In the West, the word “masculine” might conjure images of the muscled arms and hairy chests of Hollywood hunks, or the bespoke suits and deep-set eyes of British heartthrobs. In an Asian context, there seems to be a more diverse range, from the airbrushed complexions of male K-pop stars; to the moody models of fashion shoots; to the boy-next-door types known as yanxinan. But have these versions of masculinity truly entered the mainstream?
Diversity is a watchword across social media, but on television—in China, at least—they still blur out men’s earrings and tattoos. Even boy bands find their images altered so that everyone appears with the same black hair. There are sets of unspoken rules that everyone follows.
As men face these conflicting pressures, who do they want to be? We asked ten men and women with different backgrounds to share their understanding of masculinity. The answers might expand your definition of the word—or make you think any definition is pointless.
西方世界里，好莱坞大片中体魄强健毛发旺盛的肌肉男，或者英剧里西装革履眼睛深邃的绅士，也许是你看到“男性气质”这四个字时在脑海里一闪而过的印象。回到东方语境里，更多类型的男性似乎涌现至眼前，迎着 K-pop 大潮而来的五官精致、肤白纤细的小鲜肉们；时髦着装五官特别的超模脸；抑或是长相清淡衣着宽松的盐系男… 但他们是被特定人群追捧着，还是真的有被归入到主流审美麾下？似乎仍待商榷。
面对这些困惑，究竟男性想要成为谁？我们因此邀请了 10 位风格迥异的男男女女来聊聊男性气质这件事，也许他们会帮你拓宽这个定义，又或者定义根本是多余的。
Masculinity, I suppose, is the behavior and speech that stems from identifying as a man. People always mistakenly equate masculinity with manliness or with macho-ness. When I was a kid, I didn’t really fit the so-called universal norms, and I was criticized and even bullied. But growing up I actually benefited in school and work from not being “masculine” in the usual way.
My paragon of manliness: Maybe there’s no specific individual who totally fits the bill.
People are always stuck on an intrinsic framework and aesthetic. They don’t understand that masculinity can be diverse, and sometimes even have negative opinions about that diversity. Only when people accept a “degendered” framework and aesthetic will the world be full of peace and love.
My paragon of manliness: A man who doesn’t exist, someone with divine hearing with the ability to both “hear” sights and sounds.
Yoga Instructor & Model
In my opinion, a man should be able to protect a girl and have a sense of responsibility. They don’t necessarily need to be unbelievably handsome. Being able to take responsibility is really manly. When faced with problems, he shouldn’t get nervous like a little kid, and he should know what he wants. But society today thinks that all men need to be somewhat successful. It’s like everyone’s given a framework with a single standard, something that may not be very good for men or women.
My paragon of manliness: Brian O’Conner from The Fast and the Furious.
最欣赏的男性：《速度与激情》（ The Fast and the Furious）里 Brian O’Conner 的角色。
Nowadays you often hear the phrases “be a man” or “man up,” which translates to “don’t be weak.” Another phrase you hear a lot is “real men,” a stereotype of what a man is supposed to be like. Aren’t all men real? I think maybe that you need to be physically and mentally strong all the time in order to be defined as masculine.
My paragon of manliness: I don’t think much about this, but maybe it must be my teacher in secondary school. I remember the times I had the chance to talk to him and he was always very encouraging and motivated me to become a better person. He always talked to me in a way that made me feel big. Some teachers are good at making you feel small, he was not one of them.
For me, the word “masculinity” is meaningless. It doesn’t affect me, because I just do what I like. Today, there are traits associated with men, like acting and speaking in a “manly” way, or not wearing dresses or form-fitting clothes.
My paragon of manliness: Stephen Fung, in the gay drama Bishonen. He’s sexy and pretty.
