Jun 27, 2013

Jobs, the mother

By Zeng Jinyan, blogger and human rights activist

© Ai Xiaoming
My five years and seven months old daughter has been under single parenting since she was born. Her father was detained and sent to jail for three and a half years for the crime of “inciting subversion of the state power”, which was a price of his writings and international press interviews in an autocratic state. We moved to Hong Kong last September after I had been prohibited from travelling to — as well as abroad ― for five years. Meanwhile, her father is still prohibited to travel and join us in Hong Kong.

Because of that, as soon as we arrived in Hong Kong, I bought an iPad, which was my first time to buy an Apple product. Apple products are too expensive to me, a de facto single mother, even though their function indeed greatly facilitates me in dealing with researching and teaching tasks, parenting and social activism in my everyday life. No longer after the purchase, my daughter claimed the iPad as hers. Now, she contacts her father via Skype any time she wants to and thanks to that she spends a lot of story time with him before going to bed.

So I wonder what if Steve Jobs had a single mother parenting experience. I am not sure how many distant families benefit from Apple products and Skype. But I am very sure that there are lots of people in rural China and less developed areas around the world that are left behind. In 2012, a 17 years old senior secondary school student, Mr. Wang, sold his kidney for 20,000 CNY (around 2,400 EUR) in underground organ transplantation market. His purpose was to buy an iPhone and an iPad.

«I found more relevant to reflect on whether Jobs believed in feminity not masculinity, partnership instead of domination»

If Jobs had been a mother witnessing the whole process, she would have probably raised the critical question to the public: who is left behind in the high speed development of IT technology and IT products? What should we do to make opportunities, to guarantee empowerment for those who are left behind?

In fact, when thinking about the main question of this blog, I found more relevant to reflect on whether Jobs believed in femininity not masculinity, partnership instead of domination.

Before I moved to Hong Kong, I hardly used mobile phone for social activism. Even if all suspected software is deleted, its security is still doubtful, because all Chinese telecommunication companies are active in implementing state surveillance orders and policies. Even leaving behind all the politic risks, we still cannot do our online activism as we wish, for either the social media websites are blocked by Chinese government or the contents are censored, filtered, and even deleted by the website companies which cooperate with the government in the implementation of censorship policy.

Would a female Jobs have considered installing virtual private networks (VPN) in her products as a factory setting? That would have definitely been an act of solidarity with the victims of state surveillance and censorship on freedom of expression around the world.


  1. Very touching post, you make good points in it, indeed. However, I'm not sure whether a woman would have done differently than Steve did. I mean, she would have also been worried about revenues, profits and all that stuff, wouldn't she? Perhaps, socio-cultural background rather that gender could strongly influence the way an owner manages a company, betting on punctual solidarity actions according to his or her own previous experience...

  2. Doubtful, Apple products would be banned in most countries if such a function is implemented.