World-renowned designer, Diane von Furstenberg, once told The Wall Street Journal in an interview that “It is great to design for Chinese women, because they have great bodies. They are slim and have tiny waists, so it’s nice.” This is the stereotype of the perfect Chinese woman that most Chinese women all over the world strive to live up to and judge themselves by.
Body image issues are not unique to Chinese women, of course. The pressure for women to be thin, in particular, seems to be a universal constant for most modern societies. In China, and in many Asian cultures in fact, the pressure mostly comes from the fact that Chinese (Asian) women are genetically gifted with slim bodies. “Slim,” however, is a relative term.
What westerners consider “slim,” the Chinese may already consider “fat.” Even what is considered “normal” or “healthy” weight is often seen as less than ideal. Indeed, the Chinese are known for being very vocal when it comes to a person’s weight, as well as other physical attributes. Foreigners visiting or living in China actually also regularly receive comments about their weight from Chinese people (neighbors, co-workers, friends, and even strangers); and when it comes to family members, they can be even more critical. Body-shaming is the norm.
Just as the Chinese are obsessed about the concept of harmony in the form of yin and yang, so are they obsessed with excellence and perfection; the latter is inextricably tied with the Chinese concept of face. This attitude is part of their culture. For a Chinese woman, perfection means not only being an excellent student and, eventually, a successful career woman; it also means being physically perfect, and a big part of this is having a thin body.
It does not help that when Chinese women are portrayed in magazines, on billboards, on TV, and in movies, whether locally or abroad, they are always thin. In comparison, western women are portrayed in their various shapes and sizes (although the idea that thin is beautiful is still widely promoted). So many women of China whose particular body types do not fit into the advertised and often airbrushed images of Chinese models, they feel frustrated and insecure.
They have Chinese genes and, so, they should be naturally thin. If a Chinese woman is of a certain height, then she should only be of a certain weight. In addition to their obsession to have porcelain, white skin and western facial features, the women of China also feel the need to make themselves literally fit into the slim mold that their society has created for them.
What happens if they don’t? Aside from constantly being reminded of their so-called imperfections by their parents, relatives, and friends, they also face discrimination in the workplace. Because even in today’s modern China where women already enjoy a certain degree of empowerment, discrimination and unfair standards still exist.
In fact, it is common for some job ads to list specific height and weight requirements for female applicants; some even require specific body proportions. And it is widely accepted in Chinese society that “beautiful” Chinese women have better chances of getting ahead in life than those who do not meet the Chinese standards of beauty and perfection.
A foreign man dating a Chinese woman should not be surprised and turned off if she has certain body image issues. Certainly, he must not be too quick to judge her as being a shallow person, much like many western women that he had dated in the past. The reality for many of these Chinese ladies is not always so simple. Most of their issues, even those that seem superficial, are often closely tied to their society’s traditional attitudes and beliefs.
A Chinese woman who strongly feels that she can never be thin enough, beautiful enough, or perfect enough to satisfy her family and society does not need more judgment from a foreign man, especially when she is seriously looking for a man she can trust and spend the rest of her life with. Change has to start from the inside and having a foreign man with different attitudes and beliefs to support, appreciate, and love her for who she is can certainly help ignite the change in mindset that she needs to make.
A foreign man looking for a perfect Chinese woman would do well to learn as much as he can about the relevant issues affecting today’s Chinese woman. He can find invaluable information on the blogs, forums, and magazine of ChinaLoveMatch.net, the home of trusted Chinese online dating and where foreign men and Chinese women share their life experiences and bare their souls to give you the real goods on love, cross-cultural relationships, and all things Chinese.