What would a young woman suffer from social media when she did brilliant at math, at the same time, being rich and beautiful?
A 28-year-old girl has posted a video saying she graduated as the top student from the Mathematics Institute at the University of Oxford. Later the hashtag “A Chinese girl graduated from Oxford with first grade” has been trending on the biggest Chinese social media with over 1.2 billion views.
Inside the hashtag, there were no congratulation posts but widely questioned if she faked her certification.
Wenqi Zhu, aka Kate, was the youngest Chinese girl when she first studied at Oxford, only 15 years old. After working in Hong Kong at J.P.Morgan — a head global financial company for six years.
Kate’s graduation day in Oxford
“Although I really love math, I never thought to be a professional mathematician because nobody around me said a girl can be one.”
Kate quit her high-profit job and back to Oxford to do her master’s degree in 2019. “Math can take the negative emotion out of my mind.”
In March, she has just finished her graduation ceremony for her master’s degree and has received two PhD scholarships from the University of Oxford. The night when Kate was sleeping with great joy, people in China who was 7 o’clock in the morning joined cyberbullying her.
She said: “I didn’t feel anything when I saw all these negative comments flooding into my account, because it was not the first time I have suffered from this kind of thing.”
Male influencers such as professors, and education organisations mocked Kate, by saying that she made up her programme; comments under her post criticise that her tone sounded like a cheap advertisement.
They dug out every daily post that Kate shared about her life which was delicate, luxurious and elegant, slandering that she “looks like a pyjamas sale”.
They have tried to shame the young girl in any way, pitching her appearances and her voice. And someone even revealed all her personal information, her contact and her address, and harass her friends.
What do others think of their Chinese identity?
The rumour was stopped after Kate solved a mathematical question given out by a male professor, and forced Kate to prove herself.
It was not the first time she has been demanded to do this type of “compliance testing” made by men toward women, Kate said: “As the moment when I doing that question I completely didn’t think it was an act of proving myself. I chose to do it with the belief that there is a math question and I respect math. I know I can do it so I am going to do it.”
Left: A male influencer asked Kate to solve the math question; Right: Kate gave her answer under the comment.
Her post about solving the math has become viral and it gained much more reposting than her graduation videos. Kate said: “Why there were so many women reposting it is because we all have a common memory, like in primary school and high school, people would say that boys are better at science subjects and they will become better mathematicians. I think the moment of me doing the math question has recorded this memory for girls.”
But that was not enough for netizens to believe her. Kate later still posted her offers from the university, her personal page on the university’s official website, and comments from her course director.
Kate has to prove her achievement because she is a woman and because she doesn’t match with the “typical math girl”. She openly admitted that she loves fancy and luxury things; wearing shiny gowns and going to parties and clubs.
It was ironic that Kate has anonymously asked for suggestions on the same platform for her future plan several months ago after she received two PhD offers from the University of Oxford, and there was no questioning and the comments were assuming she was a male.
It seems that when women want to push the boundary of sexual equality or want to break a stereotype, they always need to suffer from a large insult and then fight back harder.
Kate has a more positive view of this phenomenon, she said: “This kind of conflict and anger will attract more social media attention, and next time when there is another girl who also graduates as a top student, I hope people will be more cautious to question her.”
As a member of the minority in the UK and also as a woman in male-dominated spaces such as doing maths and working in finance, Kate always tries to break any kind of stereotype during he daily life by sharing videos online of her daily life. “It’s actually my initiative of doing social media since 2014.”
When Kate was working in Hong Kong, she organised a “Pink Day” movement for women and LGBT in her department which has over 200 people. She hand out pink T-shirts and ask people to wear them, and also gave them a pink rose or a pink balloon.
When Kate was growing up, she faced many stereotypes. She was bullied by classmates and teachers in primary school because she was a “bad student” with low grades, which led her quitted from school and received all her education from her parents. During high school life, she was mocked because she was small and still wore children’s clothes.
Especially with her baby face, she was often seen as her boss’s child at her office party, even though she was a successful woman who started her job at 20 years old with an annual salary of over £200,000.
“Which aspect people will focus on someone is determined by their strongest identity, and when people perceive me, the first identity that comes to them is still my gender.”
Although Kate looks quiet and kind, she would protect her rights in a gentle but brave way. She wrote a letter to her headmaster after she was bullied in primary school, and when people criticise her that she was too beautiful or too fashionable to be a PhD student.
She posted another photo of her and her friend dressing up, and she wrote: “This effort is for any woman, female doctors, female athletes female leaders and mothers, to define what kind of woman they should be.”
Kate explained that this personality may be a result of her great admiration of Michel Jackson. “We shared some similarities and he was confident to express his opinions even after he became famous, and was brave to do something that other people may think meaningless.”
Although Kate has slapped every insulting comment she has received with all the evidence, some people were not satisfied, and they started to minimise her efforts and her contributions by saying that because she has great parents with high-level of knowledge, and enough fortune she could afford her tuition fee at Oxford.
They did not know how Kate was working in an intensive business but also studying math at the same time. “I worked during the day and studied from 9 pm until late midnight.”
The young girl supported herself for the following studying when she back to Oxford without any help from her parents, and bought her own house and own car with her own money.
Kate’s graduation photo
But she did not feel a great sense of accomplishment and the big pressure from the financial work also made her diagnosed with depression.
When she found that she feels peaceful and calm when doing math, she decided to return to Oxford. She said: “I am always looking for a dynamic balance between the accumulation of fortune and going after something I purely love.”
After the cyber-bullying, another thing that Kate worries about is that some social media outlets have created a brilliant figure of her with many golden labels such as “Top mathematical girl at Oxford”.
Kate said: “It is good to be known as a symbol because it is an easier way to deliver a message and to inspire other people. On the other hand, it is really scary that the media can also destroy a figure one day.”
Someone intends to crack her down by comparing her with other brilliant people who did great in math. She said: “Math is infinite but my time is limited. There are always greater people in this area so how can you compare something infinite to something limited?”
Kate also found that some people will arbitrarily add many expectations to her right and she does not know what kind of stereotype she will face in the future, she said: “There is no boundary for stereotypes, maybe it will happen again after I publish my research in the future.
“But I will still express myself in the future under the occasion where my personal information won’t be invaded.”