An online language school that uses scantily-clad models to help teach Mandarin to non-speakers has been heavily criticized by Chinese feminists.
SexyMandarin.Com was launched in December of 2011 and since then has become incredibly popular, with each lesson receiving thousands of views. It was started by Toyko-born model and University of Nottingham architecture graduate, Kaoru Kikuchi. Kikuchi started the site with the aim of making Mandarin more accessible and easier to learn for foreigners. She told the Telegraph: “If you go the textbook way with all these Chinese characters it just makes you intimidated…If you start with the colloquial way … or sexy clips it is a different story.”
The videos are produced by German filmmaker Mick Gleissner – who currently works out of Hong Kong, he agreed with Kikuchi about Mandarin being incredibly intimidating to foreigners, describing it as a “Herculean” challenge. He hopes the fun nature of the SexyMandarin.com lessons will help inspire people to try and learn Mandarin.
However, several feminist organizations in China do not agree with Gleissner and Kikuchi, they feel the website is sexist and that it reinforces outdated gender stereotypes.
Chairwoman of Hong Kong’s Association for the Advancement of Feminism, Annie Chan, told reporters that she felt the website “exoticized” Chinese women.
Executive Director of the Hong Kong Women’s Foundation, Sui-Mei Thompson said that her organization was “vehemently opposed to gender stereotyping, especially anything that objectifies women as sex objects”.
Wue Yue, a teacher from Beijing’s Mandarin Connection School said that though the site’s tactics were good for marketing and promotion purposes, its teaching style left a lot to be desired (no pun intended). She believed that it would not be particularly useful for “serious language learning” and that learners would be “easily distracted” by the “sexual content”.
While I can completely understand why feminists are bothered by SexyMandarin.com, I don’t think that it is any worse than the fashion industry using glamour models to sell their clothes, or just advertising in general. Hollywood casts attractive actresses as their lead roles to encourage people to watch their films, the music industry constantly places attractive dancers in their videos – I don’t see this as much different really.
I do wonder though what is being done to help foreign women who want to learn Mandarin, as somehow I don’t think this website is particularly geared towards assisting their learning!!!
‘Sexy’ Mandarin Language School Slammed by Chinese Feminists (Via Telegraph)