Tan Weiwei’s song on domestic violence

Cases of domestic violence have increased during the lockdown, as many people are trapped at home with their abuser. All the more reason to talk about it. I learned recently about the song ‘Xiao Juan’, of the Chinese pop star Tan Weiwei, also know as Sitar Tan. She refers to recent violent deaths of real women in China. Let me unpack this.

by Charlie Crooijmans

It was in the week of January 25, that I discovered this song. The same week I listened to the podcast Grounded with Louis Theroux interviewing actress, dancer and pop star FKA twigs. The last part of that interview was recorded at a later date, because she wanted to talk about the abusive relationship she was in, and how she got out of it. In twig’s case the abuse was psychological, but the song ‘Xiao Juan’ is about extreme physical abuse and misogyny.

‘Xiao Juan’ is on the album ‘3811’, released in the summer of 2020. It contains 11 songs about women from diverse backgrounds, including a taxi-driving single mom, an illiterate elderly woman, and a female poet from the Tang dynasty (source: Wiki). The number 38 in the album title refers to Weiwei’s age. The single ‘Xiao Juan’ is released in December and went viral on the Chinese YouTube: Bilibili.

Xiao Juan is the Chinese equivalent of Jane Doe in the United States, given to unknown or unidentified female crime victims. “Our names are not ‘Xiao Juan,'” Weiwei sings. “Know my name. Remember my name.” The lyrics and the music are pretty harsh, you can check the English subtitles in the video. There is no hidden message at all.

The cases Weiwei refers to

“No one dares to disobey…You use your fists, petrol and sulfuric acid.”
“Petrol” appears to refer to influencer Lamu, who was burned alive after being doused in petrol in the middle of a live-stream in September.
Flush us down the drain, from wedding bed to riverbed, stuff my body into a suitcase.” In July, a Hangzhou woman was dismembered by her husband, and had her body parts dumped in a septic tank. A few months later in October, a female corpse was discovered cut up in a suitcase in Sichuan province.
“Put it in a fridge on the balcony.”
In 2016, a Shanghai man killed his wife and stored her body in a fridge on the balcony for three months. The man was executed in June this year.
(Source: BBC News)

Some call Weiwei very bold, but the popular singer sees it as a sense of responsibility. I agree on that, because there is a persistent tendency to hate, mistreat or disrespect women, not only in China, but all around the world. Even in countries like the UK, I recommend you to listen to that podcast Grounded as mentioned before.

It is also shocking to see that a lot of societies prefer to go backward in time instead of forward. Like the strong evangelical forces in Latin America that make abortion illegal in some countries. Or that the #metoo movement still has a long way to go. Hopefully there are more artists like Weiwei with an audience of millions, who want to touch on these topics and reach out to those who don’t have a voice.