Debt is rarely considered a feminist issue, but women in China are revealing why it should be.
Here's a horrifying reality: Women in China who fail to pay off their loans are being blackmailed. If they don't pay up, a loan shark will release nude photos of them.
Earlier this week, Chinese state media reported that some lenders on Jiedaibao, an online platform owned by venture capital firm JDCapital, have been requiring female college students to send nude selfies in exchange for higher-than-average loan amounts.
The terrifying catch is the
lender threatens to send the photos to her family and make them publicly
available if the student can't pay off her debt.
A borrower involved in one of these "naked loan" agreements immediately places herself in a precarious situation. If she tries to extinguish an old loan by taking out a new one, loansharks can — and will — attempt to blackmail her. Quartz reports that one female student told BYD that she "first borrowed just 500 yuan ($76) — at a weekly interest rate of 30% — from a lender on Jiedaibao," but that "now she owes 55,000 yuan, and the lender is threatening to post her naked photos online."
Even if a student does manage to pay off her debt, a loan shark might sell her naked photos anyway. Lenders typically sell them for 30 yuan in online chat groups on messaging apps such as QQ and Wechat.
Person-to-person lenders have become a growing concern on Chinese campuses, as many young people find themselves struggling to get government aid to fund their education. While shady educational institutions in America (hey, Trump University) might not resort to the vulgar tactics of these loan sharks overseas, you can rest assured that college students here — especially women — are still getting screwed.
"Debt is very much a feminist issue, and these Chinese loansharks have literalized that by making debt particularly abusive to women," Liza Featherstone, a socialist feminist author and visiting professor of political science at Brooklyn College, told Revelist. "They've taken something that's already an issue and made it a lot more of a personal issue. It's like your financial system meets revenge porn."
"A slight majority of student debt is held by women...[and] more women go into more student debt partly because they are the majority of college students and then on top of that, they're going to face pay gaps in the case of large debts that take many years to pay off."
These pay gaps can be caused by sexism within the fields women choose to go into, especially if they are (typically) lower paying ones such as education, Featherstone explained. "Women are going to have more debt to begin with, then they're going to often find it more difficult to pay it off," she said.