Androgyny is accepted in Chinese entertainment,
where "pretty" boy bands and "handsome" girl groups command
millions of fans, in a phenomenon widely attributed to the
influence of pop culture from neighboring South Korea and Japan.
But the appearance of an "effeminate" boy band in a widely
watched education program on Chinese television at the weekend
spurred some parents to protest that the country was doomed to
become "effeminate" if such acts were allowed.
Masculinity should not be judged by the use of make-up or how a
man behaves or talks, "Poisoned Tongue", a film reviewer whose
posts are viewed by hundreds of thousands, said in a series of
social media posts.
"Why should 'effeminate' be used in such a derogatory way? And
who says the country could only be referred to as a 'he'? What's
wrong with 'she'?" the reviewer asked in one post.
"It's an insult to some men and is even disrespectful to women."
Despite the acceptance of androgyny among China's entertainers,
it can sometimes become a subject of debate when it threatens to
spill over into ordinary life.
"I don't have any opinion on how those guys use make-up and how
they live their lives," said one user of social media.
"What I oppose is some TV programs advocate those effeminate
figures when our children don't yet have the ability to discern
In 2016, some schools in the commercial hub of Shanghai started
using a textbook to cultivate masculinity in boys to avert what
they feared was a masculinity crisis. It encouraged boys to
build strong bonds with their fathers, among other suggestions.
"We allow the existence of 'delicate' men, but we can't adore
them," said another social media user. "We'll respect them, but
we don't want them to be mainstream, because they'll have an
impact on our next generation."
A state-backed magazine also joined the debate this week, saying
on its social media account that androgyny was not an aesthetic
that had sprung up suddenly.
"There are Chinese traditions that appreciate femininity, value
sentiment, and emphasize a more neutral form of aesthetics,"
wrote Ban Yue Tan, published by the official Xinhua news agency.
"In contemporary China, those qualities are just manifesting in
a new way."
(Reporting by Ryan Woo; Additional reporting by Lusha Zhang and
Min Zhang; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
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