Save the Boys: How China is emasculating its young men

Save the Boys: How China is emasculating its young men

A new book claims that Chinese education and popular culture are feminizing its male children
Save the Boys
Gender-bending pop icons such as Li Yuchun can affect male development, according to the book, as boys model themselves after these people rather than traditional male rolemodels

Chinese boys between the ages of 7 and 17 are 2.54 cm shorter than Japanese boys.
Chinese boys are getting physically weaker.
Chinese boys are now emotionally more vulnerable than girls.

The above are all claims made by a new book, “Save the Boys,” that has one simple warning for Chinese society: our boys are becoming more girly. A combination of popular culture and an education system that inhibits masculine development is to blame, it adds. 

Un-equal education

“We have talked so much about equal education for men and women in the past decades,” says Sun Yunxiao, author of the book and a professor at China's Teenager Research Center, “but we neglected the fact that boys and girls should be educated differently at school.”

Sun's book reveals how China's education system, which centers on exams, is a major disadvantage for the growth of boys. “Boys have to stop being boys in schools; they have to sit still and be obedient. Boys with poor performances in exams feel discouraged by their educators and this has a negative impact in their self-esteem,” says Sun. 

Will China soon become second only to Thailand in producing ladyboys?— Zi Le Shang, netizen

According to "Save the Boys," the traditional Chinese method of 'caged breeding' raises a child like a little emperor and doesn't encourage independence. Furthermore, “the frequent absence of a father figure and the overprotection of the mother is another factor that makes Chinese boys more feminine.”

Add in China's lack of male educators and the book has a strong argument: Chinese boys are developing in a predominately female environment.

Pop culture influences

The book also leaves blame for the change in China’s males on the doorstep of Chinese popular culture. In recent years the pop culture industry, especially TV talent shows, has produced icons (Li Yuchun, for example) that blur the man/woman divide.

According to the "Save the Boys," when Chinese boys grow up they imitate these gender-ambiguous pop culture influences instead of trying to take on more traditional male roles.

What will create these masculine men that “Save the Boys” is looking for? Sun writes on his blog, “In order to have Chinese boys grow up to be real men, they need to participate in sports.”

The "Save the Boys" debate

Sun's book has spurred arguments around the country about young Chinese boys' development. Professor Yuan Jun from Shanghai Normal University's Psychology department is one of the loudest voices against Professor Sun’s theory. “Although gender-neutral men often win talent shows, it doesn't mean boys will imitate their behaviors. These men are just a few of the icons that young boys see.”

Li Wendao, the other author of “Save the Boys,” counters this theory saying that, “the feminine men on TV do not influence grown-ups very much, but they cause severe confusions and even damage to children.”

Feminists entering into the debate question the root of the book's argument. In a society where men and women are seen as equals, they question if it is necessary to teach boys to behave like 'boys' and girls to behave like 'girls.' Even if the book's claims are true, does this mean boys really need to be 'saved?'

There are some however who go further. Netizen Zi Le Shang comments that China will soon become second only to Thailand in producing ladyboys. Not even "Save the Boys" goes this far.