The education ministry in China is planning to increase PE classes and sports in schools to boost the “masculinity” of “effeminate” boys.
The plan is a response to a proposal by government advisory group the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, according to Reuters, which wants to prevent “young men from becoming feminised”.
The education ministry will now recruit more PE teachers in an effort to boost “masculinity” among school boys, but the plan has sparked huge controversy in China.
A hashtag referencing the government plan has been viewed more than 1.5 million times on Weibo. While some insist the plan promotes damaging and discriminatory ideas about masculinity, others are in full support of it.
One user wrote: “It’s hard to imagine such effeminate boys can defend their country when an outside invasion looms.”
But feminist scholar Li Jun said: “The proposal has represented some stereotypes in China on male masculinity, which is against gender equality and diversity, as it sees being effeminate as negative and dangerous while masculinity is useful to the Chinese nation.”
The concept of a “masculinity crisis” in China has exploded in recent years, and the country has seen boot camps open for young boys, claiming to turn them into “real men”.
Former teacher Tang Haiyan founded a programme in Beijing called the “Real Man Training Club”, where boys as young as seven run topless in temperatures of -10 C.
Haiyan told the LA Times that K-Pop culture is “promoting these effeminate figures”, which he described as a “calamity” for China.
He said his group is a “reserve for alpha males” that encourages boys to take part in physical challenges “in a manly way”.
Toxic masculinity, as encouraged in China, has been linked to mental health problems, physical health problems, a lack of sleep, violence and has even led to men putting themselves and others at risk during the coronavirus pandemic.