As society moves to erase gender stereotypes, China is promoting an education drive aimed at making its boys more masculine.

The education ministry issued a notice last week entitled “The Proposal to Prevent the Feminisation of Male Adolescents.” The proposal calls on schools to reform physical education offerings while strengthening their recruitment of teachers to help reach this goal.

The notice encourages recruiting retired athletes and those with sports-related backgrounds to teach and “vigorously develop” training in particular sports, like football, that will “cultivate students’ masculinity.”

This comes after China’s government publicly expressed concern over the country’s most admired male athletes no longer being strong figures, like “army heroes.” Si Zefu, a delegate of China’s top advisory body, has said China’s young males were becoming “weak, timid, and self-abasing.”

Si Zefu blamed this shift on the environment young men are being raised in, with many being brought up by their mothers and grandmothers. He said the trend toward “feminization” would inevitably endanger the survival and development of China’s nation if it does not become effectively managed.

This idea of encouraging schools to play a more significant role in “masculinizing” boys has been met primarily with negativity. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese who oppose the proposal voiced their outrage on social media.

“Is feminization now a derogatory term?” one Weibo user asked in a comment, which has received over 200,000 likes. Another asked: “What are men afraid of? Being the same as women?”

“There are 70 million more men than women in this country,” another user pointed out. “No country in the world has such a deformed sex ratio. Isn’t that masculine enough?”

The male-dominated country is also undeniably top-heavy with male leadership — many of whom support masculinizing its young men. President Xi Jinping, a well-known football enthusiast, spoke in the past about his hopes of the nation becoming a “world superpower” in the sport by 2050. Past attempts to rev up the country’s football game have been unsuccessful, with former coaches declaring it an impossible task.

Si Zefu insisted something must be done about young men’s interest in becoming firefighters, policemen, and soldiers decreasing. There’s a current push by the government to introduce and promote new role models, but it’s proven difficult for celebrities to deviate from the clean image expected by the media.

What do you think about China’s push to make males more masculine? Is masculinity represented by one’s ability to play a sport, or can you think of a more effective approach? We’re surprised to hear of this proposal — let us know your thoughts in the comments!