Are men less capable of being faithful in marriage?
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.