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China's 'masculinity' camp for young boys reeks of sexism

For $1,400, boys are put to the test in a bid to imbibe 'masculine' traits of feeling strong, confident and unlike girls.

China's 'masculinity' camp for young boys reeks of sexism
Representational image courtesy Pixabay

Boys don't weep. They aren't soft. And they cannot ever be weak. These are some of the notions that some parents in China are increasingly having and are, therefore, opting to send their young children to military-style camps to 'man up.'

Boys as young as seven are increasingly marking their attendance at camps which promise to turn them into men through a series of lectures and physical training program. According to a South China Morning Post report, these camps run anywhere between a few days to over two weeks but only on weekends. Parents send their boys to these camps in a bid to 'make them less girly and more manly.' They are often made to undertake physical training programs which include running shirtless in the cold, climbing mountains in freezing conditions and playing physically demanding sports like American football.

Almost all the boys reportedly sport a bandana which reads 'Tough Guy' in the local language. The founder of once such camp, Tang Haiyan, is quoted in the report as saying that he felt there was something lacking in how boys were being brought up in the country. "There is a crisis in boys’ education and I threw myself into practical actions to save them and help them find their lost masculinity," says the former PT teacher.

The camps like the one started by Haiyan seek to set the order of things straight as there is a belief that increasing appeal of celebrities in the country is making boys soft and more metrosexual rather than rough and tough. Some of the camps have children who have been brought up in women-only households or where the father is unable to spend much time with the boy or boys due to other commitments. His absence apparantly leaves a mark which can be filled for 10,000 yuan ($1,400) which is the typical fees charged by 'masculinity camps.'

Child psychologists however warn against over-emphasis on boys being trained in such manners. Apart from the physical exertion on their young bodies, such notions also shape their outlook towards society and opposite gender, and this - say experts - may make them unsuitable to navigate the nuances of contemporary life.