The Women’s Studies Research Centre (WSRC) and its scholar-members have deep ties to gender issues in Hong Kong. In the 1990s, they provided advice and input on the drafting of anti-discrimination legislation and the setting up of Hong Kong’s Equal Opportunities Commission. “We really do see the birth of Hong Kong awareness of equal opportunities as coinciding with our own development,” Convenor Ms Puja Kapai said.
That development has gone through ups and downs. Until recently, the WSRC was fairly low-profile, despite organising academic events every year for International Women’s Day, a spring workshop to bring together academics and NGOs, and other events peppered throughout the year.
Its fortunes started to change when HKU’s President, Professor Peter Mathieson, committed the University to the UN Women’s HeForShe initiative in 2015. The WSRC had the interest and expertise and so it was asked to provide support and expertise on gender issues. It was also invited to join a team producing a short online course on sexual harassment for new students.
Moreover, it received funding from the University in December, 2016 to support its work as a platform for gender issues. Previously, it was entirely self-funded through a small private donation.
Its activities in recent months have included co-organising talks on such topics as the gender gap in examination results and women in Hong Kong politics, and helping to organise and promote the HeForShe Reading Group and the ‘Gender Plus Series’ of interdisciplinary seminars. Under the latter, for example, the ‘Gender Plus Law’ subset hosted visits by two Canadian Supreme Court justices, including its first female Chief Justice, the Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin.
We are not afraid of being advocates as this is part of our knowledge exchange with the community.
Ms Puja Kapai
Research remains the uppermost concern, though, because gender research is often not well recognised. On International Women’s Day, March 8, the WSRC organised a forum for students, academics and senior management at HKU on ‘Taking Gender Studies Research Seriously in Higher Education’.
“Gender-related research is challenging in general including at HKU. You don’t attract large amounts of external funding like other disciplines, you might not have access to relevant mentors because colleagues or experts in this field are not grouped together, and colleagues and graduate students wanting to do this work get sidelined, particularly in disciplines where such work is not seen as ‘real research’. So we discussed the issues around systemic barriers contributing to the invisibility of gender-related research output,” Ms Kapai said.
The WSRC has tried to show the rich possibilities of gender research by compiling an HKU gender expert directory, which includes research expertise, ongoing projects, recent publications and conference papers. It is also embarking on a more thorough audit of gender research here.
“Our ultimate goal is to have the Women’s Studies Research Centre be the spine to hold together all the gender-related work happening at HKU. We also want students to feel free to come under our umbrella and do gender-related research or community outreach. We are not afraid of being advocates as this is part of our knowledge exchange with the community,” she said.
The list is by no means complete. Research topic descriptions have been abbreviated for space.
For a fuller directory of gender research and scholarship at HKU and WSRC’s recent activities, please visit https://womensstudiesresearchcentre.wordpress.com/
Examples of gender-related research at HKU
Research on gender issues is pursued across a number of disciplines at HKU. The examples here are recently published or ongoing research mentioned in the WSRC’s ‘Gender Research at HKU: Scholars Directory’.
Injustices at home for Chinese immigrant women in Hong Kong
Professor Petula Ho Sik-ying, Social Work and Social Administration
A cross-cultural understanding of depression among abused women
Dr Janet Wong Yuen-ha, Nursing
Health and safety
Women in culture
The ‘Kong Girl’ stereotype and gender ideologies in social media
Dr Katherine Chen Hoi-ying, English
Feminism, postfeminism and Hong Kong women filmmakers
Professor Gina Marchetti, Comparative Literature
Women and literary celebrity in the 19th Century
Dr Julia Kuehn, English
Wanton women in late-Imperial Chinese literature
Dr Wu Cuncun, Chinese
History, politics and social engagement
Menstruation and the politics of the body in modern Japan
Dr Izumi Nakayama, Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences
Gender and cultural history in a transnational context
Dr Staci Ford, History / American Studies
Women, decision-making and sustainability in the Badi Foundation in rural China
Dr Lori Noguchi, Social Work and Social Administration
Learned women in mercantile lineages from Huizhou and their role in social ascendancy, 1700–1850
Dr Yang Binbin, Chinese
Hong Kong single working women’s negotiation of work and personal space
Ms Evelyn Ng, Women’s Studies Research Centre
Late marriage among professional women in China and its consequences
Dr Sandy To Sin-chi, Sociology
The use of news narratives to learn about gender ideologies in contemporary China
Dr Aditi Dubey-Jhaveri, Applied English / Journalism
Drug sales, gender and risk from the perspective of gang-involved young adult
Professor Karen Joe Laidler, Sociology
Women’s human rights in the HKSAR
Ms Puja Kapai, Law
Intersectionality and the law: the struggle of minorities for equal protection against domestic violence
Ms Puja Kapai, Law
Gay, lesbian and other
The processes and challenges of identity formation among young gay men in Hong Kong, Mainland China and Taiwan
Dr Travis Kong Shiu-ki, Sociology
Public opinion about gays and lesbians in Hong Kong and the impact of interpersonal and imagined contact
Ms Kelley Loper, Law
Sexual risks associated with the use of social networking apps in smartphones among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender populations
Dr Janet Wong Yuen-ha, Nursing
GENDER RESEARCH AT HKU
The Women’s Studies Research Centre has been operating since 1995 to promote gender research and translate the findings into benefits for the Hong Kong community. Recently, it has played an active role in HeForShe activities on campus, including publishing a directory on gender research expertise at HKU.
In the 2016 Annual Spring Workshop co-organised by the Centre for Comparative and Public Law and Women's Studies Research Centre, key figures advocating gender equality at the frontlines participatd in a panel discussion.
Renowned educator and filmmaker Dr Jackson Katz was invited to run a workshop on his work of building a culture of prevention of harassment and violence on university campuses as part of HKU’s HeForShe initiative.