Male beauty vlogging in China: a masculinities perspective’ by Dr Derek Hird, University of Lancaster, 24 October 2019 @4pm

Issued: Tue, 17 Sep 2019 11:16:00 BST

Location: Room 122, 29 Bute Gardens, University of Glasgow


An East Asian regional aesthetic of “beautiful young men” or “beautiful flower men” (bishōnenkkonminam, hua meinan) is stimulating a boom in men’s cosmetic products in the region. Jie Yang (2011, 342–3) argues that the growth of the Chinese beauty economy has also been spurred by the emergence of “aesthetic governance”, a form of biopower that “serves as a pedagogy for aesthetic education, imposing aesthetic criteria and judgment on the population and enhancing their consumption of beauty and health care products and services”. Globally, beauty vlogging on online social media platforms has emerged as a key conduit of aesthetic discourse and commercial activity for cosmetics products and grooming regimes. The precarity of aesthetic and entrepreneurial labour in the new digital media and wider post-Fordist creative economy has put heightened pressures on young women in particular (Elias, Gill and Scharff 2017; McRobbie 2015, 2016); male vlogger masculinities have received comparatively little attention. In this paper, I put a focus on the ways in which prominent Chinese male beauty vloggers present notions of masculinities. My research reveals that playful and convention-challenging experimentation with cosmetics by male beauty vloggers sits alongside their use of tropes that shore up heteronormative discursive practices and even stigmatise some forms of male makeup-wearing as “sissy” (niang). This discursive evidence aligns with other research showing that shifts to softer masculine aesthetics do not necessarily signify changes to gendered hierarchies and power structures (e.g. Bridges 2014).

Derek Hird is Senior Lecturer in Chinese Studies at Lancaster University and Deputy Director of Lancaster University Confucius Institute. His research interests include transnational Chinese middle-class masculinities, Chinese male beauty cultures, and happiness and health in Chinese populations. He is co-editor of the Transnational Asian Masculinities book series for Hong Kong University Press. Recent publications include “Smile Yourself Happy: Zheng nengliang and the Discursive Construction of Happy Subjects” in his co-edited Chinese Discourses on Happiness (HKUP 2018), and his co-edited The Cosmopolitan Dream: Transnational Chinese Masculinities in a Global Age (HKUP 2018).

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