Empires and ‘Effeminate Men.’ After Britain and America, It’s China’s Turn to Worry about Masculinity
If you followed the disastrous denouement of America’s two-decade occupation of Afghanistan, have you wondered why the world’s only superpower has an affliction for distant wars? What is it that compels it to drag its military halfway across the world? What is the origin of its interventionist instincts?
© Zhu Ren/VCG via Getty Images Liu Yu (L) and Uno Santa of Boy Group INTO1 attend a YSL promotional event on May 13, 2021 in Shanghai, China.
China’s ban on ‘effeminate men’
More than a century on, China is heeding Roosevelt’s counsel and is similarly unsure if its men are up to the challenge of what lies ahead. It’s the familiar curse of self-doubt that besets nations at the point of their global ascent, when states begin to fear that material gains will erode the martial capabilities needed to protect and expand those gains. As it senses its own empire rising, China, too, like other empires before it, has begun to worry about the manliness of its men—its fears accentuated by its memories of historical failures to protect itself from colonial powers.
Last week, the Chinese authorities banned “effeminate” men from appearing on TV and instructed broadcasters to promote “revolutionary culture.” Concerned that young Chinese men are overly influenced by androgynous pop stars, the authorities are cracking down on what it calls a “chaotic” celebrity fan culture, and want broadcasters to “resolutely put an end to sissy men and other abnormal aesthetics”.
Two years ago, the country’s censors began to blur earrings and colored hair on male celebrities appearing on television. Earlier this year, the education ministry announced a plan to “cultivate masculinity” in schoolboys, including hiring more gym teachers and promoting sports.
The plan came on the heels of a warning from top political adviser Si Zefu of a national “masculinity crisis” as “Chinese boys have been spoiled by housewives and female teachers.” This trend of “feminization” of Chinese boys—already a pampered lot thanks to the one-child policy—“threatens China’s survival and development,” Si believes.
Chinese educators have been worried about the social impact of the paucity of male teachers in lower grades, depriving young boys of male role models. Gender-neutral evaluation standards are also seen as a problem as they do not suitably reward physical activity. In recent years, boys-only schools have been suggested as one of the “de-feminization” initiatives, which are mostly focused on revamping the education system.
© Getty Images—2016 Wang He Chinese students are seen during a football training session in the campus of the Yuyang Middle School in Wufeng Tujia Nationality Autonomous County of Yichang on June 1, 2016, in Hubei province, China. | Getty Images—2016 Wang He
“Sissy” male stars add an extra layer to the “masculinity crisis,” at a time when President Xi Jinping has been calling for “national rejuvenation.” The fandom associated with dainty male stars, Si rues, means that young boys do not want to be soldiers or firefighters anymore.
A top Chinese government think tank even believes this star-induced feminization is part of a wider CIA operation to emasculate Asian men. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences accuses legendary star-makers, the Johnny & Associates talent agency, of working with the CIA to degrade Japanese masculinity, leading to the profusion of soshokukei danshi (“grass eaters” or “herbivorous boys”) in Japanese society.
“Herbivorous” men do not actively seek employment, sex, or romantic relationships, are considered feminine with their porcelain complexions and attention to clothing and make-up, and are often blamed for Japan’s economic decline and plunging birth rates. China has for some years now been concerned about the social impact of its androgynous male celebrities, called xiao xian rou (or, “little fresh meat”). They are apparently inspired by the herbivorous stars of Japanese and Korean pop. The recent movement of tanping (“lying flat”), in which young Chinese professionals have been renouncing the competition and hardships of modern life, has only added to the worries about decadence.
Empires and ‘Effeminate... (msn.com)