‘Little Fresh Meat’ and the Changing Face of Masculinity in China

The embrace of a more fluid form of masculinity shows that many Chinese are frustrated with the traditional ideas pushed by the establishment.

Mr. Cai belongs to the tribe of “little fresh meat,” a nickname, coined by fans, for young, delicate-featured, makeup-clad male entertainers. These well-groomed celebrities star in blockbuster movies, and advertise for cosmetic brands and top music charts. Their rise has been one of the biggest cultural trends of the past decade. Their image — antithetical to the patriarchal and stoic qualities traditionally associated with Chinese men — is changing the face of masculinity in China.

Innocent as they may seem, the little fresh meat have powerful critics. The state news agency Xinhua denounces what it calls “niangpao,” or “sissy pants,” culture as “pathological” and said in an editorial last September that its popularity is eroding social order. The Beijing newspaper’s decision to include Mr. Cai in its profiles apparently prompted the Communist Youth League to release its own list of young icons: patriotic athletes and scientists, whom it called the “true embodiment” of the spirit of Communist youth.

The government attacks on this evolving idea of masculinity have triggered a strong counter-backlash from fans of the celebrities. And in online essays and posts, defenders of the young men make clear that their preference is more than a youthful countercultural fad. At its heart, the embrace of a more modern, less rigid form of masculinity represents frustration with traditional ideas of manhood.

“The ridiculous condemnation of ‘sissy pants’ men shows the gender ideology of a patriarchal society that equates toughness with men and fragility with women,” a journalist who goes by the name Wusi wrote in an online essay in September, voicing a widely shared opinion.

The official push of traditional masculinity — including reinvented school curriculums and the sponsorship of boys-only clubs — is motivated in part by worries that the decades-long one-child policy produced a generation of timid and self-centered male youth ill equipped to fulfill their social responsibilities.

And in the context of China’s increasing power, the establishment’s preoccupation with promoting old-fashioned, Hollywood-style manliness also has a political message. Just as patriotic intellectuals a century ago argued that national strength derives from the virile energy of the youth, present-day Chinese nationalists see their ambitions take the shape of a macho willingness to fight for righteous causes.

This vision is on display in the 2017 action thriller “Wolf Warrior 2.” The movie, featuring a former People’s Liberation Army soldier caught in an African civil war, showed him putting the lives of local civilians above his own while single-handedly beating American-led mercenaries. The goal of the story, said Wu Jing, its director and lead actor, in media interviews, is to “inspire men to be real men.” The movie went on to become China’s top-grossing film in history.

There is little question about who in real life is meant to best personify the masculine chauvinism characterizing the official line today: Take a stroll down a city street or switch on the television at news hour — and you are greeted by the face of President Xi Jinping with a perennial look of self-assurance and determination.

What the man accused of helping Kavanaugh assault a woman wrote about female sexuality

In two memoirs, Judge depicted his high school as a nest of debauchery where students attended “masturbation class,” “lusted after girls” from nearby Catholic schools and drank themselves into stupors at parties. He has since renounced that lifestyle and refashioned himself as a conservative moralist — albeit one who has written about “the wonderful beauty of uncontrollable male passion.”

.. He was caption editor for his yearbook, which included lines like “Ebony and Ivory” beneath a photo of a white and a black student, and “Do these guys beat their wives?” beneath a group photo of several boys.

.. Judge never wrote about any sexual violence at those parties, nor did he mention Kavanaugh attending any. But Judge’s 1997 memoir, “Wasted,” references a “Bart O’Kavanaugh” character who passes out drunk and throws up in a car.

.. Judge has written dozens of columns in the decades since, including several for this newspaper. Femininity, masculinity and sexuality are perennial themes. He has written that safety razors are too feminine, that former president Barack Obama is practically a woman, and that gay men have infiltrated the priesthood.

.. He has also written repeatedly about his thoughts on sexual violence, which might make him an interesting character witness if Ford’s accusations against Kavanaugh result in a prolonged public investigation.

.. In general, Judge has been unsparing of men accused of assault, including the conservative Senate candidate Roy Moore, and his condemnation of male aggression sometimes bleeds into critiques on women’s behavior, as when he wrote last year for Acculturated:

“There’s never any excuse to rape, a crime that I think is almost akin to murder because the rapist kills a part of the human soul. And yet what women wear and their body language also send signals about their sexuality.”

Two years earlier, in an ode to “sexy” pulp novels, Judge lamented “social justice warriors” who confuse rape with innocent demonstrations of masculinity. He wrote then of “an ambiguous middle ground, where the woman seems interested and indicates, whether verbally or not, that the man needs to prove himself to her.”

“If that man is any kind of man, he’ll allow himself to feel the awesome power, the wonderful beauty, of uncontrollable male passion,” Judge continued. To illustrate his point, he linked to a scene from the 1981 film “Body Heat,” in which the hero forcibly breaks into a woman’s home, and is rewarded with a kiss.