Planet China

Skin in the game

This summer the Chinese media launched a fierce debate on what it terms the niangpao or ‘sissy boy’ culture. The popularity of a series of androgynous-looking male pop stars and actors saw state media outlets like Xinhua openly worry about a crisis for Chinese masculinity. As we pointed out in our article on the topic in WiC424, these role models have persuaded many men in their teens and twenties to wear cosmetic products.

Evidence that the niangpao craze hasn’t subsided came late last month from Linhai, a city in Zhejiang province. According to the Qianjiang Evening News, the latest incident involved a taxi driver wearing a face mask to improve his skin. Because it looked like his vision was obscured, the driver was then ridiculed by netizens as ‘driving blind’ (although a few preferred the monicker ‘a driver with style’).

He later told the newspaper that police had tracked him down on a charge of reckless driving. However, he claimed there were no passengers in his cab when he put the mask on. “Since I was 20 I have paid attention to my appearance and I apply a mask every two to three days,” he noted, but admitted that he regretted letting his window down while driving through a crowded area. This proved his downfall: a girl saw the skincare mask and took a photo of him on her smartphone. This was the image that soon spread rapidly on WeChat groups and alerted police.

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