Slender&tender: Debate on male beauty challenges norms

By Li Qingqing Source:Global Times Published: 2018/7/5 22:08:07

Illustrations: Luo Xuan/GT

"1998 was a great year for French football. Kylian was born." The 19-year-old French star Kylian Mbappe led his country over Argentina during the Russia World Cup, stunning the world with his lightning speed and physical skills.

Yet in China, the young football talent has sparked debate. People were comparing Mbappe with TFBoys, one of China's most popular boy bands who were tagged "xiao xian rou," or "little fresh meats." Netizens rued that the love of "little fresh meats" could explain why there is no football star like Mbappe in China.

"Little fresh meats" refer to male celebrities or rising stars who are young, attractive, gentle and tender. Different from the traditional representation of men which is tough, masculine and hot-headed, "little fresh meats" tend to be more delicate and even effeminate, reshaping Chinese society's stereotypical impression of men.

In recent years, the "little fresh meats" craze seems to be sweeping over China. TFBoys have gained women's affection. Their fans regard themselves as "aunts" or "elder sisters" of the three teenage boys. The social influence the young lads exercise and their commercial value is even higher than world-famous celebrities.

After Mbappe's splendid show, netizens adapted Chinese scholar Liang Qichao's famous words "if the youth are strong, society will be strong," saying that "if the youth are sissy, society will be sissy."

In their opinion, the "sissy" "little fresh meats" are the reason why Chinese football is relatively weak, saying that they pay more attention to appearance than building their physique during teenage years. Although they may have gone to extremes, the negative influence "little fresh meats" have had on society deserves attention.

With the media giving enormous publicity to "little fresh meats," the mainstream appreciation of male beauty is changing. Boys applying cosmetics no longer raise eyebrows and their soft skin and slender figures even outshine those of girls. Yet when boys focus on their appearance, they may forget to cultivate their firm and assertive personality, thus becoming too delicate to deal with difficulties in their lives.

More and more "little fresh meats" are playing the lead in Chinese films and TV series in recent years. The internet buzzword has become a selling point for rising stars, as it is of huge commercial value and helps them draw more fans. Although it somehow reflects the diversity of society, people should be vigilant about the phenomenon. When femininity is lauded and when men are "not man enough," society may eventually be found wanting in the traditional determination of men, harming the great Chinese national spirit.

However, people shouldn't use harsh words for specific cases. "If the youth are sissy, society will be sissy" is an unfair opinion which panders to some netizens' hostility toward "little fresh meats." These good-looking young boys are representing a new trend of entertainment which was mainly brought about by the market, capital and publicity, and those popular "little fresh meats" such as TFBoys are actually the outstanding ones.

Instead of criticizing the three pretty boys, Chinese society should deeply rethink its appreciation of male beauty.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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