Grace O’Connor ’22
China’s culture is widely known to value masculinity. This deeply-rooted ideal has been a part of Chinese society for centuries. The country’s officials believe that modern society poses a threat to this aspect of the nation’s tradition.
One of China’s top political advisors, Si Zefu, feels that Chinese males have lost their masculinity. According to Time Magazine, Zefu attributes this loss to Chinese males being “spoiled by housewives and female teachers.” He opines that this trend of “feminization” of Chinese boys—already a pampered lot thanks to the country’s one-child policy—“threatens China’s survival and development.”
Zefu has taken initiative against this perceived threat this past week, banning men he sees as too feminine from television. According to National Pubic Radio, the goal is to “put an end to sissy men and other abnormal esthetics.” This harsh reality indicates how China values masculine traits over those associated with women, and how feminine characteristics are seen as unbeneficial and undesirable in Chinese society.
The nation’s strict new measure comes in the context of other regulations imposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Jinping believes he is leading a “national rejuvenation” of Chinese society through tighter Communist Party control of business, education, culture, and religion.
Jinping sees Zefu’s initiative as necessary rather than constraining, in spite of its alienation of those who hold notions of gender norms that are common elsewhere in the modern world. Indeed, China has recognized the power of pop culture and its influence on younger generations. The Party feels that allowing Chinese men to view modern trends regarding masculinity as normal is a threat to the Chinese way of life. Consequently, it is forbidding entertainment that involves men they see as effeminate.
On top of this, NPR states that the Chinese Communist Party has decreed that “broadcasters should avoid promoting ‘vulgar internet celebrities’ and admiration of wealth and celebrity.” Instead, the Party has proclaimed, “programs should ‘vigorously promote excellent Chinese traditional culture, revolutionary culture, and advanced socialist culture.” These strict guidelines are already creating an uproar in China and throughout the world, as many beloved celebrities are subject to them.
For instance, the social media of the famous Korean pop group, BTS, is one of the 22 accounts now banned in China. BTS has grown significantly in popularity the past couple of years, as this group of talented men exude confidence and talent while at the same time pushing the envelope in terms of traditional standards of masculinity. While it is no surprise that BTS has fallen victim to the Chinese government’s new regulations, it is nonetheless jarring that the Party has the power to censor such an internationally renowned group.
The question that now remains is how far the Chinese Communist Party is willing to go in order to enforce this new measure and, by extension, preserve their country’s traditional values. Only time will tell whether or not the Party will have its way.