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The ‘Zhinan’ Stereotype: Teasing the ‘Straight Guy’ is an Online Game

For many girls, makeup is part of their day to day life. But what happens when girls test their boyfriend’s knowledge about their makeup items? A new popular game on WeChat and Sina Weibo does not only reveal men’s ignorance on cosmetics, it also reiterates China’s ‘Zhinan’ [‘Straight Guy’] stereotype.

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For many women, makeup is part of their day-to-day life. But what happens when they test their boyfriend’s knowledge about their makeup items? A new popular game on WeChat and Sina Weibo does not only reveal men’s ignorance on cosmetics, it also reiterates China’s ‘Zhinan’ [‘Straight Guy’] stereotype.

How much are your makeup items worth according to your boyfriend? This question is at the center of a new online test that has drawn hundreds of thousands of participants on China’s social media overnight.

The ‘test’ entails that girls present their boyfriends with their many different cosmetics while filming, and ask them to guess their functions and prices. The video is then later shared on social media under the hashtag “How much is your makeup according to your BF? (#男朋友觉得你的化妆品多少钱) – the ‘game’ instantly became a top trending topic on Weibo.

Teasing the ‘ignorant’ boyfriend

Many girls are eager to participate in the game. Those without boyfriends invite their male friends to take part. In most cases, the men are completely confused about women’s cosmetics; they mistake eyeliner for lipstick, and have somewhat peculiar excuses to explain their incorrect answers – when asked why a “foundation” would be black (actually an eye-shadow), one young man answered it was “because some people like looking like South-East Asian beach style”. As for prices, many boys simply adopt the ’35-yuan strategy’, where everything is guessed to be 35 RMB (±5,4$), randomly attaching low prices to their girlfriends fancy cosmetics. Although most men seemingly know nothing about their girlfriend’s makeup, they often appear dead serious in the video’s, and seem quite confident that they have the situation under control – to much amusement of Weibo’s female netizens.

China is not the first country where this game became a hype. A similar test “Guys guessing the price of makeup” was popular on English social media in 2014. But in China, there’s more to the game than teasing the ignorant boyfriend; it is about making fun of ‘zhinan’ (直男, literally “straight guys”) in general.

China’s zhinan stereotype

‘Zhinan’ (直男) in Chinese originally referred to ‘straight’ heterosexual males. But throughout the years, the word has derived in meaning, and instead of just pointing to sexual orientation, it has now come to refer to an entire category of men in China.

According to common stereotype, the zhinan generally lacks good taste in clothing. He tends to be chauvinistic (大男子主义) and has an almost excessive level of self-confidence. A more precise term that entails the negative connotations of zhinan is ‘zhinan ai’ (直男癌, ‘straight male cancer’), a term that has triggered many discussions on social media in recent years, where being a zhinan is compared to having a disease.

What exactly is zhinan ai? According to online question-and-answer platform Zhihu, these are some famous ‘zhinan‘ quotes:

 – “Giving birth is the born duty of women. Not doing so is anti-human.”
 – “A woman is not a complete human being if she is not married. Arguing against this is arguing against Darwin.”
 – “You, a woman, knows who Beckham is? You know about cars and politics? Tat, tat, you’re not a good woman.”

The zhinan stereotype can be traced back to some old beliefs rooted in China’s paternalistic society, where males are believed to be superior to women both in status and intelligence. In this view, marriage is believed to be essential to individual lives, with a strict division of labour; men are the breadwinners, dealing with the external world, while women take care of the household and the ‘inside’ world. As the supporting column (顶梁柱) of the family, men have absolute authority with what they say and what they do. According to this male stereotype, men are not supposed to spend too much attention on their looks – which is considered a women’s issue.

Traces of this male-dominated conception way can still be found everywhere in today’s China. A recent Xinhua article claimed that 40% of Chinese men show serious symptoms of zhinan ai.

More than just a laugh?

But along with China’s fast modernization, the social discourse on gender issues is also gradually changing. It has made the idea of the dominant and controlling pater familias outdated. Zhinan, in this sense, embodies this concept of the archaic view on gender dichotomy and male power.

Teasing your boyfriend by testing his knowledge on cosmetics can be just a laugh between lovers. But there is also a more serious message to guys underneath the game: sticking head-strong to a traditional male ideal and old-fashioned gender divisions does not make you more of a ‘real man’ in a romantic relationship in today’s China.

