If middle-aged men want to avoid being stereotyped as “greasy,” then they had better start behaving better, suggests an article that recently went viral on the Chinese internet.
“Don’t get fat” is the first piece of advice from Feng Tang, the article’s 48-year-old author. On Friday, he published “How to avoid becoming a greasy, dirty middle-aged man,” with 10 pearls of wisdom for his male peers. The article has since drawn some 6.3 million views — and plenty of backlash.
Feng begins his article by lamenting the passage of time and the loss of youth. But what makes thing worse, he observes, is that many middle-aged men — his friends included — are criticized for being “greasy,” or youni, a term that entails boorish behavior and an unattractive physique.
To avoid this, Feng wrote, men should keep learning and exercising, refrain from talking about sex and the past, avoid talking down to younger generations, and not be generally bothersome. His final recommendation is to not judge people for their personal habits, such as making fun of someone for carrying a tea thermos or wearing Buddhist prayer beads — harbingers of middle age to most Chinese.
But to some readers, Feng’s advice rang hollow. “Where do you find the confidence to write this article, given that you are the greasiest and dirtiest one of all?” reads one highly upvoted comment. Feng, a doctor-turned-writer, has come to be known as a controversial figure for the lurid content of some of his books.
Liu Wai-tong, a writer and poet in Hong Kong who is himself a middle-aged man, criticized Feng’s article by saying that Feng has a “greasy mindset.” In a follow-up article titled “How to avoid greasy, dirty middle-aged writing,” Liu advised his fellow writers to avoid “fat writing,” or injecting their own experiences into their books — another tendency Feng has been criticized for. “Middle age is bleak; it should acknowledge nihilism and failure,” said Liu, “rather than pretend to know the truth.”
“Greasy middle-aged man” is not a particularly new term in China. As early as 2015, users of Linglong, an e-commerce platform for women, started discussing “Why Chinese men give us a greasy feeling.” Among the theories posited were bad taste in fashion and an embarrassing preoccupation with trying to be cool. Earlier this year, Xu Zhiyuan, a public intellectual, was criticized online for being greasy after he commented on an actress’ beauty while he was interviewing her.
The ongoing discussion triggered by Feng’s article has spawned commentaries about other “greasy” demographics. Li Guoqing, the CEO of e-commerce company Dangdang, posted 20 characteristics of middle-aged women on his Weibo account, including their penchants for scarves and gossiping about their friends.
On Monday, GQlab, a social media account by GQ Magazine, published an article about greasy young people whose defining characteristic, it claimed, is pompously showing off on social networks. “Irrespective of age, as long as people are pretentious, they will give off a greasy feeling,” the article concluded.
Feng was apparently unruffled by the negative comments. In another article posted on Saturday, he listed the top 12 ways he had been criticized by netizens. “People have asked me to write a version about middle-aged women,” he joked. “But I imagine I’d get beaten to death by the old birds if I did.”
Editor: Kevin Schoenmakers.
(Header image: An investor holds prayer beads while watching stock prices change at a brokerage office in Beijing, July 6, 2015. Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters/VCG)