Traditionally, boys in China are expected to get good grades, excel at sports and be strong leaders, while girls are expected to be less intellectual and less competitive.
But the gender balance in China is now changing much to the alarm of the state.
The rising economic status of women has upended traditional ideas of masculinity in China so much so that in January China’s Education Ministry published plans to “cultivate masculinity” in boys from kindergarten through high school.
NBC News reports: The initiative involves hiring and training more gym teachers, testing students more comprehensively in physical education, making health education compulsory and supporting research into issues like the “influence of the phenomenon of internet celebrities on adolescents’ values.”
The plan follows a warning from one of China’s top political advisers that the nation is experiencing a national “masculinity crisis.”
“Chinese boys have been spoiled by housewives and female teachers,” the adviser, Si Zefu, said in a policy proposal in May. Boys would soon become “delicate, timid and effeminate” unless action was taken, he said.
Addressing the issue is a matter of national security, he wrote, warning that the “feminization” of Chinese boys “threatens China’s survival and development.”
Boys in China traditionally are expected to show strong leadership skills, get good grades in math and science and excel in school sports, Fang Gang, a sociology professor at Beijing Forestry University, wrote in a blog post about the proposed changes on Jan. 30.
Girls, meanwhile, traditionally are viewed as less intellectual, and they are expected to be less competitive. The gender norms are rooted in traditional philosophy, in which two elements govern the world: Women are associated with the softer, more passive element of “yin”; men are represented by the tougher, more active element of “yang.”
The ideas about gender roles have begun to change in recent years, however. Since 2010, more girls than boys have entered universities, and girls regularly outperform boys in standardized testing, calling into question the traditional view that boys are naturally more academic.
The change has led to a common saying: “Yin in prosperity and yang in decline.”
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