University of Westminster
Paper given at the Joint Asian Studies Conference, Leeds
University, Sept 2004.
Representations of masculinity in contemporary China
This paper is an investigation of representations of
masculinity in contemporary China.
Firstly, what is masculinity? Much has been written in
recent years in the Western academy on the concept of
masculinity. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, who has written about
masculinity in English literature, points out that sometimes
masculinity has not got anything to do with men. She says:
“As a woman, I am a consumer of masculinities, but I am not
more so than men are; and, like men, I as a woman am also
1a producer of masculinities and a performer of them.”
1 Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. 1995. “Gosh, Boy George, You Must Be Awfully Secure in Your Masculinity!”.
In Maurice Berger, Brian Wallis and Simon Watson, eds. Constructing Masculinity. p.13.
Judith Halberstam, who specialises in queer theory, has
written extensively about female masculinity. She asserts
that “masculinity must not and cannot and should not reduce
2down to the male body and its effects.” She explains: “If what we call „dominant masculinity‟ appears to be a
naturalized relation between maleness and power, then it
makes little sense to examine men for the contours of that
masculinity‟s social construction. Masculinity…becomes
legible as masculinity where and when it leaves the white
3male middle-class body.” For Halberstam, it is more
important to pay attention to alternative masculinities that
4“are mostly queer and female.”
In the search for a theory of gender that can
encompass such alternative masculinities, it is worth
considering Judith Butler‟s proposition that there is “no
2 Judith Halberstam. 2002. “An Introduction to Female Masculinity: Masculinity without Men”. In Rachel
Adams and David Savran, eds. The Masculinity Studies Reader, p. 355. Malden, Mass.; Oxford: Blackwell. 3 Judith Halberstam. 2002. “An Introduction to Female Masculinity”, p. 356. 4 Judith Halberstam. 2002. “An Introduction to Female Masculinity”, p. 355.