“Can Boys Wear Skirts to School?” A Viral Post on Chinese Internet Stirs Talk About Gender Roles

Social media is divided after a dad shared the experience of his son wearing a dress to school

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11:32 PM HKT, Wed June 30, 2021 1 mins read

The Chinese internet is divided after a dad shared his young son’s experience while wearing a skirt to school one day.

On China’s Quora-like social site Zhihu, one user named 仰泳的海星​ (Yangyong de Haixing) published a post on June 23rd titled, “My son’s skirt was pulled up by his classmates!! What should I do?!”

Since it was posted, it has sparked heated discussion about gender roles, as well as respect and tolerance in schools and society.

gender roles zhihu dress

(Image: screenshot from Zhihu)

At the time of publishing, the original post has garnered over 20,000 likes and more than 8,300 users have left comments. It has also been reposted by some popular subscription accounts on China’s leading messaging app WeChat, creating a buzz across Chinese social media.

The story began when the netizen’s son asked his parents for a skirt one day, saying that skirts look nice and that it would keep him cool. After some discussion, his parents decided to support their son’s wish and buy a skirt for him, but also reminded him that it might attract mockery.

Informed and prepared, the son went to school in the morning.

gender roles zhihu china zhihu

(Image: Zhihu)

He ended up on the receiving end of attacks from peers and disapproval from his teachers on the day.

Besides being told, “I don’t care what you wear, but no weird outfits. Next time, no skirts,” by his head teacher, he was criticized by another teacher for the duration of a class. The post gave no indication of where the school is located.

However, the post also stated that a couple of girls raised their opposition to this treatment by saying boys should have the freedom to wear skirts, and girls could also do some typically boyish things too.

The post received quite a bit of negative feedback in the comment section, which is not uncommon on the Chinese Internet when it comes to LGBTQ+ related news. However, the general sentiment of some of the most popular opinions online has been pretty supportive.


“Such a brave student and thoughtful parents,” commented the most-liked comment under the original post on Zhihu.

“Sex is decided by physiology. Gender is imposed by society. A skirt is only a piece of clothing, why are we gender labeling it?” wrote the top voted comment under a related WeChat post, which has received over 1,200 likes.

Another user expressed a different view, citing the potential risk it imposes to a “correct” understanding of gender identity, “I am not sure whether your son will have confusion over gender identity in the future. It’s better to build correct understanding.”

This comes as gender roles have increasingly been deconstructed in modern China in recent years, as discussions around female empowerment as well as diversity and inclusion within society are on the rise.

Cover Image: Zhihu

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