"grit & valor" not “sissy pants” & “girlie guns”
September 13, 2021 2:32 PM   Subscribe

Over the years in China, “little fresh meat” celebrities and male beauty bloggers have disrupted the traditional image of what it is to be a man. But recently, Chinese cultural authorities have announced a purge of “morally flawed celebrities.” Setting the frame was a widely promulgated blog essay on the "grit and valor" returning to Chinese culture that “will no longer be a paradise for effeminate stars, and the press will no longer be a place for the worship of Western culture.” Previously on this massive, multi-sector crackdown. posted by spamandkimchi (22 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
Forgot to include this very relevant essay at Sixth Tone: What I Learned From 10 Years Teaching Chinese Students About Gender.
posted by spamandkimchi at 2:33 PM on September 13 [30 favorites]

Gay people have never been much use to authoritarian systems, perhaps as archetypes of masculinity and femininity need to be periodically narrowed to serve the needs of the day:
LIBERTARIAN, DEMOCRATIC ASPIRATIONS OF all kinds withered in this atmosphere, while the conservative, authoritarian prejudices surviving from the old regime flourished and blended in seamlessly with the consolidating culture of Stalinism. Already in 1926 Hirschfeld, returning from a visit to the USSR, expressed disappointment at the prudery he found prevalent there, including the stigmatizing of homosexuality as “unproletarian.”

In 1934, with the Stalinist bureaucracy in complete control, homosexuality was recriminalized. A new law imposed three to five years of hard labor for any man convicted of performing sexual intercourse with another man. In the Great Soviet Encyclopedia of 1936, homosexuality was defined as “a sexual perversion” considered “shameful and criminal.”

The persecution of gays under Stalin was no mere recrudescence of traditional bigotry, however. Homosexuals were regarded as “asocial” outsiders, and therefore potential subversives, potential threats to the new system, which aimed at total control. They were also a threat to the super-productivism mandated by the drive for rapid industrialization. Soviet industry demanded ever more workers, while the maximum diversion of resources toward armaments and capital goods meant that the traditional heterosexual family had to assume the bulk of the cost and burden of maintaining the labor supply.
Not to say that traditionally capitalist systems have been much better. I suspect that we only enjoy more recognition of our rights today, in comparison, to the extent that we have helped and can continue to help rich (straight) people get richer.

Service guarantees citizenship, depending on the current definition of servitude.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 2:52 PM on September 13 [16 favorites]

Ok, sorry - I am going to need more explanation of "little fresh meat" because I clicked on that link and was too concerned to keep reading. If some one can confirm that all these folks are of age then I will dive back in.
posted by Gyre,Gimble,Wabe, Esq. at 3:26 PM on September 13

I was just thinking this weekend about Leslie Cheung, who committed suicide in 2003. This would not have been a happy time for him.
posted by praemunire at 3:40 PM on September 13 [11 favorites]

GGWE, it may calm you to know that its focused on celebrities and that it's not necessarily sexual, or maybe it just confirms your need to nope out of here:
The phrase “little fresh meat” has been around now for several years and refers to someone who is athletic, young, and handsome. In 2014, the online media company Sina published an article rating the top 10 “little fresh meats” in China’s entertainment circle...

... However, not every little fresh meat is the subject of erotic spectacle. One famous counterexample is the TFBoys, one of China’s most popular teenage-boy bands. At the time of their debut in 2013, the three members of the group were schoolboys between 13 and 14 years old, but the majority of their fans were females over 20. Their fans labeled themselves “aunts,” and their love for the TFboys was more protective than desirous. Thus we can say that there are in general two types of little fresh meats. One is an alluring, passive sexual object, while the other is an innocent, naive boy. Both are beautiful, and more importantly, both of are markedly different from common male stereotypes in the Chinese popular culture in times past.

