Somewhere between March and April of 2013, the term “green tea bitch” (GTB) emerged on Chinese social media platforms. Weibo netizens joined in a collective effort to formulate a suitable definition of what a ‘green tea bitch’ actually is. As a result, a short essay was composed and shared online. The essay lists twenty-four different characteristics of a GTB. ‘Green tea bitch’ is not the first term to categorize young Chinese women in an overall derogatory manner. Other examples include ‘coffee bitch’, ‘black tea bitch’ or ‘milk tea bitch’.
What defines a ‘green tea bitch’ according to Chinese netizens? The list can be summarized in the following way:
“The green tea bitch appears to be very innocent. She normally has shiny long hair, but if it is not long, it is neat, straight, and parted in the middle. She has good looks, but is not exceptionally beautiful. She uses her eyes as her magic weapon to look at men with big bright eyes. She is especially energetic around her male friends, but somewhat dull around her girlfriends, complaining about how slim they look and how fat she is (although she is not). She hardly eats and gets drunk without hardly a sip of alcohol. She is overly dramatic during the night, when she complains about how hard and lonely her life is. She likes to take long walks and talk about the books she reads and the movies she sees. She loves Chinese art, literature and politics. Despite her intelligence, she will repeat how dumb she is. The GTB appears angelically innocent, harmless and pure, while she is anything but that: she is ambitious and would sell her soul for money.”
Weibo commenters mention the Chinese Lin Huiyin as the archetype of the ‘green tea bitch’. Lin Huiyin, or Phyllis Lin (1904-1955), was a famous architect, poet and writer. She was married to Liang Sicheng, who is also known as the ‘Father of modern Chinese architecture’. Lin supposedly also conquered the hearts of writer Xu Zhimo and philosopher Jin Yuelin. She is generally described as an ambitious, successful and plain woman who managed to win the love of rich and talented men, which is why Chinese netizens take her as the typical example of a green tea bitch.
The green tea bitch is one amongst many terms categorizing different ‘types’ of Chinese women. The ‘coffee bitch’ (咖啡婊) is often mentioned on Weibo and other social media platforms to describe high-end office ladies who constantly mix English with Chinese, dress according to the latest fashion craze and love to take pictures of themselves in fancy restaurants or on sunny beaches. The ‘black tea bitch’ (红茶婊) is a promiscuous girl who smokes, drinks, and likes eyeliner and low-cut clothes that show her cleavage. The ‘milk tea bitch’ (奶茶婊) is the kind of woman who talks in a girlish voice and has extremely sweet looks. She is always kind to everyone around her, but only to attract men who will give her presents that she will kindly accept.
“Not your tea, not your bitch!”
Public debates that attempt to (re-)define Chinese feminine roles have emerged since the 1990s. The decades before this era were times of political and social constraint. Under the rule of Mao, women were expected to be asexual and sacrifice themselves for the collective. The 1990s brought sexual liberation and a renewed awareness of what Chinese femininity entailed. China’s social environment was changing and increasingly influenced by the West. Female sexuality now also started to be used for commercial purposes, and new types of female identities were formed (Hung et al 2005;Evans 1995).
The discussion of female identities is nothing new, but in recent years, it seems that the online social debate has taken a derogatory tone towards women. The green tea bitch phenomenon is just one of many examples. As reported by Women’s Voice, there are small signs of resistance, as women refuse to be categorized in these terms. Their message: “Not your tea, not your bitch!” It will take more protests like theirs to get the message across. For now, it is only a matter of time before the next something-bitch pops up.
Some comments on Weibo:
Weibo user Yijinyexing (54.5174 fans) defines the term in these words: “Definition: the green tea bitch is represented by Lin Weiyin. She pretends to be a young pretty girl who is interested in art and literature. She often works as an actress/journalist/hostess/writer, and likes to talk about literature or politics to win a man’s heart. She’ll talk about how much she’s been hurt in the past, and her QQ [chat] username is that of a unique and obscure kind of flower. She is a successful lady with a chaotic private life- she has either been cheating in a relationship or has been somebody’s mistress.”
A user who calls himself ‘Summer Sailing’ (Xiari Yangfan) (965 followers), says: “Because of this whole green tea bitch thing, people say it degrades the status of women and that it is a display of male chauvinism, etc. But I feel that around me the ones who like to call women bitches or the ones who say that pretty girls are nasty from the inside- they’re all women themselves. And they also like to say that if it were not for them pointing out the sluts and the green tea bitches, the men would always be tricked by these types of girls.”
‘Women’s Voice‘ (weibo.com/genderinchina) reports: “This morning at eleven o’clock [April 8, 2013] in Xi’an, near to the Drumtower, three young women dressed as Sailor Moon [a Japanese cartoon about magical girls] held up signs saying ‘not your tea, not your bitch’, calling a halt to verbal violence against women. They stated that they protested against degrading terminology for women, and that they were hoping that society would show women more respect and create friendlier cultural climate.”