Beijing-based Coach Tang Haiyan believes that China is facing a crisis of gender and identity. He thinks that the growing youth obsession with Korean pop music, well-groomed celebrity idols, fashion, and fame is destroying the values of the nation. In his words: “If you are promoting these effeminate figures, it’s a calamity for our country.”
In order to save a generation of boys from weakness and prissiness, he started the Real Man Training Club.
Chinese pop boy bands, which owe a lot of their aesthetic and image to their Korean brethren, have only increased fears that masculinity is not enough of a priority in Chinese society. The Chinese government’s press machine frequently denounces male celebrities as “sissy pants” or “fresh young meat.”
One major media controversy exploded when the band F4 were featured in an educational program. Angry conservatives and parents berated the creators for promoting the “sick” and “decadent” boys as role models.
The problematic and racist perception of Asian men as weak or effeminate in Western media is a sore spot for China. Instead of trying to dispel gender stereotypes or problematic racist views (there is a known history of America trying to portray Asian men as frail and ineffective in order to curb their potential sex appeal), China firmly places the blame with boys themselves.
Screenwriter Wang Hailin thinks that if China’s boys continue on their current path, they will resemble hookers. He believes that China should look for strong alpha male heroes in Hollywood. The lack of Asian representation in the media implies he means white characters.
Coach Tang, a former teacher, has his students who range from age 7 to the teens, wear headbands that say “Real man.” Slogans like “Power Leader” and “Anything is Possible” also adorn their training gear. They strip down in the freezing cold, often in front of their proud but concerned mothers, and run exercise drills.
Sometimes a boy might break down and cry, but his tears will go ignored. Most of the boys volunteered to sign up for the program and all of them understand that dropping out would make them look like a total loser.
Tang created the Real Man Training Club in 2012 because he believed the Chinese schooling system has failed boys through gender discrimination. He believes the primarily female teachers encourage a system that only rewards girls’ “good” behavior while punishing “bad” male behavior. The club now boasts thousands of members and promises to instill bravery, responsibility, and commitment in its charges.
Via The LA Times