Strength in the field



These restroom signs I spotted in rural Chongqing municipality made me pause. Reflect for a moment upon what it takes to be a man or a woman in your context, and how that varies between other contexts.

On the man: Why the shades? Why the frown? Why the absurdly thick neck? Are these standards locally-grown, or imported? Finally, why could this not be a woman? Is he meant to be foreign?

On the woman: Why the light-colored hair (is she meant to be foreign)? Why could this not be a man?

For both: Could these signs be redrawn to base gender solely on neck size? How would this type of sign look in your context?

Finaly, consider the Chinese character for man: the ideograph for “field” (as in, a field of rice) above the one for “strength”. Would those standards still apply today in your context for a man’s defining gender characteristics? While they might still apply in some parts of China for some demographics, looking around and talking with people makes me think that cultural standards for manliness have undergone a sea change in the People’s Republic in the past few decades.

Keeping such change in mind, what would a re-drawn character for “man” look like? What two (or three, or four) ideographs would constitute the “new man”? Would “strength” stay in?

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