Monday, 1 April 2019

Homohoax : The City of Lesbians

It’s April Fool’s Day again, and here’s another hoax in the lgbt community.

This particular homohoax originated ten years ago. A report published by the Xinhau news agency told of a city in Sweden called Shakebao (translated into English as Chako Paul) which was inhabited solely by lesbians.

It’s not really clear whether the report was a deliberate hoax. It may have been just a misinterpretation of an actual location, or an elaboration of an urban legend. Given the origin of this “hoax” is in China we may never know for sure, the Chinese media are not known for being open about their sources. As far as people in Sweden were concerned the presence of a lesbian city was news to them.

Let’s see if we can get to the root of the story. First of all, the report was published in August 2009 by Xinhau, the official state news agency. This is a translation of part of their report:

“In Sweden there is a place that is respectful of women’s love, ... This is Shakebao. The town holds around 25,000 women, all from around Europe. If men transgress into the forbidden city they will be beaten half to death. The citizens of Shakebao are mostly engaged in the forest industry, … Some go into nearby cities to work and return to Shakebao by night. Shakebao’s tourism industry is increasingly prosperous, with hotels and restaurants everywhere that cater specifically to women around the world.”

It wasn’t long before the story was picked up other Chinese news agencies. The story’s impact produced a flood of internet searches, reported later to have all been by men though I expect some Chinese women were just as interested, causing an effect that was described as “crippling the nation’s data network”. Swedish tourist organisations were also inundated with requests from China for more information.

If anybody knew of Shakebao’s existence it would be the Swedes, right? Not so. Claes Bertilsson, a spokesman for the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, had never heard of it, nor of any other settlement populated by 25,000 women. For Sweden that’s a major-sized city – someone would have noticed it. Even the tourist office for the area in which the city was supposed to be located couldn’t find it.

The plot thickened after another report appeared, this time from the Harbin news agency, of a Chinese woman who had actually been there. The woman, identified as Niu Xiaoyu from Shangdong, was a student at a Swedish university (the report doesn’t say which one). At university she fell in love with a male college teaching assistant. When Xiaoyu came back to their shared apartment with another male Chinese student the boyfriend went into a jealous rage. Xiaoyu broke off their relationship and determined to end all contact with men.

Stories of Shakebao must have been going around the university because Xiaoyu decided to move there. At first she tried to fit in and follow the common activities. She found lumberjacking (lumberjilling?) too hard and strenuous, and nothing else seemed to suit her temperament. To make matters worse in her eyes was that the city stores didn’t stock many cosmetics.

After a few weeks Xiaoyu’s Swedish ex-boyfriend arrives, disguised as a woman tourist, to apologise and he tried to persuade her to come back with him. But Xiaoyu was adamant and stayed. The boyfriend then returned back to university.

It should have become apparent to Xiaoyu that she was obviously in the wrong place. It was only after another woman tried to seduce her that she realised she had made the wrong decision in coming here and she made a hasty return back to her ex-boyfriend.

Now, given that this lesbian city was an invention of imaginative Chinese journalists it seems obvious that the story of Nui Xioayu was false as well. When I first read this story I was immediately struck by its similarity to many old folk tales. As well as being a fan of legends and mythology I’m acquainted with the Perry and Aarne-Thompson indexes of folk motifs. These are lists of hundreds of story and plot elements from all the folk-tales and legends from around the world grouped together by related themes.

The story of Nui Xiaoyu can easily be placed into the same folk motif group as “The Country mouse and the City Mouse”. In essence this group inclludes the story of an individual who goes to a place where he/she hopes to find a better life or to escape some bad situation. However, disappointment and/or abuse leads the individual to yearn for home and he/she leaves to do so, realising that things weren’t really as bad as they had thought. There are several old Chinese folk-tales which are virtually identical to the story of Nui Xiaoyu, leading me to believe that her story was as fake as the city of Shakeboa itself.

Above is a screenshot of the top part of the Xinhau report. It includes a photo of an impressive castle. This is implied as being the entrance to the city, but in fact it is a building in Scotland called Taymouth Castle. Further down the article was a photo of a scantily clad young woman in a seductive pose. Obviously, both images were grabbed off the internet and included to add some credence to the story.

As I said at the beginning the story of a lesbian city may not have been a deliberate hoax, but seems more like sloppy journalism. Whether the Chinese state-run media want to admit to reporting what is no more than a modern spin on an old urban legend or folk motif or not, the fact that the did has only elevated its status and profile.

No comments:

Post a comment