But not all Weibo netizens think the cosmetics test is representative of gender divisions. “I’m a girl, and I don’t understand cosmetics at all,” one commenter says.

– By Diandian Guo, additional editing by Manya Koetse

©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Diandian Guo is a China-born Master student of transdisciplinary and global society, politics & culture at the University of Groningen with a special interest for new media in China. She has a BA in International Relations from Beijing Foreign Language University, and is specialized in China's cultural memory.

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China Insight

Press Conference on Chinese Student’s Death: Hu Xinyu Left Message on Voice Recorder

These are the most important details shared during the 2.2.23 press conference on the disappearance and death of Hu Xinyu.

Manya Koetse

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The disappearance and death of the Chinese 15-year-old Hu Xinyu has become one of the biggest topics on Chinese social media recently, with dozens of hashtags related to the story receiving millions – sometimes even billions – of views.

Hu Xinyu went missing from school on Oct. 14, 2022. The boy’s whereabouts were a mystery for 106 days, during which family, friends, police, and dedicated search teams searched for the student all across the Yanshan County region in Jiangxi Province and beyond.

On Jan 28., 2023, Hu’s remains were found by a local guard on the premises of a grain warehouse not far from the school. For a full timeline of Hu’s disappearance and the details surrounding his death, see our previous article here.

A voice recorder was also found near Hu’s remains, but the data on the small 4GB recorder initially seemed to be unretrievable, and it was sent back to the manufacturer for analysis.

On the morning of Feb. 2, 2023, local authorities and the dedicated task force organized a live-broadcasted press conference on the case and the latest findings.

The most important pieces of information provided in the press conference on February 2nd are as follows:

◼︎ Hu Xinyu’s death has been ruled a suicide by hanging. Hu used shoelaces, which were removed from the shoes found near Hu’s remains.

◼︎ As previously reported, Hu was found at a nearby grain warehouse. It has now been clarified that the area where Hu’s remains were found is a grain reserve depot area. The grain reserve depot area is prohibited to enter and is guarded 24/7. It is a very large plot of land that includes a zone (over 8000 square meters) with twenty buildings on it – including warehouses and living quarters, – and a forest area of approximately 9300 square meters. Although the area is encircled by a wall, some parts of the wall are lower due to uneven ground. Hu’s body was found in the wooded area, hanging from a tree near the wall, close to one of the spots where the wall height was significantly lower.

School area (top circle) and the grain reserve depot area (lower circle).

◼︎ The location where Hu’s remains were found is just 226 meters away from the Zhiyuan Middle School and it had been searched before, not only through the use of thermal drones, but also by search teams on four different occasions in October and November of 2022. Although all the buildings in the area were searched along with other parts of the zone, the specific wooded area where Hu was later found was not searched. There were also no clues that led search teams to believe Hu Xinyu had walked a specific route through dense vegetation surrounding the grain depot area.

People’s Daily released a 3D video visualising the situation in the area where Hu’s remains were found. Due to uneven ground / piled-up mud, the high wall is relatively easy to jump over from outside. Inside the wall (which is on the grain reserve depot grounds) there is a wooded area.

Hu Xinyu’s body was found hanging from a tree at the interior of the wall, in a place that was not clearly visible.

◼︎ The voice recorder plays a major role in this case. It was previously known that Hu Xinyu had purchased a voice recorder and that it could not be located after Hu Xinyu went missing. Although earlier reports stated that the data on the recorder could not be retrieved as the device had been exposed to sun, rain, moist, etc., it has now been announced that the audio files have been retrieved and that Hu Xinyu recorded two messages on Oct. 14, 2022, at 17:40 and 23:08, in which he expressed the will to commit suicide.

◼︎ The involved experts in this case have also concluded that through analysis and based on Hu’s own notes and other evidence, the 15-year-old boy was struggling with his mental health and emotional disorders related to loneliness, insecurity, and lack of communication. Hu also experienced additional stress when he was getting lower grades, and he suffered from insomnia, difficulty concentrating, abnormal eating patterns, and an overall sense of hopelessness.

During the press conference, reporters were allowed to ask questions related to the case. In response to a question related to the many rumors the Hu Xinyu case has attracted over the past months, one official declared that at least two persons have been arrested for fabricating videos and purposely spreading false rumors about the case.

