So just who is the real sissy, then?

By Raymond Zhou ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-12-13 08:01:39

Gender roles are changing but prejudice persists, even in the privacy of a household and among the highly educated.

Lin Shaohua, a noted translator of Japanese literature, gave a lecture to a class of master of public administration students the other day. In the question-and-answer session, a student asked him how he managed his time well enough to be so prolific in translation and writing, on top of his job as a university teacher. Lin said the trick is in "not doing any household chores".

As he described it in his microblog, the male students all laughed while the women kept silent. So he turned to the latter and said the wear and tear on men of cleaning pots and pans would remove their manliness and ambitions, turning them into effeminate creatures, at the same time turning women into tomboys.

The remark was so tongue-in-cheek that, without the benefit of an audible voice, it is difficult to determine whether it was meant to be sarcastic. Since Lin deleted his post in the aftermath of swarms of critical responses, I figure that it was intended as a sincere explanation and, possibly, a piece of advice on the rigorous division of gender roles.

Now I don't believe China is an extremely male-chauvinistic society. Since the Enlightenment Movement, otherwise known as the May Fourth Movement of 1919, Chinese society has struggled to free itself from the shackles of feudalism, which includes institutional discrimination against women. While we cannot claim that women in China have achieved equality in every field, they have proved that they can hold their place next to men with no preferential treatment whatsoever. In fact there are so many fields and professions in which women are beating their male peers hands down that affirmative action, as it is known in North America, is often reserved for men who have turned out to be the weaker party in fair competition.

There has been discussion over the past decade about the sources of male weakness. Some point to the lack of military-style training in schools and others reckon male children are more pampered because they are supposed to carry on the family lineage. The fashion trend has clearly swerved to the epicene man. The fashion du jour is embodied by androgynous styling, an appearance firmly established as the paragon of metro sexual beauty.

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