One of the magical things about Chinese is the linguistic density of its script. In just a few characters, you can describe a complex concept, evoke an ancient proverb, or allude to a historical event.

‘Straight man cancer’ (直男癌, our translation) is a good example of this. There is no equivalent in English. You could try to summarize it as ‘male chauvinism’ but straight man cancer is much more than that. If you’ve been diagnosed with straight man cancer, it not only means that you’re sexist, but that you’re stubbornly sexist. You get defensive easily. You don’t like being challenged on your views and, like cancer, something drastic needs to happen – kind of like chemotherapy – for your views to change.

It’s a great word for pointing out all kinds of sexist behavior, from slut shaming to sneering remarks on female political leaders (link in Chinese). As one netizen said, “The person who made up the term ‘straight man cancer’ has made a great contribution to society.”

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Eva Xiao

Eva Xiao is a tech reporter based in Shanghai. Contact her at eva.xiao@technode.com or evawxiao (wechat & twitter).