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Thursday, May 13 at 2:00pm to 3:00pmVirtual Event
Straight man cancer and little fresh meat: female discursive empowerment in Chinese social media.
With the boom of networked digital communication, verbal misogyny permeates Chinese social media, reflecting and reinforcing sexism in the larger gender order (Jing-Schmidt & Peng 2018). At the same time, a new generation of Chinese women are seizing digital platforms to counterstrike misogyny and patriarchal authority in gender discourse warfare (Lang 2020). They coined the label ‘straight man cancer’ to refer to men who harbor misogynistic views toward women, condemning male privilege. They also created the label ‘little fresh meat’ to refer to an alternative, effeminate type of masculinity, expressing an anti-macho aesthetic and rhetoric through linguistically sexualizing men.
This study uses corpus data from social media, supplemented with survey data on the perceptions of the social meaning of these labels. The corpus finding shows that ‘straight man cancer’ is more often collocated with words showing emotional negativity while the collocates of ‘little fresh meat’ are relatively positive. The survey data on female language user perceptions shows that ‘straight man cancer’ is perceived significantly more negative than ‘little fresh meat’ (X2 = 168.62, p <.001), converging with the corpus finding.
I argue that the creation of these labels demonstrates a newly awakened sense of discursive empowerment of Chinese women, giving women a voice in gender discourse where they challenge the traditional model of masculinity supported by patriarchal authority. This study has implications for both gender research and social actions toward gender equality.
Jun Lang is a PhD candidate at the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures. Her research interests include language and gender, sociolinguistics, cognitive linguistics, and second language acquisition. This study is a part of a work-in-progress dissertation project that explores women’s roles in gender discourse in post-reform China.
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