Chinese school sparks sexism row after urging boys to grow ‘heroically’ and girls to be ‘tranquil’

Phoebe Zhang

A school in southwest China that teaches boys to grow “heroically” and wants “tranquil feminine examples” for its girls has generated a heated debate about sexism.

Chengdu Caotang Elementary School in Sichuan province developed a course that teaches boys to build model rockets and girls to knit alongside mainstream subjects such as maths, languages and art, in the hope of “increasing their gender knowledge”.

The course, called Boys and Girls are Vastly Different, started last semester because school managers believed that “boys and girls have been shaped in the same way recently”, principal Fu Jin told the Chengdu Economic Daily on Monday.

That “led to boys lacking enough space to grow heroically and girls lacking gentle and tranquil feminine examples to follow, so there’s some gender dislocation”, she said.

Chengdu Caotang Elementary School wants its boys to be “heroic” and its girls to be “tranquil”. Photo: Weibo

Last semester, pupils learned the differences between female and male bodies. This semester, boys are learning how to build model planes, rockets and cars, while the girls are being taught knitting by teachers and mothers who volunteer to help out in classes.

On Monday, a show of handicrafts and jumpers hosted by the school to promote the class led to a backlash on social media, with members of the public criticising the school for sexism and enforcing gender stereotypes.

“They are tying the hands of girls when young, and when these girls grow up, people would say there are only a few female scientists because girls are born unfit for that role,” a Weibo user said.

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“It’s typical gender discrimination,” another said. “Why can’t boys knit and girls build rockets?”

Authorities cracked down on controversial classes for Chinese children after some extreme examples of gender education. In December, a Weibo account highlighted a lurid “virtue” class where a sobbing woman was seen on video confessing to teenagers at a summer camp in Wenzhou, eastern Zhejiang province that “promiscuous women got gangrene”.

“I dressed myself up in a fashionable and revealing way, and that’s an invitation for others to insult me and rape me,” she told her audience.

“Three drops of sperm are equal to poison, and they will hurt unclean women,” she said. “I’m afraid my body will rot, will stink and ache, and they’ll have to amputate my legs.”

The camp was condemned and shut down by the local government.

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