Acrush, a hot new “boy band” being marketed in China is actually a band of 5 androgynous girls. The five members say they dressed like boys in their daily lives before they were manufactured into a band, but the members of Acrush are forbidden by management to discuss their sexuality.

China’s social network giant Tencent recently held a series of music events called “Husband Exhibition” at universities in China to showcase new pop talent that belong to their media brand. The term “husband” is what China’s young girl fans adoringly name male pop stars who they fantasize about marrying.

One of the bands at “Husband Exhibition”, Acrush, was marketed as a hot new “boy band” that performed at the tour’s last stop in southern Zhejiang province, where the group is based.

But there was one big surprise in store for girls looking for “husbands”: The Acrush boys are not actually male.

Acrush is made up of five women mostly in their early twenties, who all have edgy short hairstyles and dress like a bunch of boyish hearthrobs. The group won’t formally debut with a music video until the end of April but the band has acquired a decent fan base. Its fan page on China’s Twitter-equivalent Weibo now has nearly 900,000 followers. By comparison, Katy Perry, also a big name in China, has about one million Weibo followers, so that’s saying something.

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“A group advocating freedom, not bounded by frames”

Acrush is serving an atypical market in China’s boy or girl bands scene. Girls bands have almost exclusively been shaped by the influence of J-pop and which mostly involves hyper-feminine symbols of cuteness: knee socks, lollipops and mini-skirts. Acrush is taking an intentional step away from hyper-femininity towards the centre, where gender lines become blurred. Apparently the letter “A” in the name stands for Adonis, a god in Greek mythology known as the epitome of male beauty.

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Lin fan, Peng Xichen, Lu Keran, An Junxi and Min Junqian (from left to right) in recording.

Fans are predominantly female, ranging from teenagers to recent college graduates. They like Acrush more than equally handsome boy bands  because the five members can understand them better. Acrush’s familiarity is particularly important in one-on-one interactions with fans. Acrush replies to ever WeChat and Weibo message sent to them, to show gratitude to fans.

Acrush management avoids using the word “boy” or “girl” when introducing the group. Instead, they have carefully chosen a gender-free phrase, meishaonian, or “handsome youths.” But still, female fans on Weibo have taken to calling them “husbands,” a meme usually reserved for male celebrities like Justin Bieber.

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Lu Keran, captain of Acrush.

Learn more about Acrush here.

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