....In a way, Chinese women are using their power as consumers to forge the ideal male figure — one who is beautiful, understanding, and inoffensive. But does the label “little fresh meat” really, as critics attest, carry indelicate implications and objectify men? The answer of course is yes, but for me these flaws are outweighed by their merits.
posted by spamandkimchi at 3:46 PM on September 13 [9 favorites]

"The phrase “little fresh meat” has been around now for several years and refers to someone who is athletic, young, and handsome. The popularity of the label has helped to change how the media portrays men. Only a decade ago, male leads in Chinese film and television were cast as tough, authoritative, and patriarchal characters. If a male character appeared meticulously groomed, he was normally portrayed as being a sissy, a eunuch, or gay — intended to be objects of contempt.

Not anymore. Little fresh meats have inspired the media to create new representations of male beauty, often characterized by well-built, topless torsos, and delicate, almost feminine, features. They signify female desire."

A fascinating collection of links, thanks spamandkimchi
posted by The River Ivel at 3:46 PM on September 13 [2 favorites]

thanks for the really thoughtful links. I'm really going to be looking out to see if the Chinese culture rags I currently follow (Radii, Goldthread) are going to say anything about this shit or if they're going to just toe the CCTV line because this will be a hell of a line in the sand for picking out what's just state-sponsored propaganda

really disappointing because I thought it was getting a hell of a lot better. I'm not sure if it's just the avenues of media I consume or what but I see 'boy's love' webcomics all the time on manga sites now and they are way more widely read and popular in China than slashfic is in the US. Netflix even has one such series up in their gambit to take some of the market in Chinese streaming. it really sucks to hear that the toxic cesspit of performative masculinity that my father's generation loves to bandy about is being legally prescribed

had always hoped that acceptance for a wide range of gender expressions was one of the things China was doing better than the west. guess the fuck not
posted by paimapi at 3:49 PM on September 13 [4 favorites]

Thank you, Spamandkimchi! I just wasn't sure what I was wandering into!
posted by Gyre,Gimble,Wabe, Esq. at 4:11 PM on September 13

Gay people have never been much use to authoritarian systems, perhaps as archetypes of masculinity and femininity need to be periodically narrowed to serve the needs of the day:

Ernst Röhm
is another example.
posted by clavdivs at 4:44 PM on September 13 [1 favorite]

And although it's been mentioned in other threads before, as a note to anyone who might have missed it, the decisions made in China can have wider effects in representation than on Chinese media alone as companies compete to abet their policies in hopes of profit. This shouldn't be a thread about the US though, so this is just intended as a supplement to drive home how far reaching these decisions may be.
posted by gusottertrout at 4:51 PM on September 13 [6 favorites]

In the Chinese community I know, little fresh meat just refers to boyishly attractive young men on TV. Like, my aunties will watch such and such Chinese drama partly because of the eye candy. As a non-cis gay person, my actual impression was that LFM includes both effeminate men and conventionally handsome men. I also think because of Chinese homophobia if a star is "too" effeminate they would not qualify as LFM, my aunties and mom's friends would just make fun of how effeminate they are. So there was never much subversion of gender norms in the first place, in the sense that young men with youthful pretty faces have always been part of conventional ideas about beauty.
posted by polymodus at 5:23 PM on September 13 [16 favorites]

North Korea was doing thisin the last few weeks, I guess those K-Pop properties are too much competition for beloved leader. Who seems to have better adjusted to his meds.
posted by Oyéah at 7:04 PM on September 13 [2 favorites]

Garbage fascist ideology.
posted by wuwei at 8:11 PM on September 13

I don't want to mix my metaphors but there have been dark clouds hanging over the once flourishing Danmei/BL (boy's love) scene forever, and now the winter has come. Official messages have labeled the whole Danmei genre as 'unhealthy culture', and word is that the word Danmei itself will be put on the 'sensitive keywords' list and censored on Weibo. (Danmei got big and quasi mainstream because media investors saw how much money is there, but as we see in other recent cases, capital isn't likely to stand up against the government.)

BL novels and their visual media adaptations are overwhelmingly created by women and consumed by women, and it's hard not to view the government's recent crackdown not only as hardening of existent intolerance of homosexuality, but as another form of official gender oppression against the female population.

