Constructing the myth of protest masculinity in Chinese English language news media

a critical discourse analysis of the representation of ‘leftover men’


  • Yating Yu The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
  • Mark Nartey The Hong Kong Polytechnic University



leftover men, protest masculinity, media representations, critical discourse analysis


Although the Chinese media’s construction of unmarried citizens as ‘leftover’ has incited much controversy, little research attention has been given to the ways ‘leftover men’ are represented in discourse. To fill this gap, this study performs a critical discourse analysis of 65 English language news reports in Chinese media to investigate the predominant gendered discourses underlying representations of leftover men and the discursive strategies used to construct their identities. The findings show that the media perpetuate a myth of ‘protest masculinity’ by suggesting that poor, single men may become a threat to social harmony due to the shortage of marriageable women in China. Leftover men are represented as poor men, troublemakers and victims via discursive processes that include referential, predicational and aggregation strategies as well as metaphor. This study sheds light on the issues and concerns of a marginalised group whose predicament has not been given much attention in the literature.

Author Biographies

Yating Yu, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Yating Yu is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of English at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and a member of the Research Centre for Professional Communication in English (RCPCE). Her research interests are in gender studies, corpus linguistics and critical discourse analysis. She has recently published in journals such as Social Semiotics and Metaphor and the Social World.

Mark Nartey, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Mark Nartey is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of English at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and a member of the Research Centre for Professional Communication in English (RCPCE). He is interested in the interplay of discourse, ideology and mythology. He has previously published in journals such as Corpora, Critical Discourse Studies and Social Semiotics.


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How to Cite

Yu, Y., & Nartey, M. (2021). Constructing the myth of protest masculinity in Chinese English language news media: a critical discourse analysis of the representation of ‘leftover men’. Gender and Language, 15(2), 184–206.