Proposal: Male control? Definitely not!
This summer in Rio, during the medal ceremony for female 3-metre diving, the Olympic athlete Qin Kai proposed to his teammate and girlfriend He Zi. Watching this, I felt I finally understood the meaning of the word “romance”. Almost the whole world got excited about the romantic proposal, as seen in comments on Facebook, Twitter and Weibo. However, in a BBC review, the author asked a question right at the beginning: the world may have enjoyed it, but did He Zi? The article went as far as to use words like “male control” and “hijacking a medal ceremony”.
The review quotes London-based author Sunny Singh, who tweeted that the proposal revealed a sense of male entitlement. She described it to the BBC as “a dick move, and definitely not romantic”. Singh also referred to it as “a control mechanism, a way of saying ‘You may just have won an Olympic medal, or be a CEO or have designed a spacecraft, but really the most important thing is you’re my wife’”. But does the rest of the world agree with her?
In fact, comments on Facebook and Weibo tell a different story. For example, Louis Perry commented on Spender’s BBC article: “Probably not the ideal place for it, she could have said no in front of the world. Having said that he loved her enough to risk looking a fool on the biggest stage possible. Male control? I can’t think of anything less about control myself, he loves her and asked her to be his wife. Simple as that.” Similarly, Jennifer Jialin wrote: “don’t make a gesture of romance turn into a reason to talk about patriarchy…there’s sensible men in this world, you know.”
How did the BBC comment on other proposals during the Olympics? In another recent item, the BBC reported on a proposal made after the medal ceremony for the winners of the first ever Olympic women’s rugby sevens final. “Was this the most romantic moment in rugby history?”, asked the commentator in a very upbeat tone. There can be no doubt that western media seems to be used to vilifying China, including its nationwide training system for athletes and its ambitious desire for medals. Chinese athletes have the right to do what they want, even when it comes to proposing marriage? The authorities allow that kind of behavior? Chinese men can propose out of love, rather than patriarchal power play?! Unbelievable, at least to the BBC.
Why did the BBC comment on this proposal in such an ironic tone? Possibly because western society is often reluctant to categorize East Asians as alpha males though their capabilities are acknowledged, which is evidenced by research by Jennifer L. Berdahl and Ji-A Min at the University of Toronto into prescriptive stereotypes and workplace consequences for East Asians in North America. (The link of the paper is as follows http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22506817) In the west, alpha males are associated with more aggressive traits, including those vital to leadership, while beta males are considered more practical or hard-working, less assertive / more submissive, yet the category is barely put on the table since it is politically incorrect and focuses too much on classes. Of course, it is unfair to judge all media in the West based on the BBC. However, lots of articles and reviews in western media have spilled a great deal of ink on China’s stringent and contradictory social and economic systems, among other things. The gap between cultures remains huge even in such a globalized world.
Perhaps I am going too far with this analysis. When all’s said and done, Qin Kai’s proposal was indeed a romantic moment. Very few people could ever design such a global event. A touching moment and happy culmination of their six-year relationship. Male control? Definitely not! Just have a look at the smiles on everyone’s faces.