Chinese Rapper’s Viral Post Sheds Light on ‘Workplace PUA’

After Yamy called out the head of her agency for constantly manipulating and belittling her, thousands have come forward with stories about their own horrible bosses.

It’s 6 p.m. on a Tuesday. In the crowded office of a Shanghai internet company, a woman calmly gets up from her desk and leaves without so much as a glance back at her colleagues, who are still feverishly at work.

Later, they realize her desk has been cleared of any personal effects: She has no intention of returning.

According to Zack, one of the woman’s co-workers, she quit because of their department director’s domineering and borderline abusive behavior: assigning them busywork, giving contradictory orders, pushing them to work overtime, and losing his temper with little or no provocation.

“She told me she finally realized our manager was actually mentally manipulating us the whole time,” the 28-year-old told Sixth Tone. “It only took the director a few months to push a newcomer from confident to self-loathing.”

Feeling the same psychological pressure himself, Zack was envious that she had left. “I appreciated her courage, which I can’t say I have right now,” he said. Later that night, the woman sent him an article on messaging app WeChat about something called “workplace PUA,” which it described as “invisible mind control.”

The same day, the hashtag “workplace PUA” went viral on microblogging platform Weibo. At the time of publication, the trending topic had been viewed over 580 million times, prompting tens of thousands of posts about office conflict similar to that experienced by Zack and his former colleague.

In China, PUA, or pick-up artistry, originally referred to the practices and theories some rely on to attract sexual partners. The concept became controversial in China after a growing number of women began reporting so-called dating coaches and their acolytes for advocating misogyny by “negging” their targets — or lowering their self-esteem to make them easier to “catch.” In recent years, “PUA” has evolved from its original meaning to become synonymous with emotional abuse in interpersonal relationships more broadly.

Workplace PUA began trending on Chinese social media this week after a rapper said she had been put under enormous psychological pressure by the head of her agency.

On Tuesday morning, Guo Ying — better-known by her stage name, Yamy, and for her role as captain of the now-disbanded idol group Rocket Girls 101 — published a long post on Weibo about the abusive behavior of Xu Mingchao, the founder and CEO of JC Universe Entertainment. The post included a 3-minute audio recording from a company meeting she hadn’t attended.

Yamy — who has a unique appearance by Chinese pop star standards — claimed that Xu had “humiliated” her with abusive language during the April gathering.

“If I said Yamy was prettier than you, I bet you’d have a mental breakdown,” Xu can be heard saying to another employee in the recording. Apart from calling Yamy “ugly” and “sick,” Xu also accused the star of “dressing like a hedgehog.”

“I used to believe that if there was some problem, it must be my fault: Maybe I didn’t perform well enough,” wrote Yamy, who, unable to cope with the creeping depression and self-doubt from her interactions with Xu, had asked to be released from her contract. Continue to read the full article here


– This article originally appeared on Sixth Tone.