The construction of Chinese patriotic masculinity: ‘sissies will ruin the nation’

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10/15/21

Many cultural-political scholars have suggested that nationalism involves active control over a population’s biological traits such as health, reproduction, gender, sexuality and more. China’s recent campaign against ‘niang pao’ (娘炮), a vulgar and derogatory term which is literally translated in English to a ‘girlie gun’ or more commonly as an ‘effeminate men’ or ‘sissies’, is a classic example of such biopolitical attempts to normalize patriotic manliness. Some online nationalists have been spreading the discourse ‘Sissies will ruin the nation’ (娘炮誤國) on Chinese social media platforms since 2018, after accusing China Central Television of choosing sissy idols for its advertisements and programs. The online campaign spread through slogans such as ‘If youths are feminine, the nation will be feminine! Sissies will ruin the nation!’ (少年娘,则国娘!娘炮误国!). Anti-effeminate campaigners labelled sissy idols as one of the four pests that should be eliminated to preserve the nation’s strength. They also argued that ‘sissy-style’ was not part of China’s conventional culture but an import from Japanese (e.g. Bishōnen) and South Korean (Kkonminam) cultures, and claimed that all strong countries have embraced masculine cultures. The nationalists had limited support in its early days, with many critiques publically rebuking their claims. Critiques noted that the Chinese literati tradition has a very strong feminine culture and that many powerful Western countries respect and embrace diverse gender expression and LGBTQ+ rights. But the campaign eventually had full governmental support. In January 2021, the Ministry of Education revealed its plan to include ‘masculinity education’ in the country’s elementary education in wake of a ‘feminization’ crisis in China’s boys. And more recently, China’s regulators stepped in to suppress the entertainment industry. Since August, a number of celebrities have been censored and punished for their ‘immoral acts’. Popular video blogger Feng Xiaoyi was one of the crackdown targets. Feng’s account on Duoyin, the Chinese version of Tiktok was removed after his video, ‘eating a peach’ went viral online, with some users lambasting him for his makeup and facial expression.

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