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The Paradox of Pluralisation: Masculinities, Androgyny and Male Anxiety in Contemporary China

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings - With ISBN/ISSNChapter (peer-reviewed)

Publication date2012
Host publicationUnderstanding Global Sexualities: New Frontiers
EditorsPeter Aggleton, Paul Boyce, Henrietta L. Moore, Richard Parker
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9780203111291
ISBN (Print)9780415673471
Original languageEnglish

Publication series

NameSexuality, Culture and Health


This chapter examines new male subjectivities, male anxiety and the recuperation of masculinity in contemporary China. Its focus is one of the most striking trends in youth culture in recent years, the popularity of an ‘androgynous’ look amongst young men, which has been especially visible
in the music and entertainment industries since the mid-2000s (as has an androgynous look amongst young women). I look at the process by which the masculinity of young androgynous men is co-opted and regulated by the state, as well as being discursively recouped in masculinist ways, but which allows for the retention of the androgynous aesthetic. Through interviews with middle-class informants, both men and women, I explore responses to the discourse of androgyny, and examine how men, women and boys in family and educational settings enact their ambivalence, and sometimes outright hostility, to androgynous or ‘feminine’ men. In my approach, I take
seriously Grewal and Kaplan’s (2001: 671) exhortation to develop ‘a mode of study that adopts a more complicated model of transnational relations in which power structures, asymmetries, and inequalities become the conditions of possibility of new subjects.’ I employ this kind of nuanced approach to help throw light on what often appears as the very contradictory and fragmented
ideas, feelings and desires that constitute the subjectivities of people as they variously engage with, adapt, conform to and even reject subject positions effected through transnational and locally situated discourses.