Woman 2: “Hey, your face is fatter than it used to be, you should pay attention to control how much you eat so you can lose weight.”
Woman 1: “Haha, that’s because I’m the farthest in front. I sacrificed myself! You’re both behind me.”
Chinese (and other cultures) can be incredibly blunt by North American standards. Particularly when it comes to bodies and physical appearance. Or: North Americans are hyper-sensitive about their bodies (probably because we’re raised in a photoshop-saturated media culture, we’re taught to have very thin skin and feel entitled to society’s affirmation, and neo-platonic dualism is a major formative element in our general worldview). While Chinese may ultimately rate somewhere on the “insensitive” side of a global scale, they’re closer to the majority-world norm than we are when it comes to talk about appearance.
Jessica has an endless supply of funny-but-painful anecdotes like this.
It’s that magical time of year again in our neighbourhood, when spring blossoms surround the taiji lessons (太极拳). Took these this morning on the way to work. Click a thumbnail to open the gallery viewer!
My Chinese preschool coworkers look like people — people with freakishly arresting contact lenses, maybe, but people nonetheless. So why does my Chinese social media feed look like the spawn of an unholy union between Pixar and the robot apocalypse?
Behold! We took a selfie with Jessica’s new Chinese smartphone, and turned up all the automatic “beauty” enhancements to 100 (brace yourselves…):You think people have body image and self-esteem issues now? Just wait ’til kids grow up on this:
Do all smartphones do this now? My iPhone 4 is running an older iOS, so I’m out of date. When you take a selfie with Jessica’s Huawei Honor 4X it automatically sets the beauty enhancement level at “You’re Not Near Good Enough” “5” out of 10. Someone who’s not paying attention probably wouldn’t notice that their photos are being altered on the fly. But you can continue damaging yourself psychologically with these additional options: Smooth, Whitening (skin), Thin face, Slender nose, White teeth, Enhance eyes. So it’s like Instagram, but for dehumanizing yourself. You can go from 0% Beauty to 100% Beauty in seconds:
I suppose that pretty much speaks for itself.
It’s understandable that my coworkers are driven to extremes. The beauty industry and culture isn’t any less ridiculous in North America, but in China it’s a little more… straightforward. Here are two advertisements from our neighbourhood, both within sight of the preschool:
I’m co-hosting the preschool’s variety show/graduation ceremony this week. My job is to translate and say their host script in English. I can live with, “Children all have this beautiful desire in their hearts, to grow up and wear camouflage uniforms just like Uncle in the People’s Liberation Army, loving the Party, loving the country, and being a brave person!” But I think a small part of me will die inside when I have to say, “Look, everyone! Here comes Princess Barbie!”