From Cinderella to i-woman: Web novels, fandom, and feminist politics in China


  • Meihua Lu University of Sydney



Chinese digital feminism, Fandom, Fantagonism, Female literature


i-Woman is a new genre of female-oriented web novel that emerged in China after 2020. By intentionally reversing the Cinderella story pattern of the classic romance, the i-woman genre and its feminist fans challenge patriarchal discourse and explore a new feminist way of writing. More than just a fandom of a popular literature form, i-woman is also a feminist mobilization strategy in contemporary Chinese online feminist activism. A textual analysis of i-woman novels and a digital ethnography of its communities suggests that by incorporating separatist feminist ideologies into novels and trying to build solidarity in fandom communities, digital feminists are conducting feminist activism in the form of fantagonism. Building an ideal feminist solidarity is performed as an exclusion of certain types of novel genres and their readers. Operating feminism through fandom opens new online spaces for feminist activists while affecting and restricting its operation. This developing fandom form shows potential for fandom culture to turn into political participation and offers insights into how to operate digital feminism in contemporary China.