China has a long, horrible track record when dealing with LGBTQ issues, and censorship is a valued tool in the country’s arsenal. In 2017, the Chinese government effectively banned LGBT content from the internet. Don’t even think about waving a rainbow flag at a concert, as Dua Lipa fans discovered in September. And just two months ago, a Chinese author was sentenced to a decade behind bars for including gay sex in her latest novel. (Meanwhile, penis-shaped skyscrapers are A-OK!) The nation has even banned criticism of anti-LGBTQ Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Now, the latest: blurred earrings on the male stars of Chinese TV, presumably because that blurring of “traditional gender roles” is just not OK.
On June 30, 2017, a regulation enforced by the China Netcasting Services Association began the censoring of any online content — including video and audio content — that displays “abnormal sexual behaviors,” including homosexuality. (Also banned: any promotion of “luxurious lifestyles” or “obscenity.”) Bans like this relating to Chinese TV and film had been in place beforehand.
The latest attempt by China to keep content in the nation as straight as possible is so ridiculous that it’s likely to incite laughter from the West, but it goes to show the insane lengths to which this government is willing to go. In China, gender stereotypes are clearly in full effect.
Chinese TV viewers are complaining that some of their favorite shows now have blurred earrings on male stars. The platform iQiyi (a Chinese version of Netflix) now has its editors blurring any earrings worn by men before broadcast. Viewers of course noticed that many men have huge pixelated blobs over their earlobes, and screenshots of the censorship have been making their way around the Chinese web, specifically on the social media platform Weibo.
On Weibo, as of three days ago, the hashtag #MaleTVStarsCantWearEarrings was used nearly 90,000 times on Weibo, as Chinese TV viewers are outraged at the ridiculous censorship.
While many are of course opposed to these blurred earrings and other ridiculous forms of censorship by the Chinese government, there are naturally some who fully support it. For all those calling the blurred earrings “sexism” and “unspoken sexual discrimination,” there are others who say, “I support the government moving to rule on this. Men should look like men.”
As the BBC notes, all TV broadcasters in China are state-owned, which means they’re regulated heavily by the government and subject to censorship: “Domestic programmes must often submit papers to their local Communist party bureau at least two months in advance for official approval. For foreign TV broadcasts, this process can take even longer.”
But as social media attests, Chinese TV viewers are getting fed up of the increasing censorship, and they’re quick to note their dissatisfaction on social media. Will the people eventually rise up? And if they do, could that possibly end well?