Earn­ing women make bet­ter-look­ing men

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

The flood of ad­ver­tise­ments on men’s cos­met­ics have grad­u­ally be­come a force pro­pel­ling the spend­ing spree on Sin­gles Day, which falls on Nov 11, and in­di­cat­ing a silent change in Chi­nese men’s per­cep­tion about looks.

Ac­cord­ing to GomeHold­ings, one of China’s lead­ing on­line shop­ping cen­ter, cloth­ing was a top con­sumer prod­uct for Chi­nese men in the first half of this year, com­pa­ra­ble to elec­tron­ics prod­ucts, which tra­di­tion­ally make up the lion’s share of their consumption. A Kan­tar World­panel re­port says the sales of fa­cial cleans­ing milk for men was more than 1.5 bil­lion yuan ($234.2 mil­lion) in the first quar­ter of 2015, a year-on-year growth of 17 per­cent. It seems Chi­nese men are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly in­ter­ested in look­ing bet­ter.

What prompted this change? The once ram­pant claim that Chi­nese men are de­vel­op­ing fem­i­nine traits is, of course, mis­lead­ing. Beauty is not a word in­vented ex­clu­sively for women. Chi­nese history has many sto­ries wo­ven around hand­some men. In fact, the four an­cient hand­some men are as fa­mous as the four an­cient beau­ti­ful women. Hence, the trend of the past sev­eral decades of Chi­nese men not at­tach­ing much im­por­tance to their ap­pear­ances was ab­nor­mal com­pared with the long history of men con­scious about their looks.

With Chi­nese women’s ris­ing so­cial and eco­nomic sta­tus making them fi­nan­cially less de­pen­dent on men, looks have be­come an in­creas­ingly im­por­tant fac­tor for men in the mar­riage mar­ket. A 2014 sur­vey by Bain Cap­i­tal showed the em­ploy­ment rate of women in China was 73 per­cent, much higher than that in the United States or Europe. And de­spite their wages be­ing lower— a2012World Eco­nomic Fo­rum re­port said it was as low as 65 per­cent of men’s— they have en­sured women’s eco­nomic in­de­pen­dence.

When women have jobs, they can af­ford to pay less at­ten­tion to men’s in­comes and at­tach more im­por­tance to their ap­pear­ance and be­hav­ior when choos­ing a life part­ner. And this in­creases the pres­sure on men to look bet­ter.

Other fac­tors sug­gest more Chi­nese men are fo­cus­ing on looks be­cause they are pur­su­ing a health­ier life­style. A study by IBIS­World, an Aus­tralian com­mer­cial in­for­ma­tion com­pany, found that the busi­ness rev­enues of fit­ness cen­ters in China in­creased from $582 mil­lion in 2004 to $3.69 bil­lion in 2012, and said that it could rise to $6.83 bil­lion in 2018. This is partly be­cause Chi­nese men want to look bet­ter.

Of course, there are other rea­sons why Chi­nese men are fo­cus­ing on their ap­pear­ance, but in­creas­ing eco­nomic in­de­pen­dence of women and pur­suit of a health­ier life­style by many men re­main the main ones. In other words, bet­ter look­ing and smarter Chi­nese men have much to do with so­cial progress that promotes equal­ity in so­ci­ety and be­tween gen­ders.

The au­thor is a writer with China Daily. zhangzhoux­i­ang@chi­nadaily.com.cn

WANG XIAOYING / CHINA DAILY

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