After Thursday’s press conference, it has once again become clear just how big the social media attention is for this case. The hashtag “Content of Hu Xinyu Voice Recorder” (#胡鑫宇录音笔内容#) received over 390 million views on Weibo; the hashtag “Hu Xinyu Expressed Will to Commit Suicide on Voice Recorder” (#胡鑫宇录音笔中音频表达自杀意愿#) received over 640 million views; the hashtag “Hu Xinyu Died due to Self-Hanging” (#胡鑫宇系自缢死亡#) received over 950 million views.

Among the many responses, there are those who argue that schools should offer more channels to provide support to students dealing with mental health issues. Others hope that Hu Xinyu can now finally rest in peace.

 
For information and support on mental health and suicide, international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.
 

By Manya Koetse 

 

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©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Digital

U.S. Embassy Launches WeChat Stickers Featuring Cartoon Eagle

A Weibo hashtag about the eagle stickers, that feature some phrases previously used by China’s Foreign Ministry, has now been taken offline.

Manya Koetse

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On January 30, the American Embassy in China announced the launch of its very own series of social media gifs, a special ’emoticon collection’ (表情包), featuring a little, somewhat silly cartoon eagle.

The U.S. Embassy launched the eagle series on WeChat and also announced the series on their Weibo account, writing that the eagle made its first public appearance in light of the festivities surrounding the Chinese New Year.

The eagle is called “Xiaomei” or “Little Mei” (鹰小美). The ‘mei’ is part of 美国 Měiguó, Chinese for the ‘United States,’ but měi also means beautiful and pretty.

The American embassy issued a total of 16 different animated stickers, and they’re intended to be used on Tencent’s WeChat, where users can download all kinds of different emoticons or stickers to use in conversations.

WeChat users often use many different animated stickers in conversations to express emotions, make jokes, or increase the festive mood (by sending out celebratory New Year’s or birthday etc gifs). Users can download new and preferred sticker packages through the app’s sticker section.

One sticker shows Xiaomei with a festive decoration with 福 () for blessing and prosperity, wishing everyone a happy start to the Chinese Lunar New Year. There are also stickers showing the texts “happy winter,” “hi,” and “thank you.”

Another sticker in the series that has triggered some online responses is one that shows the eagle with a surprised look, wiping its eyes, with the words “wait and see” written above. The Chinese expression used is 拭目以待 shìmù yǐdài, to eagerly wait for something to happen, literally meaning to wipe one’s eyes and wait.

This same expression was often used by the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian (赵立坚) during press conferences, and he also used it in 2022 when responding to questions related to Nancy Pelosi’s controversial visit to Taiwan and how the Chinese military would respond (e.g. he first used “wait and see” in the context of waiting to see if Pelosi would actually dare to go to Taiwan or not). But Zhao also used “please wait and see” (请大家拭目以待) when foreign reporters asked him how China would respond to the announced U.S. boycott of the Winter Olympics in 2021.

The Little Mei emoji triggered the most responses as some netizens felt it was meant as a sneer to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

One of Little Mei’s quotes is also “remain calm” (保持冷静 bǎochí lěngjìng), which was – perhaps coincidentally – also often used by Zhao in the context of the war in Ukraine and to refer to other international conflicts or tensions (“all parties should remain calm”). The animated sticker also has olive branches growing behind the eagle.

It recently became known that Zhao, who became known as the ‘Wolf Warrior’ diplomat, was removed as the Foreign Ministry spokesperson and was moved to the Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs.

Especially in the context of Zhao leaving his post, some wondered why the U.S. Embassy would use phrases related to his press conferences for their new emoticons.

Although some people suggested the WeChat stickers were not launched in China with good intentions, others appreciated the humorous visuals and felt it was funny. Some also joked that America was infiltrating Chinese social media with its cultural export (“文化输出”), and others wondered if they could not also introduce some other stickers with more Chinese Foreign Ministry popular phrases on them.

A hashtag related to the topic made its rounds on Weibo on Tuesday (#美驻华大使馆上线鹰小美表情包#), but the topic suddenly was taken offline on Tuesday evening local time, along with some of the media reports about the remarkable WeChat series.

The WeChat stickers are still available for downloading by scanning the QR code below through WeChat.

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

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Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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