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‘If you are the one’: dating Chinese style

By Peter West - posted Monday, 19 October 2015


Dating shows seem popular on TV, both western-style and Asian-style. For some months, some of us have been watching one on SBS ."If You Are the One" (IYATO) comes from China and has a 'huge cult following', says SBS Communications Manager, Michael Morcos. Cult TV contrasts with mainstream TV and has a smaller but passionate audience.

IYATO looks like a job interview. The man is presented like a candidate to a panel of girls. "He's OK", one girl says; "you can't be too fussy". "You look very cute" says another. "I like fatties" says another.

The IYATO girls ask: What's your job? Do you love your mother? Surely every man loves his mother, yet she might be interfering; or maybe he doesn't love her enough. The girls look sweet, but their questions show they are hard as nails. One sees two girls fighting over a desirable man, and says "I don't want to enter the battle". My Chinese friends point out that with 24 girls competing in a short time, they need to get to the point fast. Likewise, they must switch a light off to decide, which makes them seem cruel.

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Unlike popular Australian dating shows like ( oh, never mind! ), a short viewing doesn't send any man in search of a whisky, or a wall to hit his head against.

WHAT'S A DESIRABLE MAN?

Australian men historically, were expected to perform, protect and provide for loved ones. A desirable man had a solid, well-paid job and money saved towards a house.

Until the 1970s a reasonably ordinary Australian man with a steady job could propose to a girl with confidence he would be carefully considered. She would be expected to bear his children and do the housework, perhaps until she could take up part-time work. The rules have changed.

Men are being told in many countries to work harder, dress smarter, and take all kinds of suspicious-sounding supplements so they can bounce with good health and perform like a pornstar. They have to look amazing and be successful. The beautiful body for western men has been much discussed since at least the late 1990s, and many of the men in the streets of our major cities are visibly pumped up on something.

Far more is expected both of men and women in juggling child-rearing, managing a job, sharing responsibility for rent or mortgage, cleaning and gardening. The Harvard Business Review found that both men and women executives struggled with the excessive demands of work. Many can't manage the juggling act, and work just to survive. And it leaves people feeling they are failures.

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The Chinese men on IYATO are small and moderately proportioned. But it's clear that Chinese girls have some desirable traits in mind. The man they want must look decent, though I haven't seen any trim torsos displayed. He must have a healthy relationship with parents; guys whose parents are divorced are not popular. And he should show that he cares for a potential partner, perhaps 'spending quality time' or seeming likely to help clean house. Perhaps some of this sounds familiar to an Australian audience? Money is assessed by girls asking covert questions about work. Reports say that the money side of the show was toned down after authorities said it was too vulgar. Parents - both in China and Australia - sometimes ask their sons to take part: the role of Chinese parents in influencing who a man marries is still strong.

In IYATO the men try hard to impress girls, and often miss badly. Perhaps because from their earliest years, females talk together about connection and get a solid understanding in human relationships. Women get a solid grounding in choosing the right partner - by reading fiction; men as a rule do not. And men tend to avoid anything sounding too 'romantic' or written by women. Of course, anything that smacks of feminism is to be avoided like the plague. Women have the challenge of choosing a man who will stay faithful, be a good father and resist the temptation of online dating sites.

MEN AND WOMEN IN CHINA

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Fei Cheng Wu Rao (simplified Chinese: 非诚勿扰; traditional Chinese: 非誠勿擾; literally: "If not sincere then do not disturb", known in English as If You Are the One) is a Chinese dating game show hosted by Meng Fei.



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About the Author

Dr Peter West is a well-known social commentator and an expert on men's and boys' issues. He is the author of Fathers, Sons and Lovers: Men Talk about Their Lives from the 1930s to Today (Finch,1996). He works part-time in the Faculty of Education, Australian Catholic University, Sydney.

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