Proposal to prevent Chinese teenage boys being effeminate sparks gender debate
Feature image: Hisu Lee/Unsplash
A proposal introduced by the member of the National Committee of CPPCC (the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference) to prevent teenage boys being effeminate sets off public debates around if masculinity is a quality that all boys must possess.
“Today’s Chinese schoolboys appear to be ‘weak, self-abased and timid’, and there is a tendency of teenage boys being effeminate,” said Si Zefu, member of CPPCC, in the proposal. It also described such occurrence a “threat to the development and survival of the nation”.
Si proposed increasing the influence of “masculinity” by involving more male teachers in early education institutions such as kindergartens, primary and secondary schools. He also suggested growing up in a “matriarchy” environment is a cause for this phenomenon and called for more research to address this “social issue”.
...associating those attributes with the female gender, that’s reinforcing age-old gender stereotype. -- Minnjie Chen, PhD graduate at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Minjie Chen, a PhD graduate at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign who researches sexual education in contemporary China, said the three words used to describe young men are “belittling” women. “These are [inevitable] human traits, not women’s traits…the main problem is associating those attributes with the female gender, that’s reinforcing age-old gender stereotype,” said Chen.
A national poll conducted by iFeng.com – a Chinese news agency, listed on the New York Stock Exchange, shows 64.64 percent of respondents viewed it unnecessary for boys to develop masculinity. Nearly 70 percent believe it is stereotyping that masculinity is essential for men. While more than 60 percent think there is no need for correcting one’s sexual orientation. Since its publication on 29th January, the poll has been participated by more than 2.8 million as of 4 February.
Image: National Poll. Source: iFeng.com.
In response to this proposal, the Ministry of Education published a statement stressing the importance of physical education in cultivating masculine traits, including enhancing the recruitment and training of PE teachers, especially in disadvantaged areas, and giving students’ sports performance greater weight when considering higher education admissions.
Schools are also asked to establish a system that incorporates a psychological wellbeing curriculum into physical education. The education authority also says more support will be given to research into teenagers’ psychological wellbeing and indicates that parenting also plays a crucial role in shaping teenagers’ sexual perception.
“The response didn’t refer to gender at all,” continued Chen, “…I think the authorities missed an opportunity by responding directly to this ‘problematic’ title of the proposal. It missed the opportunity to rebut this pernicious stereotypical view on women.”
Image: Children playing on the grass field. @phammi/Unsplash
Netizens’ views are divided as to what masculinity should be. While some lay emphasis on one’s physical appearance and behavior, others argue it is the sense of responsibility that makes a real man. A user on Weibo, or Chinese Twitter-like microblogging site said, “There should be no ‘masculinising’ or ‘effeminising’. One should not be defined by what others think they are.” While others see the proposal as an equivalent stereotype to that of women always being expected to be soft and virtuous.
“I do observe one good change,” added Chen, “such concerns around the feminisation of Chinese boys were expressed as early as in the 1980s. But back then, people were not critical of such claims. There seemed to be a bigger consensus. But things have changed up to 2021…as a society, we have a better understanding on gender stereotypes.”
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