And then they came for man earrings

Society & Culture

For many Chinese people, man earrings are a mainstream fashion, no longer a novel object or a taboo. Earrings, after all, are just accessories that have no gender. But ultra-conservatives at the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television of the People’s Republic of China (SAPPRFT), China’s top media regulator, certainly don’t see it this way.

Regarding itself as a defender of the core values of the Party and China’s traditional culture, where toxic masculinity and gendered norms ultimately rule, SAPPRFT appeared to take issue with man earrings recently as some people noticed that the earlobes of some male celebrities are blurred on television.

Below are a string of examples:

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It seems that a male earring ban has been implemented. Chances are TV stations were informed with such short notice that they did not have time to ask those men to take off their earrings when filming. Blurring out their ears, which seems extremely weird, as this video-editing technique is usually used for censoring private parts like genitals, was the only option left for TV producers to avoid breaking the new rules.

Given SAPPRFT’s past history of introducing arbitrary policies without giving any explanation, it’s highly unlikely that it will reveal the real intentions behind the man earring ban. Theories trying to decipher the authorities’ motives abound on the Chinese internet. Some people speculate that SAPPRFT considers man earrings an affront to national masculinity, which stands at the core of the regressive gender culture in China, where men are expected to manifest manhood in every aspect of their lives, including how they dress themselves. Others think the root of the problem is SAPPRFT’s antiquated taste in men’s fashion.