Beauty standards: China vs. the West – define “fat” and give three examples

I’ve blogged before about my rural Tanzanian language tutor who wanted a fat wife because to him skinny women were unattractive. But in Western nations, there’s no such pro-fat social conditioning. Not to take away from how harsh and unfair popular Western beauty ideals are to women at all — this isn’t a “Who’s worse?” kind of comparison — but China does it with it’s own twist: harsh beauty ideals with Chinese characteristics, if you will.

Here are two articles worth comparing — one from an Asian American visiting relatives in China, and one from a self-described “fat foreign girl in China”. Both face unfair expectations, but their difference in ethnicity results in different experiences.

“Fat for an Asian:” The Pressure to be Naturally Perfect
“I’m not fat — by American standards. I am considered slightly chubby for an Asian in China. I’m 5’1” and about 100 pounds, [...] I try not to talk about it, though, because the moment I do, someone always says, “Shut up, you’re Asian. You have genetics on your side.” That’s the problem — Asian girls are suffering from body image issues and eating disorders because they try to hold themselves up to the expectation that Asian girls are naturally slim. ”

The Joys and Sorrows of Being a Fat Foreign Girl in China
““Foreigner” was one of the first words in Chinese that I learned. “Fat” wasn’t the second word that I learned in Chinese. It was probably the third or fourth. It came in somewhere after “hello,” “thank you” and “I don’t understand,” but before “How much does this cost?”.”

It’s no secret that beauty standards are different in China. In addition to some particular preferences being different, Chinese standards are very specific, and there are less options. People also seem to take an “objective” attitude toward beauty, rather than a more relativistic, individualistic outlook along the lines of “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” You also need a much lower BMI to qualify as fat.

More on Beauty in China:

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