In oh-so-many ways China is a man’s world – Confucius made that clear from the very beginning – but, sadly, some of its more macho citizens don’t have a very good reputation and, let’s say, aren’t known for being the most chivalrous types.
Firstly, there are those that are almost seen as a disease on the nation: Straight Men Cancer (直男癌 zhí nán ái); this is a term thrown at that extra-manly man who is overly proud of his poor taste and lives in the all-too-narrow confines of his own world. He lives in the past and holds outdated moral values and would be more fitting in an ancient Chinese dynasty, particularly when talking and thinking about those most delicate of creatures, women. In the West, his sobriquet would likely be the now slightly hackneyed, “Male Chauvinist Pig”.
Perhaps this particular man looks a respectable, homely sort, with brilliantly gelled hair of course; he considers himself a dedicated follower of fashion, but he suddenly becomes bitterly two-faced the moment a woman dares to use her sexual allure in any way. A woman getting a decent education sickens him, as he believes their singular role is to be incubators for their children, unthinking wombs at the behest of men. Alas this poor creature has a litany of symptoms that betrays a lack of confidence in his own muscular appeal. Chinese women who, say, date foreign men are traitorous hussies in his mind, infidels to the great Chinese nation. Though there is, of course, one woman who remains the apple of the Straight Man Cancer’s eye: his mother, for she can do no wrong and is the fountain of all knowledge.
This brings us on to the Mother’s Baby (妈宝 mā bǎo) or what is known in the West as the “Mommy’s Boy” – a fully grown man seemingly incapable of making decisions for himself, instead letting his mother fully control each aspect of the minutiae of his life – everything from what he should wear and where he should work to even who he should date. This cocksure young man might be 30 years old, but he still lives with his mother, probably in the basement. This creature is not known for being attractive to women.
In fact his relationship with women is so limited that he might well be called a 撸-sir (loser, masturbator). When he is not in his own paradisaical, private garden of Onan, he works in IT. And, even when he is not at work, he is, most likely, at home furiously bashing buttons to World of Warcraft on his PC. However, should you ask him if he has a girlfriend or if he has, indeed, ever slept with anyone, his swift response sings a different tune. “Yeah,” he says, “I have screwed hundreds of women.” This particular male of the species doesn’t get out much.
Not all of the nation’s men are coiled springs of unadulterated machismo. We ought not to forget the “Sissies” (娘炮 niáng pào). This term, most likely an invention of the Straight Man Cancer, is for those men who, well, betray just a little too much of their feminine side. Their shower-gels have fragrant hints of lemon and lime; their clothes fit just a little bit too perfectly; and they walk with the campiest of girly gaits. This is not to say that they are homosexual of course, oh no. This man might even be quite popular with a certain type of woman. The niangpao is often seen as slightly more interesting than your average straight male, more subtle and delicate in his emotions – an absolute must for the girls to do lunch with, one of the so-called 男闺蜜 (nán guīmì – male besties). The Straight Man Cancer must look on in shame as his bullied rival takes home the girls, somehow aghast at how sensitive trumps the noble tradition of misogyny and chauvinism.