Are Asian Beauty Definitions Too Narrow?
When you think of beautiful black women, a wide selection of women come to mind: Halle Berry, Queen Latifah, Alek Wek, Beyonce… and when you think of beautiful Latin women, you think Salma Hayek, Chakira, Jennifer Lopez… all beautiful in different ways; from the color and texture of their hair, the different shades of skin color and tone, to their size and shape. All considered amazing beautiful women.
Now think of beautiful Asian women : Lucy Liu, Michelle Yeoh, Gong Li, Zhang ZiYi, Maggie Cheung and they all fit into a very similar mold : super skinny, super white unblemished skin, super sleek glossy long black hair and no real detectable curves as is known in the west.
There are 4.1 billion Asians in the world, around 60% of the world’s population and the women all want to have a BMI of under 20 and skin so translucent white you can only achieve it by never going into the sun.
Skin Whitening & Diet Pills
Skin whitening and weight loss products are huge businesses in Asia. The ideal skin to have is super white, translucent with no blemishes or lines what so ever, super soft and firm but with just a soupconne of natural blush under the skin.
Asian women are not by nature very tall (except for those from the north) and so the ideal weight is to be under 100lbs for someone typically 5’1 – 5’4″. Diuretic diet pills are a staple for many of these women and a lot look so emancipated they look malnourished.
It also helps if you have tiny hands and feet. (The cruel custom of foot binding was only abolished about 100 years ago).
So why this obsession with white skin?
This is one of the Asian beauty definitions – It means you are wealthy, wealthy enough not to have to work in the fields or other outdoors manual labor. It also means you can afford to eat delicacies such as bird’s nest soup which is suppose to whiten and give elasticity to the skin.
And the foot binding? Again, it means you are of a class where there are loads of servants to look after you (you can’t move and need assistance) and you do not need to work.
Growing up as an ABC (American Born Chinese) or a BBC (British Born Chinese) can be baffling.
Here you are an Asian, with all those female Asian beauty definitions, in an environment where basking in the sun is fun and having freckles is considered cute, fuzzy hair is ok long or short, and a curvier body shape is the norm.
The diversity in cities such as New York and London are so great that you almost do not notice your race and what you are suppose to look like ‘beauty’ wise.
You just do what you are comfortable with and go with the flow.
Then you go back to Asia.
In a sea of pale white faces and super skinny bodies, the contrast can be startling. Suddenly your fuzzy hair is an issue, your freckles are a sign of imperfection and your weight, well, lets not even go there.
There’s no room for exceptions when it comes to beauty for Asians.
The sense of not measuring up can be immense. As one Asian Marie Clare writer laments
“…every time I’m in Tokyo, looking for a size 8, and am directed to the equivalent of the plus-size floor; or am in Beijing and am instantly picked out as an American for the color of my skin or the thickness of my calves; or am asked, sweetly and without malice, by a rice-paper-skinned aesthetician in Bangkok why my skin has so many blotches, something in me withers and weeps.”
What is the solution? I really don’t know.
The Asian beauty definitions are so entrenched it is not about to go away any time soon – in the mean time, it seems Asian women who do not conform will just have to band together and do their own thing.
What do you think?