After Gong Lijiao won China’s first gold medal in an Olympic field event on Sunday, a reporter for state news media asked about her “masculine” appearance and her life plans, setting off a heated debate about the restrictive discourse surrounding women.
Gong, a four-time Olympian, placed first in the women’s shot-put competition with a personal best of 20.58 meters (67.5 feet).
An interview that aired Sunday on the state-owned CCTV included a sports correspondent’s contentious observation: “Gong Lijiao gives me the impression of a masculine woman.”
The reporter, Lu You, then asked about Gong’s future plans: “You used to be a masculine woman for the sake of shot-put. But moving forward, can you be yourself?”
Gong, 32, hemmed and hawed. “If I don’t train later on, then maybe I will lose weight, and then get married and have kids,” she said. “The path one must walk in life.”
The segment continued with a videographer and Lu asking the athlete whether she had a boyfriend, what she was looking for in a partner and whether she or a prospective partner would be better at arm-wrestling.
On Weibo, a popular microblogging platform, a discussion page on Gong and the question “Is marriage the only thing we can discuss about women?” had been viewed almost 300 million times on Thursday, generating more than 140,000 posts.
Many internet users criticized the CCTV reporter’s questions, comparing them to those asked by nosy relatives. Others asked why a gold medalist was subjected to a stereotypical line of inquiry.
One trending post stated that men were simply not good enough to marry Gong, adding: “Discourse about women isn’t limited to marriage and physical appearances. There are also dreams and success.”
Gong responded to the post from her official Weibo account. “This completely says what I’m thinking!” she wrote. “Thank you!”