Where it began
The word originated in the Baidu.com’s Tiebar (a top Chinese bulletin board system) of soccer player Li Yi. There, fans of Li, who are called yisi in Chinese, not only talk about soccer but moan about their lives, work and relationships.
Yisi, who are known for their rude and dirty language, were given the name diaosi by others who have seen their posts.
What is a ‘diaosi’ like
The word diaosi was coined first by single, young men who feel they have dead-end lives. Generally, men in this category don’t earn enough, are not good looking, and have difficulty winning promotion.
Unlike their upper-class contemporaries, they lack influential families, useful social networks for their careers, and most importantly, suitable women to marry.
“I’m just a diaosi, poor and plain-looking, who will marry me?” It’s a common sentiment uttered by one of them, which is half self-mockery, half reality.
Many young men call themselves diaosi because they feel they are among the lowest echelons of society. They suffer low self-esteem and have stopped trying to improve their lives.
‘Diaosi’ culture reflects social changes
According to Zhu Chongke, a professor in the School of Asia-Pacific Studies at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, the popularity of the word diaosi stems from the fact that it was created by common people and thus resonates with a huge population.
“Labeling yourself a diaosi offers an outlet for people to mock themselves and relieve pressure, hence it spread quickly,” Zhu told Xinhua News Agency.
“The attitude is basically: ‘I already have little to lose, so why don’t I mock myself for fun?’.”
The diaosi phenomenon reflects not just a youth culture problem, but larger social issues.
“Society hasn’t offered an effective channel for young people who don’t have an influential family background to receive promotion at work,” Zhu said.
Ke Qianting is an associate professor in gender studies at Tsinghua University.
“The pressure of marriage intensifies anxiety among this group,” Ke told Sohu.com.
“Many of those young men claim to be diaosi, since they can’t find a proper woman to marry. It reflects a deep sense of loss.”