Gender-Neutral Cool

January 13, 2011
Editor: Sun Xi

About 30% of boys at Chengdu's primary and secondary schools are less than overtly masculine in appearance and behavior, according to a report published in the Chengdu Evening News. Education experts are now calling attention to the absence of gender education at school.

"Gentle, beautiful women, and masculine men" sums up China's conventional aesthetic and gender criteria. But in recent years neutral-gender clothes, hair styles, accessories and even mentality have come to be considered by many as both fashionable and progressive.


Liu Zhu [it.huzhou.gov.cn]
Liu Zhu [it.huzhou.gov.cn]

Major-general Luo Yuan, deputy secretary-general of the China Association for Military Science said in a recent article in the Global Times that less defined standards of femininity and masculinity amount to a bad social phenomenon, one that provokes verbal contention on the merits and demerits of gender-neutrality.
 
China Youth Daily Social Investigation Center launched last mid-December a survey through minyi.net.cn and sina.com of 2,019 participants, 26.3% of whom confirmed awareness of neutral gender personalities among people in their daily life, 3.8% of whom said that they knew a great many, 44.9% of whom said they knew a 'normal number', 23.6% who said they knew 'only a few,' and 5.1% who said they knew 'very few.' Meanwhile, 10.2% admitted to being gender-neutral.
 
Pseudo-girl Liu Zhu
 
Liu Zhu, 20, from Sichuan Province, achieved overnight stardom after appearing in 'Super Boys,' China's all-male talent show. But it was his cross-dressing propensity rather than vocal ability that won him fame.

Liu Zhu at the Super Boy vocal competition [0571bjw.com]
Liu Zhu at the Super Boy vocal competition [0571bjw.com]
 
Liu dressed, acted and spoke in a manner at his audition that caused judges to question his gender several times. Local media and netizens have nicknamed Liu 伪娘" wěi niáng, meaning pseudo girl.
 
The expression weiniang derives from the Japanese word nisemusume, which features in cartoons and plays, and refers to handsome boys that dress and behave like women. It does not, however, connote homosexuality.
 
Liu's name commands more than 19 million hits on the leading Chinese search engine Baidu, and his blog has chalked up three million.
 
Xu Long, known as Tongtong, also found fame on a talent show this year, again as a cross dresser rather than performer. He is also weiniang icon.
 
People who are "he" that dress like "she," so blurring gender distinctions, have sparked a fierce debate in China.
 
OK with Neutral-gender Style
 
Around 74.2% of netizens taking part in the China Youth Daily survey said that they found neutral-gender tendencies most obvious in hairstyles; 72.7% in clothing; 70.8% in behavior; 69.0% in personality; and 22.2% in all aspects of social life.

Xu Long (known as Tongtong) [jiaodong.net]
Xu Long (known as Tongtong) [jiaodong.net]
 
Beijing postgraduate student Xiao Liu observes that gender neutrality phenomenon is now a common social phenomenon. "Celebrities like Brother Chun (female singer Chris Lee) and pseudo-girl Liu Zhu are everywhere on TV and the Internet, as girls with cropped hair and masculine outfits and boys wearing makeup and long hair are commonplace on the street," Liu said.
 
Liu also believes that as long as the gender neutral trend remains no more than a fashion fad, he has no problem with it, and even confesses to a liking for dressing up in gender-neutral clothes and styles. "It distinguishes you and your personality from the herd," Liu said.
 
Among netizens surveyed, 33.4% were acceptant of the gender neutral vogue, and 5.1% welcomed it. But 20.4% said they find it unacceptable and 3.7% that they totally oppose it. Another 46.2% were neutral on this topic.
 
"One good thing is that most people don't make judgments," Associate Professor Fang Gang, director of Beijing Forestry University Sex and Gender Research Institute, said. Public tolerance and support reflect the openness and diversity of Chinese society; also that those who choose to be gender neutral are not treated as alien.

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