I think the definition of masculinity has started to get blurry. I’ve noticed that Chinese people now use the English word “man” to describe someone’s looks, and the word itself has already gone from positive to neutral. People have a lot of set ideas about men: “boys don’t cry,” “men don’t submit,” “men pick up the tab,” and so on. But being brave and sticking to one’s guns are things everyone should strive for, men and women both. Men and women aren’t as different as plants and animals. Or to put it another way, weakness or sensitivity are individual traits. The gender binary is too blunt.
My paragon of manliness: I’ll just mention a Japanese show I’ve been watching called Sparks. It’s a story about someone who chases their dreams and fails. The male lead is kind-hearted, careful, and brave, and his courage is hidden under his shyness. It’s very realistic.
Different men have different aspirations. I don’t buy into the traditional notions of masculinity, but traditional pressures have still influenced my development as a man, leading me to give up on things I find comforting. In modern society, the man can often be held to very fixed expectations. They’re expected to pay for dinner, be buff, have a scruffy beard, be valorous, and have a deep voice.
My paragon of manliness: There are quite a few. The most “manly” men in my eyes present their machoness through their personality, for example, Eddie Redmaye, who’s not afraid to show a sensitive side. Fan Qihui is another; by day he’s a professor, and by night, he’s a drag diva. I have a lot of respect for men who aren’t afraid to rebel.
最欣赏的男性：太多了，更多是精神层面的羡慕和佩服，比如 Eddie Redmayne，敢于表现阴柔面的直男，还有樊其辉，白天教授，晚上变装皇后，敢于对时代反抗的男子，我很欣赏
Perhaps masculinity means a sense of responsibility, generosity, self-cultivation, and management. When I was little I thought masculinity mostly meant manly looks. Today, I’m gradually starting to think perhaps masculinity is expressed in a lot of different ways, such as personality, demeanor, individual works, etc. But for now, hormones, muscles, facial hair seem to predominate in the definition of masculinity.
My paragon of manliness: Huang Lei, the good stay-at-home man. Shy and talented, he understands how to find a balance between work and family, art and commerce.
To put it simply, masculinity is psychological and physiological. It encompasses qualities of the mind and the body—both are indispensable—and it amplifies them. As far back as I can remember, whenever I’d make a mistake or slip up, my mom would tell me, “You’re a man—pick yourself up, correct course, and keep going.” So I’ve always thought that this is something a man should be able to do. Nowadays most men, or most straight men, are wimps. They’re emasculated. And pop stars are every bit as boring as the songs they sing. While I respect that everyone is going after something different, I don’t want to sugarcoat it. I think that guys today, from their aesthetic taste to their bearing and demeanor, have a lot of room for improvement. I work in Sanlitun, in Beijing, and every day I see all kinds of men and women. Plenty of women are put together, but quality men you can count on one hand. It’s like Japan in the mid-90s—the economy is strong and people have broader horizons, and they’re showing off. But they’re not making progress on the essentials.
My paragon of manliness: Brad Pitt.
比如我工作在北京三里屯，每天看到很多形形色色的男女，正的妹子很多，优质的男生却居指可数。感觉很像 90 年代中期的日本，大家在经济和思想开放的基础上追求浮华，却缺少对本质上的提升。
Chen Chen Chen
Music Producer & Visual Artist
Masculinity, I think, ought to mean knowing how to handle things in a way that’s fair to everyone. In terms of physical appearance, I used to think that the handsome, television-ready faces that women found attractive were really manly, but recently I’ve started to find that nerdy, science looks are also very attractive—the kind of face with a lot of character that you could capture in a drawing. Personally I don’t really like seeing the men who model themselves after Korean standards, which feel overly beautiful—even when you draw them, you can’t tell them apart. Men should still take care of themselves, but they shouldn’t be too dainty.
My paragon of manliness: The first man who comes to mind is my doctoral advisor Chen Jiayang. He’s the type of person I strive to be, and when I’m around him I feel at ease. He exudes an energy that makes even uncultured folks turn into model citizens.
音乐制作人人 & 艺术家