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Monday, 8 November 2010

Paragons of Beauty

Since I moved back to Taiwan I've been bombarded by images of "正妹" (hot chicks) and I have to say that I'm heartily sick of it. Sure, they are good looking girls - but not only do they all look the same, but they also seem to embody some kind of feminine ideal which focuses on almost exclusively on the diminutive (sweetness and childishness are the two themes I most often observe).

Growing up I have always been told that I am not feminine enough and that if I didn't conform to stereotypes of femininity, no one would want to marry me. I think I can now safely say that if the choice was to be single forever, or marry the kind of man that could only have that kind of woman, I would just turn lesbian.

What happened to affirming the qualities that we have as individuals, and making girls feel that they are worthwhile for who they are rather than encouraging them to bend themselves over backwards to conform to some kind of doll-like ideal? It's sick.

Another thing I absolutely cannot stand is the unspoken attitude that while it is ok to be beautiful, it's not ok to flaunt the fact, and it is even less ok to think or say that you are sexy. I remember my aunts lamenting that although my figure looks good from the back (I have a very nice ass, and I do say so myself), I am a bit "飛機場" in the front (literally - airport landing strip for breasts - i.e. flat-chested, for those of you who are not of a pictorial mindset). I laughed and told them that I think I look good enough. They looked scandalized. I realize that even in the west there is a notion of feminine modesty. But I still find that the line here is drawn much to tautly to close the women in. Work your ass off to be beautiful, it says - and then don't be full of pride and revel in your beauty - instead, do your best to act aloof, because we prefer modest women. I also find that instead of a sisterhood of encouragement (the 'you go-girl' attitude), most women I have met here tend to be more forthrightly critical of my appearance in a way that I would find rude by western standards. It's almost as though they are themselves drawing that modesty line around ourselves and tightening the reins. Why?

While it's not ok for women to flaunt their attractiveness or glory in it (except in a very innocent, child-like way, which seems to betoken 'Am I not pleasing to you?' rather than 'I love myself and my body, because I think I look good'), what gets me most is that men and male-oriented media (women as well, sometimes) freely use the phrase 童顏巨乳 - literally translates to 'Massive Mammaries, Child-like Visage.' Yes, that's right folks - you heard me. Whenever I mention this term to Taiwanese people and propose its counterpart, i.e. 'Massive Phallus, Child-like Visage,' people are absolutely horrified.

I rest my case.

4 comments:

Maria said...

Thanks for the post, Angela...and I love your counter-suggestion. Sadly, it's not just Taiwan:

http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2008/05/15/covergirl-lipstick-ad-infantilizes-women-but-also-sexualizes-them/

http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2009/10/31/women-dressing-up-like-little-girls-dressing-up-like-women/

Also, women aren't the only group infantilized in this way.

http://filipspagnoli.wordpress.com/2010/10/22/infantilization-a-collection-of-images/

And finally, Britney Spears. I have to admit, I kind of enjoy this shoot; it brings together and recognizes the similarities in the Japanese and American aesthetic of sexualized cute for girls.

http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/interest/2010-08-25/takashi-murakami-art-directs-britney-spears-cover-shot

Pseudoangela said...

I saw that Britney photo a while ago on an art blog - I don't think they considered it from the perspective of sexualizing young girls.

To me it's just a really, really ugly photo... first and foremost...

will have to check out your links in a bit :) Thanks!

Pseudoangela said...

Oh god just checked out the halloween costumes one. think I might have just hurled all over my keyboard.

Pseudoangela said...

know any good reading to recommend on infantilization? interesting subject. What about people who get off on being infantilized? It's a common s&m theme - but then that's another kettle of fish...