Are they feminine? Or do different societies and cultures have different definitions of masculinity and feminity?
Western (more specifically American toxic) masculinity is usually about physical powers and the willingness to use violence to solve every problem, you know, your typical macho man.
The entire idea of Chivalry was originally a kind of code of conduct for warriors, soldiers.
East Asians, and in particular, Chinese society value a different kind of masculinity.
I wrote about it here:What has the ideal Chinese man been like throughout history, and how have preferences changed?
Chinese concept for a gentleman is quite different from the west, what we called “君子”. “君子” is the “ideal man” in Confucius teaching, a standard for every literati or layman to achieve.
The flip side of 君子 is 小人, which literally translate into “little or petty man”. The ideal of “君子”, or a true gentleman was defined by Confucius as the following:
A true gentleman does not rush into action, every thing he does must have a good reason, or serve a higher purpose. This also implies that a gentleman will always evaluate the consequences of his action before he make a move.
A true gentleman does not speak empty words, he does not gossip, he does not lie, he does not curse. When he does speak, he will always speak out of reason, his words should carry weight, should come after consideration, should be graceful and merciful.
A true gentleman does not covet, may it be money, power or fame. When he does go out and pursue something, it must have a higher purpose, what he’s after should benefit his country and fellow men.
A true gentleman believes in justice and honor. Everything he does should follow his ideal. He will not do things that goes against his principle, and he will always consider the consequence before taking action. He should not go with his heart and do whatever he likes, this will damage his reputation and honor.
Other “gentlemenly” characteristics often mentioned are humble spirit, peaceful mind and tolerance. A true gentleman would not fuss over little things, they will not get angry over meaningless insults or being offended by careless mistakes. We often say ”君子坦荡荡，小人常戚戚” (A true gentleman has a magnanimous heart, while a little man always worr about every little thing).
So as you can see, the recurrent theme in Confucius “君子” is
Honor, caution, justice, and a higher purpose.
Bravery, defending the weak, and fighting the evil, martial prowess, these western chivalry values don’t really matter much for the Chinese. In fact, traditional Chinese value looks down on physically powerful fighters. 武夫 (martial person) is considered a derogatory term. Chinese ideal men are intellectuals who change the world for the better through policy and administration of a country. What we’re looking for in a Ideal Man is more spiritual than physical, more about honor, justice, every action should be for a higher purpose, for the greater good.
We don’t talk about 君子that much nowadays, but the concept has always been part of Chinese culture and our collective psyche as a people (if such thing exists). It’s not to say Chinese are not brave or don’t have passion, of course we do, but culture wise, we don’t encourage such passion. A true gentleman is a peaceful intellectual, a capable ruler who always cares for his people, and he writes beautiful poems, and play instruments. (probably have 3 wives, sleeping with the servant girl, and courts the most beautiful courtesan, funny the principle of a true gentleman mentions very little about being faithful…)
Originally written for: What are the archetypes of masculinity?
Although, I’d like to add that the ideal man, the concept of 君子, was surprisingly consistent through out Chinese history, with the exception of Yuan and Qing dynasty (both were non-Han Chinese dynasties). Since Confucius formalize the this concept of “gentlemen”, it had been promoted by all Han Chinese emperors afterwards regardless of which dynasty. Even Qing Dynasty with Manchu rulers who might have favored horseback riding and martial prowess more than Han Chinese culture, they don’t think martial arts was higher than intellectual pursuit, they just didn’t think it’s that lowly an activity.
Chinese culture traditionally values intellectual pursues more than physical ones. A real man, or in this case, a gentleman (君子) is defined by his character, his intelligence, and his willingness to build a better society for the lesser men (and women) using his pen (instead of his sword).
That is not to say that Chinese style masculinity is not toxic. We have our own toxic masculinity all the same. It’s just we don’t particularly value aggression in men.
I have had many comments (usually from men) talking about how toxic masculinity is BS. And I shouldn’t use that word.
Let’s talk about toxic masculinity.
The most common rhetoric is that while the idea of masculinity is fine, some aspects of masculinity can be toxic. For example, in the US, boys are allowed, sometimes even encouraged to resolve issues using violence. Men are not allowed to express or discuss their emotions, except anger. Men are expected to deal with their mental issues on their own, with alcohol. Pop media glorify the “alcoholic lone hero” stereotype.
I think we have progressed enough to realize that those stereotypes are damaging to men. But people would argue, what is wrong for men to be strong, brave, protecting the weak, stand up for what is right?
Well, nothing wrong with that. But none of those features should be “men only”. Everyone, regardless of their gender, can and should be strong (in character), brave, willing to stand up for what is right. It is not masculinity, it is being a decent human being.
Similarly, I don’t think any of the traditionally feminine characteristics such as “detail orientated”, “caring and loving”, “good with children”, should be women-only traits.
So if you ask me, the moment you assign a certain aspect of humanity to a certain gender, it becomes toxic.
The moment you start measuring men and women with traditional masculine or feminine features, the moment you start talking about people are not man enough or woman enough because they didn’t do this or that, the moment you assign a gender to a personality trait, it becomes toxic.
So yes, the entire idea of “masculinity”, that somehow you need to behave a certain way to be considered “man enough”, that entire idea is toxic.
People came to me saying “well, I play music and I read books, how dare you tell me I’m not man enough?”
I’m not telling you anything. If you get so triggered by the mere word of “toxic masculinity” and you have to write a 10-page essay telling an internet stranger how manly you are…
well, you’re an example of toxic masculinity.
The notes of this answer are longer than the answer itself… but I need to explain this shit.
I got quite a few of you “Chinese experts” telling me that recently Chinese government had been pushing this “against feminine men” propaganda movement.
And yes, from the surface, it seems that the Chinese government is promoting a certain type of masculinity that is compatible with the traditional western “macho man” stereotype.
But the propaganda movement is not about pushing men to be more macho. No. The movement is about pushing people (men and women) to get married and have children.
China is facing populating aging problem. And their 30 years of single-child policy made the situation a lot worse. They recently had loosened the policy and allowed families to have two children. However, contrary to what they must have expected, single women do not want to get married, mothers with one child do not want to have a second child.
And about the same time, social media and public opinion started to talk about Chinese men being “gigantic babies”. After all, all the marriage age people are from single-child families. Men are considered to be irresponsible, selfish, didn’t care about the family, “never growing up and take the responsibility”.
The government started to create public opinion against the popular “youth” culture, which was led primarily by Korean boybands.
Of course, the actual reason that a lot of women do not want to get married is that getting married means giving up their careers, having children even more so. Those who already have one child do not want to have a second child because raising one child is already hard/expensive enough.
But all of these are difficult social issues without simple solutions.
Now keep in mind that the Chinese government was dominated by economists and mathematicians. That’s why they’re very good with economic policies and very very… very bad with social progressive changes.
Remember that time when they banned game consoles for 15 years because they thought kids might get addicted to video games?
It’s this level of stupidity and ignorance of sociology that get us policies like this. They don’t understand large-scale misogyny is the real reason women don’t want to have children, but sure let’s write some sensational articles about how the younger generation lost their manhood. That will sure get men to become responsible adults.
And you lot reading translated articles from CNN or whatever, thinking you