Minisode 5: Girl Crush? Boy Crush? ACRUSH and Gender-bending in China
In this minisode of East Asia for All, we take a look at the Chinese boy band, FFC-ACRUSH, a group made up of, interestingly, all girls! Its seven members - An Junxi, Feng Yuxuan, Lin Fan, Lu Keran, Min Junqian, Peng Xichen, and Peng Yiyang - sport androgynous fashion, short hair styles, and appear in romantic music videos which feature distant (and very femme) ex-lovers. Adored by scores of Chinese female fans who refer to them as their "husbands" (老公), Acrush has brought gender-bending to the fore of mainstream conversations. But is gender-bending new to China?
Video: Acrush's first single, “Action,” (行动派)
Join us as we discuss some prominent examples, both legendary and historic, of gender-bending in Chinese history. Some figures may be familiar to listeners, like Disney-famous Hua Mulan and Empress Wu Zetian, but others are less well-known, such as the revolutionary Qiu Jin and anachacommunist He-Yin Zhen.
Video: Lu Keran, "Silence," (安靜) originally sung by Jay Chou
In this episode, we also explore larger questions: how does the popularity of FFC-ACRUSH, whose members openly identify as female and use she/her pronouns, relate to conversations in China about gender and sexuality? FFC-ACRUSH may only be celebrity representations of queerness, but there are certainly other developments in mainstream recognition and understanding of LGBTQ+ communities, despite censorship of queer representations in media and queen online spaces.
In particular, the circulation of media focusing on transgender and gender non-conforming people have found ways to thwart the plans of the Chinese government to stifle such conversations. Beijing high schoolers filmed and screened a short film, titled "Escape," about a young transgender person exploring their feminine identity. The Beijing LGBT Center and Peking University released an informational video based on a survey of transgender and gender non-conforming people in China, which you can watch below.
You can find this episode on the iTunes Store, LibSyn, or listen to it below. Thanks for listening!
References and Further Reading:
- "Acrush: the boyband of girls winning hearts in China," The Guardian
- Dong, Lan. Mulan's Legend and Legacy in China and the United States. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2011.
- Clip from the film, "Escape," directed by Hu Ranran
- Translations of the writings of He-Yin Zhen, Liu, Lydia He, Rebecca E. Karl, and Dorothy Ko, eds. The Birth of Chinese Feminism: Essential Texts in Transnational Theory. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013.
- "The Stifled Desires Behind Acrush," The New Yorker
- "Qianling Mausoleum: The Astonishing Tomb of a Truly Royal Couple," China Scenic
- "The Demonization of Empress Wu," Smithsonian