The sexist music of Yan Lifei - SupChina

The sexist music of Yan Lifei

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Photo credit: SupChina illustration. On the right, Yan Lifei; on the left, Chinese propaganda from the 1950s, when gender equality was championed with Chairman Mao’s famous saying, “Women hold up half the sky.”

“Mommy, don’t go to work. Cuz even if you go, you won’t make much money.” These are not phrases pulled from a Jordan Peterson speech, but the music that millions of Chinese children are listening to these days.

The controversial tune “Mom, Don’t Go to Work” was written by Yán Lìfēi 闫立飞, and was brought to public attention in China earlier this month when it was performed in a singing competition on state broadcaster CCTV. On the show, a little girl, who was one of the contestants in that week’s episode, sung part of the song, which contained a string of problematic lyrics such as:

  • “Mommy, don’t go to work anymore. Otherwise, I have no one to play with.”
  • “Mommy, even if you go to work, you won’t make much money.”
  • “Mommy, look at me. What a poor child I am.”

A clip of the performance went viral on Weibo (in Chinese), one of China’s more popular social media platforms, and then:

  • Internet users questioned how CCTV had approved this song to be performed live, launching a musician mostly unknown outside Shandong Province to national attention.
  • People discovered that his entire discography is packed with misogynist lyrics that perpetuate gendered assumptions of women’s roles at home and in society.
  • Yan went with the “It was a joke!” defense, arguing (in Chinese) that he “half-jokingly” wrote “Mom, Don’t Go to Work” in 2014 when his daughter just turned two years old and wailed every time his wife left home for work.
  • He also deleted controversial lyrics from some songs and removed “Mom, Don’t Go to Work” from streaming services completely.
  • But he did not apologize for some genuinely creepy past performances also uncovered by internet users, including one in 2017 (in Chinese) in which Yan performed with his daughter when the little girl was presumably taught by Yan to say, “I want to marry my dad!”
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One Comment

  1. CAROLINE GANN Reply

    I would love to find the lyrics to all this man’s “controversial” songs! I know a musician that would love to perform them in the US where we often enjoy songs written by comics that are meant to be entertaining when told from the perspective of a child! unable to see the full lyrics, as a mother and grandmother I can attest that by just seeing some of the titles that these are definitely comments made by children! Think about it…
    What small child left in the care of a father or other caretaker while mom goes off to work would say or do about anything to get mom to stay home with them? including the things mentioned in these lyrics!
    And being a little girl once myself I remember the block of time growing up when a girl loves her daddy more than anything on the planet and will boast about her plans to marry him when she grows up! Sadly these kinds of devotion to our parents are usually very short-lived and the bond is replaced first with kindergarten friends, and broadens as the years go by! I have even seen videos on social media of people asking little girls questions about their love and intention to marry their daddys, it is not perverse it is part of growing up!! and when told by a child it is adorably hilarious!

    The critics of these tunes should lighten up and realize the intention of the songs. I see them as the musical version of “Kids Say the Darndest Things!” (a very popular TV show several years ago!)

    I bet he could use those lyrics in his comedy routine and get no backlash at all but because a child is singing people assume she has been brainwashed to believe what she sings is true? Best watch out folks I hear “Puff the Magic Dragon” is flying around in the skies above us! Oh and watch your pets closely I also hear “There is an Old Woman Who Swallowed a… ” Mouse, Cat, Goat, and several other animals before she died! Please, Mr. Yan Lifei if you read this comment I would love to show your full lyrics to an up and coming American performer that would enjoy recording your songs in the US and possibly result in both of you making some good money!

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