This cultural war against effeminacy (again, a word that rankles any self-respecting feminist) is also part of a bigger fight against rapidly declining birth rates. The government issued a 'three-children per family' policy earlier this year to encourage more birth, and adopted a slew of other drastic measures in service of the same goal.

Meanwhile, the MeToo movement in China meets setback after setback too disheartening to detail here.
posted by of strange foe at 9:12 AM on September 14 [16 favorites]

Is 'grit' a good translation? For me, it currently marks that part of the American Grift where you're telling people they should be grateful to struggle within a system that is geared to deny them any escape from that struggle.
posted by k3ninho at 1:03 PM on September 14 [1 favorite]

血性 is the word being translated as "grit." One of the Chinese dictionaries I use defines it as "brave/staunch/unyielding", so it seems accurate enough offhand. The China Media Project link above ties the "grit and valor" reading to the phrase's use among the PLA in recent years.
posted by heteronym at 5:00 PM on September 14

The China Media Project posted a piece yesterday on fandom in general :
Viewed purely as entertainment, this type of interaction and opinion formation may seem like innocent fun. But fandom culture also has the potential to impact the ideas and values of China’s youth, particularly those born in the 2000s. And it can give rise to organized communities of interest that impact on other issues and agendas.

...On August 23, the official China Media Group wrote in an article on fandom culture on its news app that fandoms had become “communities of interest” (利益共同体) that spread poor morals and values, and that “the time had come to drive out evil and support the upright” (驱邪扶正).
They point out that fandom activities have been nationalist in flavor as well (e.g. protesting Hong Kong protests):
In the context of “fandom nationalism,” the Party-state has often been obliquely supportive of the actions of fandom culture to the extent that they support national objectives. While state media coverage of the recent campaign to “rectify chaos” in fandom culture has stressed problems like cyber-bullying and doxing, state media have in fact encouraged such behaviour in the past when it has served the Party-state agenda around sovereignty and territorial integrity.
posted by spamandkimchi at 5:44 PM on September 14 [2 favorites]

I didn't know that Archive of Our Own had been embroiled in fandom controversies in China! (same article):
In January 2020, AO3 was host to a work of fan fiction called “Falling” (下坠) that centered on Xiao and his 2019 male co-star Wang Yibo (王一博). While many of Xiao Zhan’s fans enjoyed “Falling,” a work fairly typical of the popular gay fiction genre known as “Boys’ love,” “BL” for short, the overt homoeroticism of several installments of the series in February infuriated some. Fans unhappy with this fictional portrayal of their idol, Xiao Zhan, retaliated by reporting the AO3 website to government authorities, who responded not just by targeting the series but by blocking access to the entire website in China.
posted by spamandkimchi at 5:46 PM on September 14 [2 favorites]

spamandkimchi, yes, AO3 used to be a popular choice for a lot of danmei writers to stash the sex scenes in their novels, because major web hosts of danmei fiction in China all have strict rules about how explicit they can be. (The biggest site, jjwxc.com now basically bans anything under the neck. To be fair, heterosexual romance gets the same treatment.) Lofter.com aspires to be the Chinese AO3 but got 'cleaned' up last year as well.
posted by of strange foe at 6:47 PM on September 14 [3 favorites]

....In a way, Chinese women are using their power as consumers to forge the ideal male figure — one who is beautiful, understanding, and inoffensive.

posted by spamandkimchi

One of the interesting things about gaming culture in Japan, China and Korea is the fact that women outspend men in several genres, which leads to a depiction of men through a female lens. In particular I find it funny that many Westerners playing Genshin Impact were confused by two major characters (Venti and Xingqiu) thinking they were actually female...

This ends up quite different to men depicted in Western games which are still mostly driven by the male market, you'd rarely come across a scenario where someone might mistake a male main character for a female.

Basically, the difference between what men think men should be like, versus what women think men should be like. It depends if your objective is to impress other men, or to attract a partner, I guess...
posted by xdvesper at 12:52 AM on September 15

Meanwhile, the MeToo movement in China meets setback after setback too disheartening to detail here.

Chinese court rules against #MeToo plaintiff
posted by kliuless at 2:34 AM on September 15 [1 favorite]

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