TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Chinese viewers of popular streaming platform iQiyi were confused to see translucent blobs recently appear on the earlobes of their favorite TV stars.
The BBC reports the subscription service is now censoring the ears of male actors wearing earrings in a bid to protect “traditional” gender roles.
According to the news website, the hashtag #MaleTVStarsCantWearEarrings has been used over 88,000 times on social media platform Weibo, on which the necessity of the controversial decision is being hotly debated.
Although the majority of comments reflect disapproval of or confusion about the censorship, The BBC reports, there are many in support of it, declaring the habit of men wearing earrings as “strange” or “effeminate”, with one user commenting, “men should look like men.”
All media services in China are owned by the state and subject to censorship regulations, with iQiyi being no exception. The company is a division of Baidu— a huge, multinational technology conglomerate known to be one of China’s most active and restrictive companies when it comes to censorship.
Chinese state censors target anything they deem to be subversive or likely to incite campaigns that threaten the control of the Communist Party government. Feminist, gender and sexual equality movements have all faced the brunt of China’s censorship force in recent years.
A number of state-run businesses announced they would ban “gay” content last year and the country’s “sanitization” of the world-famous Eurovision Song Contest hit headlines after a TV broadcaster pixelated rainbow flags in the crowd and chopped and changed the sets of particular contestants.
A gender and sexuality center dedicated to combating sexual violence and promoting equality was shut down by authorities in December. This followed the state’s beleaguering of online feminist advocacy groups and complete shutdown of the #MeToo movement in the year prior.
It is unclear how the Chinese Communist Party views men wearing earrings as a threat to its stability but it is characteristic of the regime’s increasing paranoia; particularly at a time when China’s economy and global influence are waning, and measures are being taken to curb the party’s increasing internal turmoil.