The images are disturbing. A young woman is stripped naked and beaten by four older women in broad daylight. The reason: she was said to be sleeping with the husband of one of her attackers.
The assault, which was filmed by onlookers, took place in Puyang in the central province of Henan earlier this month. But it is not unusual. A simple search for “mistress beaten and stripped” on any of China’s video-sharing websites soon yields dozens of results. Since the beginning of September there have been at least eight attacks, several of which have been posted online.
They make for uncomfortable viewing. In one piece of footage a woman is pulled into the street. The gang hacks off her hair and rips her dress in scenes reminiscent of the treatment of collaborators at the end of the Second World War (dramatised in the film Malena, which starred Monica Belluci and was set in wartime Sicily).
In another instance a woman is cornered in a shopping mall and repeatedly kicked in the stomach and head. Her attackers scream that she is “shameless” as security guards simply look on.
In another case, the husband is walking down the street with his mistress when his wife confronts them. He runs off, leaving his lover to take the beating.
A person in the video asks: “Why are you attacking her? Isn’t it your husband who you have the problem with?”
One clue for why the wives go after the other woman is to be found on the Xiaosan (a nickname for ‘mistress’) Bulletin Board, which serves as a forum for mistresses and wannabe temptresses. There, the women exchange tips on how best to snag wealthier, more powerful guys, as well as how to extract maximum value out of their lovers. There is almost no talk of love itself – other than how to make him love you – and the overwhelming sense is that the site’s contributors treat being a xiaosan or mistress as a career or way to get ahead.
“Really want your man to get a divorce?” asked one thread on the site this week.
Another was titled: “How long have you been with your guy: enough for a car or enough for an apartment?”
Such predatory comments feed public anger about the mistress culture – a phenomenon often connected to corruption among civil servants (a topic we have touched on frequently in the past).
The comments posted under the videos of the attacks suggest that most people support the confronters too. “Well done! Those mistresses aren’t human. I hope they beat her to death. I detest those shameless women with no moral standards,” praises one.
“Bravo, these women are dogs, they deserve it,” applauds another.
An article in the Global Times also points out that the perpetrators of the attacks rarely get into trouble because the victims know their characters will be called into question in any court case.
“In determining fault and punishment, police also consider whether the victims have wronged the attackers. So when the victims are found to be homewreckers, the attackers may be handed reduced penalties,” the newspaper reported Liu Weizhao, a lawyer at a Beijing firm, as saying.
In some cases it’s not even clear who the wronged party is. One of the most widely viewed videos shows a pregnant women turning up to a wedding in an identical dress to the bride. She loudly accuses the groom of leaving her. But is the pregnant woman the “mistress” or has she fallen victim to a cunning xiaosan, who is now marrying her former husband?
You can’t be sure.
But as the two women start haranguing each other, one can’t help but think they both have it wrong.
If anyone deserves a smack in the face it must surely be the chap in the tuxedo standing next to them, who was clearly leading them both on.
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