Col­lege for the el­derly opens mod­el­ing class for men

North­east­ern univer­sity helps tweak gen­der stereo­types

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By TIAN XUEFEI and ZHOU HUIYING in Harbin Con­tact the writ­ers at zhouhuiy­ing@ chi­

Harbin Univer­sity for Se­niors in Hei­longjiang prov­ince is now of­fer­ing a course to its el­derly male stu­dent body that was for­merly only avail­able to “co­eds”.

Pop­u­lar cour­ses in­clud­ing cal­lig­ra­phy, singing and painting con­tinue to at­tract stu­dents from both sexes, and now a fash­ion mod­el­ing class is avail­able to men for the first time.

“The univer­sity has a long his­tory of of­fer­ing mod­el­ing cour­ses for fe­male stu­dents and they have been wildly pop­u­lar,” teacher Han Ming said. “How­ever, this is the first time we’ve of­fered the course to males.”

Han, 62, has taught the fe­male mod­el­ing course at the univer­sity for four years.

“My fe­male models at­tracted lots of on­look­ers dur­ing class and I was of­ten asked when the course would be opened to men,” she said. “This is how I got the ad­ven­tur­ous idea to of­fer it for both gen­ders.”

How­ever, when her ap­pli­ca­tion to teach the course to men was ap­proved, she said she be­came ner­vous. “Most peo­ple feel that fash­ion shows are only for women, so I wor­ried about there not be­ing enough male stu­dents choos­ing to take the course.”

Ac­tu­ally, her con­cerns were not un­founded. Be­fore the first class on March 5, only 18 men had reg­is­tered.

“Ac­cord­ing to univer­sity reg­u­la­tions, cour­ses with less than 20 stu­dents are can­celed,” Han said. “For­tu­nately, I re­ceived great sup­port from univer­sity of­fi­cials who be­lieved it would be a promis­ing po­ten­tial course, so I re­ceived an ex­emp­tion and was al­lowed to of­fer it.”

The class did not dis­ap­point, and ev­ery Mon­day morn­ing, 34 stu­dents — most older than 60 — ar­rive for class, all wear­ing white shirts, black trousers and black leather shoes.

“The stu­dents’ up­right pos­tures and con­fi­dent ex­pres­sions at­tracted lots of stu­dents from ad­ja­cent class­rooms,” she said.

“And nine of them de­cided to join us at once.”

The class is now at full ca­pac­ity, with each stu­dent pay­ing 180 yuan ($30) for 32 classes.

“I be­gan the mod­el­ing course from the sec­ond class af­ter quit­ting tai chi,” said Feng Yishun, 78, the old­est stu­dent in the class­room. “I had been learn­ing tai chi for two years and ac­quired the ba­sic tech­niques, so I wanted to try some­thing dif­fer­ent.

“Some of my neigh­bors couldn’t un­der­stand why an el­derly man would choose to learn mod­el­ing as in their opin­ion models should be women in slit skirts. I don’t care. It can bring me bet­ter phys­i­cal fit­ness and im­proves my mood. That is my goal.”

Strong sup­port from his fam­ily is also an im­por­tant mo­ti­va­tor, he said, adding: “My daugh­ter bought the re­quired uni­form for me. I hope my fam­ily mem­bers can see the change this has brought about in me.”

Xin De­bin, 66, has been wait­ing to take the class for a long time.

“I was an art en­thu­si­ast as a teenager, but I had lit­tle chance of re­al­iz­ing my dream,” he said. “Af­ter re­tir­ing four years ago, I be­gan to take dif­fer­ent classes here, in­clud­ing ball­room danc­ing and vo­cal mu­sic.

When he first no­ticed the fe­male fash­ion mod­el­ing course, he said he be­gan to look for­ward to tak­ing part. “So when I heard that Han would of­fer the course for men, I quickly signed up.”

He said the classes make his life richer and fuller. “I just want to tell my peers that it’s never too late to start liv­ing out your dream,” he added.

Wang Xuelin, 63, has been an am­a­teur model for three years.

“When Han asked me to come and help im­prove the level of her class, I promised with­out hes­i­ta­tion, as I hope I can share my ex­pe­ri­ences with those who are in­ter­ested in fash­ion,” she said.

“When we stood to­gether and I ex­plained ba­sic points to them, I seemed to find my­self go­ing back in time three years.

“Fash­ion mod­el­ing can ex­press your man­li­ness no mat­ter how old you are.”

Han said all her stu­dents have made rapid progress, even af­ter only four classes.

“Go­ing for­ward, I will teach them more about fash­ion, and I have a plan to cre­ate a unique show that will be per­formed dur­ing the univer­sity’s an­nual stage ex­trav­a­ganza,” she added. “I be­lieve they can per­form per­fectly.”


Han Ming gives a mod­el­ing les­son to her male stu­dents at Harbin Univer­sity for Se­niors in Harbin, Hei­longjiang prov­ince.

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