Beijing — A Chinese publisher has yanked a math textbook for junior high students from its product line amid an outcry over the fact that different versions were printed for male and female students.
"Blue version for the boys, red version for the girls," the East China Normal University Press (ECNUP) said in a post on its official account on China's WeChat social media platform. It claimed the books were designed specifically to cater to strengths and weaknesses of different genders.
"For example, the 'male version' includes content in the form of games as boys like to play games, and for the girls, we have more practical scenarios, such as buying vegetables and fruit in the market," one of the authors told local media outlet iFeng News.
The publisher said in its WeChat post that both versions of the text were of a similar difficulty, with only certain chapters varying. But even the post was titled: "My daughter is great at math, so she should buy the 'male version.'"
The publisher later deleted the WeChat post.
While some Chinese were supportive of the publisher online, saying the book was individualized and "teaching in accordance with aptitude," comments quickly flooded China's popular Twitter-like platform Weibo, with users decrying the concept as inherently sexist.
Comments calling the publisher's actions "blatant," "sick" and "disappointing" sexism quickly gained traction. Another user asked sardonically if China's national college entrance exams would "have male and female versions as well?"
"I fear that my daughter would be more reluctant to study math once she sees this book," one parent told local newspaper Guanchazhe. "She might think that she is born inferior to boys at math."
The backlash prompted ECNUP to announce earlier this week that it was halting publication of the book immediately. On Thursday the company released a statement apologizing "for the negative impact of this matter," and promising to "draw lessons from it."
"We cherish the concerns of our readers and friends and are very touched. We oppose any form of gender discrimination," the company said.