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China's masculinity campaign raises concerns about identity

By Dhruv Anish and Nicole Mui Feb. 16, 2022

Aiming to achieve a cultural revolution, Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), censored representation of Chinese idols in September 2021 as part of his campaign to reinstate traditional views of masculinity. By trying to protect young men from being “corrupted” by effeminacy, what defines a “man” has shifted away from a fixation on being a strong and silent family presence, increasing societal pressure on young boys to mold themselves into this socially contrived ideal.

Blurring images of men with earrings, dyed hair and makeup in Chinese media, alongside forming long-term plans to implement intensive physical education programs were all efforts taken by the Chinese Education Ministry to promote its perception of masculinity. BBC News reports that Si Zefu, one of China’s delegate body members, finds that representations of more effeminate men hamper male strength, discouraging skills of governance which endangers the nation’s economic and political strength. However, much of the Chinese public strongly opposes the restrictions, arguing that they villainize men for showing emotion and individuality.

Beomhee Kim Art

“The Chinese government’s censorship is rooted in representational stereotypes—by believing men make China socio-politically stronger as compared to women, which perpetuates the idea that men must exert authority and suppress traits associated with sensitivity,” Sophomore Eric Yue said.

However, such notions do not reflect China’s values alone—they question universal ideologies of manhood. Masculinity is commonly desired as an admirable quality for its virtues of strength, independence and resilience. However, radical attitudes toward masculinity associate it with hostility. Men are viewed as “toxic” for repressing empathy, yet paradoxically weak for expressing how they feel.

Many young men are troubled with existential crises either because they feel they failed to meet these hyper-stylized standards, or because of guilt caused by the societal backlash they face for fulfilling them. Those who lack a father figure to model after, defined as “dad deprivation,” experience extreme confusion on understanding their gender identity.

Dr. Warren Farrell, educator on men’s and women’s issues, states that paternal absence also lessens the likelihood of boys developing the discipline for self-accomplishment, leading to feelings of purposelessness. This persistent dejection increases risks of depression and suicide.

Questioning the core of male self-expression and manifestation allows men to accept themselves while simultaneously rewriting the black-and-white constructs of gender stereotypes. Psych Central states that starting conversations specific to each person’s experiences can reconfigure masculinity as a valuable quality that supports unique identities, regardless of gender. As NPR reports, movements like the Masculinity Action Project have harbored healthy discussions around intimate topics such as empathyand gender expression that reframe male identities as a self-determined intertwining of values, whether those values be masculine or feminine.

and gender expression that reframe male identities as a self-determined intertwining of values, whether those values be masculine or feminine.

Beomhee Kim Art

“Reconstructing beliefs of masculinity could drastically change what expectations men and boys feel the need to conform to, creating space for individuals to feel more secure about their identity,” Freshman Jay Li said.

To defeat distorted views of manhood as aggressive, one must recognize that masculinity itself is not

something to be ashamed


The integration of vulnerability, compassion and kindness aligns with feminist movements that encourage women to adopt traditionally masculine characteristics, balancing the two interdependent conditions.

Only through accepting masculinity as a set of nonexclusive traits can young men nurture their personhood. With that achieved, today’s generations can bridge the gap between men and women and allow for freedom in expressing both masculine and feminine qualities, creating a more inclusive culture.


About the Contributors

Dhruv Anish

Staff Writer

Dhruv Anish is a senior at Leland High School and a staff writer for The Charger Account. He likes to watch movies and listen to music in his spare time. His favorite actor is Robert De Niro and his favorite movie is The Godfather: Part 2.

Nicole Mui

Staff Writer

Nicole Mui is a sophomore at Leland High School and writer for The Charger Account. During their free time, she enjoys reading, painting, and debating.

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