A Chinese boot camp is teaching boys how to be “alpha males” in order to combat K-Pop’s “effeminate” influence on them.
Tang Haiyan, a former schoolteacher, founded the Real Man Training Club in response to a perceived “masculinity crisis”. He and others who support his view feel that the delicately handsome male idols who wear makeup, earrings, dyed hair, and ‘feminine’ fashion, are promoting an “effeminate” way of being that is detrimental to Chinese men and to the country. China’s state-run media calls these idols disparaging names such as “sissy pants” and “fresh young meat.”
The former school teacher supports the idea of dividing the world into traditional gender roles that expect boys to be strong and boisterous and girls to be quiet, groomed, and studious. He feels that underachieving Chinese boys have suffered at the hands of an education system that rewards girls’ “good” behavior and punishes “bad” male behavior.
In 2012, Tang Haiyan founded Real Man Training Club, six years after a visit to California in 2006. During his visit, he saw how American football teams were trained and was inspired by it. Football training helped to form his club’s foundation.
Real Man Training Club currently offers weekly activities, including American football, wrestling and boxing, and annual treks through the desert and mountains. While going for runs, the boys wear slogans with words on them such as “Real Man”, “Power Leader”, and “Anything is Possible.”
The club, which fluctuates between 2,000 and 3,000 members, aims to toughen boys up with physical activities to teach them how to be brave, responsible, committed, and “manly”. Some parents who sign their boys up for the club do so in the hopes of helping their sons gain confidence.
“I think it’s a good opportunity for him to gradually cultivate a macho character,” said one mother, who gave her surname, Chen. She believes her shy, introverted son will benefit from outdoor camps such as Real Man Training Club. “I don’t think the entertainment industry has shown good role models for the society because the celebrities they put on the big screen exhibit a more feminine side of men. That’s the problem.”