BEIJING (Reuters) - A prominent Chinese film reviewer slammed the use of the term “effeminate” to describe China’s often heavily made-up boy bands and challenged his online followers to take a more informed view of what being a man entails.
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 neighbouring South Korea and Japan.
But the appearance of an “effeminate” boy band in a widely watched education programme 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 programmes advocate those effeminate figures when our children don’t yet have the ability to discern for themselves.”
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