A week ago the New York Times published an article detailing the use of the word ‘Goddess’ by Chinese people to describe Ivanka Trump.
The story is incredibly misleading as it pushes a strong emphasis on the word ‘goddess’ without explaining the cultural context. They also fail explain that Mrs Wang, the Ivanka fan in the article, is no different from a fan of any other idol celebrity in China.
Now, the word ”Goddess (Nv Shen 女神) in Chinese is actually less used for religious purposes and more used in the fandom context. It is very common for Chinese people to use the word ‘Goddess’ to describe any attractive female celebrity.
Examples from Chinese Media sources:
Just from googling some news from today as of April 12th, there are a myriad of different headlines with the word 女神 (goddess) to describe various celebrities.
From Sina Fashion:
AB (Angelababy) playing it cool? When goddesses look down, it’s not her crown her falling out, it’s a double chin
From Sohu Sports:
Two national volleyball team greatest goddesses stun with amazing fashion show, She is unlikely to return to the national team and will likely retire
From Sohu Fashion:
For the goddesses Yang Mi, Liu Shi Shi and Gao Yuan Yuan they love this pair of magical heels the most
The Goddess of the Otakus/Nerds
Then there is the commonly used expression of 宅男女神 zhainannvshen ‘otaku/nerd goddess’ which are women held in high regard by as you can guess nerds/otakus and other people who rarely leave the house. This is a term originally used in Taiwan but has slowly seeped across the strait.
Chinese Wikipedia says:
Otaku Goddesses usually must have extremely attractive physical features. They usually get famous through either social media, advertising for videogames, variety shows or working as show girls.
The New York Times most likely knows that in the cultural context the word ‘goddess’ is no more than a term used by fandoms to describe the subject of their adoration. Sadly, the need for clicks and views overrides that and by misleading the readers into a view that China worships Ivanka Trump and her family is a much better choice than to keep journalistic integrity.
10s of millions of views for a video really does not mean much in the Chinese sphere, as China has the world’s most online users at over 700 million. Yes Ivanka Trump is popular but she is really just another celebrity along with AngelaBaby, Yang Mi etc. It is no different from Jackie Chan or Jet Li having a following in the USA.