When I told a male Caucasian friend I was writing about how fat I am, he laughed. This photo slideshow reveals exactly what pop culture seems to think about Asian women and our bodies. We all have tiny size-two waists, slender legs, and perfectly straight hair. And when we sweat, we still look sexy. Although every woman is subjected to these same stupid standards of impossibly skinny waists, busty boobs, and twig-type arms, in Asian American culture, losing weight and being skinny is tantamount to getting good grades. First-generation Asian parents are just as proud of us when we graduate from a top university as when we shed serious pounds. At five feet tall, my large runner-type calves, stocky frame, and size-eight waist are equivalent to getting an F-minus on a calculus final which I did. I love my Taiwanese heritage, but at any family gathering, conversations often revolve around who has gained weight and who has lost weight. Or can you believe so-and-so lost so much weight?
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Not necessarily a fat Asian, but definitely a fat Asian. This odd disjunction of statements is something that has plagued me all my life, spurring crash diet after crash diet that all inevitably fail. Oh no , you now cry, not another hackneyed lament on the done-to-death issue of societal expectations and what women should look like. Body image has been the subject of constant discourse all over the world, fueling a pushback from women in the form of powerful body-positive movements. The resulting response has also been one of overwhelming enthusiasm and acceptance. I want to preface this by clarifying that I can only speak from my perspective as an East Asian woman. To be thin is normal, and to be abnormal is unacceptable. This is problematic beyond just body image or societal expectations.
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Illustration by Grace Wilson. For those who aren't familiar with the Cantonese term, it literally translates to "big girl," "chubby," "porker" You get the gist: fat. Hating on fat people and worshipping unachievable body goals is nothing new to Western cultures, but it's a totally different ball game when it comes to east Asian families. And when Chinese New Year rolls around, most women know it's time to brace yourself for an emotional shitstorm of nasty weight comments.
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