- Comedy skit in China's Lunar New Year Gala TV show mocked overweight, unmarried women
- Feminists called for show's cancellation in online petition, which was later removed from the Internet
- China's Lunar New Year Gala was watched by 690 million people this year
Hong Kong (CNN)It was the most-watched TV show in the world -- and it was a sexist mess.
That's what Chinese activists are saying in a petition issued this week that calls for the cancellation of China's annual Lunar New Year Gala, a state TV extravaganza viewed last Wednesday by 690 million people -- but filled with grating skits mocking women and other minority groups.
One sketch depicted an overweight woman in her late-20s complaining about being unmarried. The punchline? Her brothers bring out a tall, slim female "goddess" to help their less attractive sister understand why she's still single.
"I've got big eyes, small mouth, a high nose, long legs... I'm pretty and a bunch of guys are chasing me that give me 'face'," chants the taller woman.
"I don't have breasts and a bunch of guys are chasing me to do arm wrestling," replies the shorter one.
Then, in unison, the duo cheerfully exclaim their respective identities: "Female goddess and manly woman!"
In another act, a father jokes about selling his daughter for 30 yuan ($4.80).
Another skit mocks a "female cadre," implying that she's used sexual favors to advance her career.
Other parts of the show rag on southern Chinese people as well as dwarfs.
'The Lunar New Year Gala is poisonous'
In a society where women still face significant challenges — from discrimination against girls to extreme pressure on women to marry early -- many watchers found the performance nauseating.
A widely-circulated petition called the show "poisonous" and demanded it to be taken off air.
"In the name of 'harmony' it erases the rights of people to live differently. It complacently slanders not just women... but all people, as long as you are eager to think critically and make decisions out of your free will," it said.
The petition racked up thousands of signatures, many of them by self-described feminists, before it was removed from the Internet. (CNN was able to access a cached version.)
But some posts by feminists remained uncensored on Weibo, China's public social media platform.
"Comparing 'manly women' and 'goddesses,' unmarried and unemployed women... what qualifications do you have to discuss these topics?" one highly-rated comment fumed at the show's producers.
"Why don't you discuss male losers? The fact that these skits were shown on the Gala is truly a national humiliation."
The same writer added: "We're not proposing that women rule over everything. We just want awareness of how women are discriminated against everywhere, and we want change."