Are men less ca­pa­ble of be­ing faith­ful in mar­riage?

China Daily (USA) - - VIEW -

China’s in­ter­net was re­cently abuzz with the news about bad­minton su­per­star Lin Dan’s ex­tra­mar­i­tal af­fairs. Lin is twotime Olympic cham­pion and five­time world cham­pion. He is mar­ried to two-time women’s world cham­pion Xie Xing­fang, whom he cheated shortly af­ter she gave birth to their first child. Lin apol­o­gized, and was sub­se­quently for­given by Xie. One would as­sume that should end the in­ter­lude in their mar­riage.

How­ever, I found the end­ing trou­bling, espe­cially be­cause Lin, com­par­a­tively speak­ing, had it too easy. A short while ago, when news broke out thatMa Rong had be­trayed her movie star hus­band Wang Bao­qiang, ne­ti­zens were fu­ri­ous for months, ac­cus­ingMa of in­fi­delity and so many other things, in­clud­ing us­ingWang’s wealth and fame for per­sonal gain. Some even ac­cusedMa’s mother of bad par­ent­ing. Lin, how­ever, at­trib­uted his ac­tion to al­co­hol and got away with it.

The me­dia’s treat­ment of the scan­dals shows hid­den biases, which are dan­ger­ous for so­ci­ety. Ob­vi­ously, sex­ism plays a big role in the vari­a­tion of con­se­quences in the two scan­dals. The Chi­nese public should re­ex­am­ine the hid­den gen­der bias against women when it comes to be­tray­als. Why hold women to a higher mo­ral stan­dard when both ac­tions are equally wrong? Are men less ca­pa­ble of be­ing faith­ful in mar­riage?

Granted, a mar­riage can be bru­tal at times, but ex­tra­mar­i­tal af­fairs should be even more bru­tal to a per­son. One should re­al­ize that mar­i­tal com­mit­ment is equally bind­ing for both part­ners.

The talk of public re­la­tions fol­low­ing such scan­dals, too, is wor­ry­ing. WhileMa had her water­loo mo­ment in cri­sis man­age­ment, Lin en­joyed some­thing of a suc­cess story. Yes skill­ful public re­la­tions cam­paign can cover part of the shame or at least min­i­mize the dam­age of a cri­sis. How­ever, such cam­paigns and ma­nip­u­la­tions should be ir­rel­e­vant. One may suc­ceed in cov­er­ing up a wrong­do­ing, but that doesn’t mean you can be ab­solved of that wrong­do­ing. This is fun­da­men­tally a mo­ral cri­sis— of gen­der equal­ity and per­cep­tion of mar­riage.

These celebrity scan­dals serve as a win­dow to the dis­torted mo­ral degra­da­tion in the in­sti­tu­tion of mar­riage and fam­ily val­ues. Peo­ple are known to eas­ily for­give men for hav­ing ex­tra­mar­i­tal af­fairs, or some­times even see that as a sign of per­sonal suc­cess.

As long as that is the case, we can­not achieve true gen­der equal­ity even though im­ages of tiger moms seem to give Chi­nese women a false sense of con­trol in fam­ily af­fairs and an il­lu­sion of equal­ity in the so­ci­ety. There is still a long way to go. Our main­stream and so­cial me­dia should be more thor­ough in ex­am­in­ing the hid­den dis­crim­i­na­tion, be­cause it needs to be rooted out of so­ci­ety. China used to have its own honor-shame cul­ture to iden­tify a wrong­do­ing as wrong. The blind wor­ship of suc­cess may have blunted our sense of right and wrong, as rem­nants of male supremacy con­tinue to erode our so­cial val­ues. When such fac­tors work to­gether, you have a fairly trou­bling phe­nom­e­non: male celebri­ties have an easy ride af­ter be­ing in­volved in a mo­ral scan­dal while a fe­male celebrity can be ru­ined. The same is true for the av­er­age man and woman. There should have been con­se­quences for per­sonal ac­tions. Fol­low­ing the days of TigerWoods’ af­fairs in 2009, his per­sonal in­come plum­meted from $121.9 mil­lion in 2009 to 55 mil­lion in 2014. His ca­reer never re­turned to the height he used to en­joy, and com­pa­nies such as Ac­cen­ture, AT&T, Ga­torade and Gen­er­alMo­tors ended en­dorse­ment of the golf star. Ac­cord­ing to re­searchers from the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Davis, Nike, Ga­torade and other spon­sors may have lost up to $12 bil­lion fol­low­ing the scan­dal. These may be the con­se­quences for Lin to face as well.

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