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Metro Beijing

Time Chinese women realize they are truly beautiful

Updated: 2011-07-28 08:02
By Laura Nichols ( China Daily)

I fit the typical American mold: I'm vain, facetious and mildly obsessed when it comes to matters of appearance. I calorie count and annually attempt short-lived bursts of extreme workouts - but can polish off a "Philly cheesesteak" like a professional. Now entering my senior year of college, I'm no stranger to constant body comparisons and waif-thin girls who whine, "I'm so fat," as they guiltily shovel low-fat frozen yogurt into their mouths.

But never before have I been witness to such a diluted self-image as appears to be the case in Beijing. Every morning I stand between beautiful women on the subway. I see petite figures and glossy haircuts, dressed in the latest European fashions - all in sample size.

Time Chinese women realize they are truly beautiful

Flawless skin complements the look, as do stylish shoes on small feet. I feel the self-deprecation building, thankful I wore my large aviator sunglasses. Initially, I assumed these women would be full of self-confidence. After all, I've nary seen a girl hold her own handbag, so I guessed their boyfriends must worship the ground their goddesses walk on.

How wrong I was.

I've been told by more than one of my new Chinese friends that I'm "beautiful" -it's certainly a blush-worthy compliment to a pale, faux-redhead who doesn't exactly have a sought-after skin tone in the States, but I wouldn't think of deflecting such praise. Yet, whenever I respond with how much I like her outfit, or wish I had her their hair or lips, I'm met with incredulous eyes.

"Me?" Every girl responds. "But I need to lose weight!" Then she'll start her list of what's wrong with her nose, eyes, and so on. I see none of it, but wait for the next question, which is usually, "How do you stay so fit?" I don't know where to start when someone who is slimmer than I am asks for body-sculpting advice.

Strangely, studies have shown that fewer Chinese women are prone to eating disorders than women of other ethnicities, but they are the ones who disproportionately report higher dissatisfaction with their bodies.

I ask my friends why they're so hard on themselves. They say, "It's the way I've always thought." They say Chinese find white actresses more beautiful than ones from their homeland, and idolize the clichd body types perpetuated in Hollywood. Sure, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder," but to me it seems these women are not actually seeing themselves for how they really look.

Svelte figures are seen as stumpy and inadequate, long, raven hair as lacking in luster. As many times as I tell my friends the arguments against their appearance are totally unfounded, the body bashing continues. Chinese women have only two categories to fit into: they're either "fit" or "overweight." There's no wiggle room to embrace the unique body type of each woman and the traits that make her stand out.

Chinese women are their own worst enemies, and perhaps the "why?" is obvious. Walking through the mall, popular stores are Western, featuring floor-length videos of pale, gaunt models stomping down the runway, with big hair and nearly nonexistent waists.

The real women in China must shatter the funhouse mirror they're gazing into and realize their true beauty, before another generation of beautiful girls grows up with contorted notions of good looks.

China Daily

Time Chinese women realize they are truly beautiful

(China Daily 07/28/2011 page20)