’s previous book – Leftover Women – will definitely provide great context for this read, it’s not entirely necessary as Fincher’s writing is incredibly clear and accessible. Overall, I’m impressed by both Fincher’s insights and the structure of this work – together providing an insightful study that anyone can learn from.

Photo Courtesy of Goodreads

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