SHUTING LI WRITES – In a country of 1.4 billion with an extreme gender imbalance of 117.6 boys to every 100 girls, competition for love is fierce.  But what do Chinese men think of when they think of a traditionally beautiful woman?

The primary factor to be considered is white skin. The lighter your skin, the more prestige in your socioeconomic status. In China, being dark or having sun-kissed skin indicates that you work in the fields, are a peasant, construction worker, or other working class person. Although 70 percent of Chinese citizens are farmers, “China is a country that is now obsessed with wealth, power, social ascension, opportunity, and beauty.”  Being white simply reveals wealth, and being dark means you live a poor life. Because of this, Chinese women love to carry umbrellas paired with elegant dresses and matching heels even without a raindrop in sight. Taiwanese celebrity Big S claims: “Girls’ skin tone should be as white as a magnesium light.”

Chinese girls’ obsession with the color of their skin has increased a craving for skin whitening products. This is a huge contrast to seeing my blonde sorority sisters pay for tanning services in preparation for formal!  Although there is an old idiom inherited from Ancient China which states “Fair skin conceals a thousand flaws(一白遮三丑),” Chinese women are never satisfied with the look of their skin.

The Chinese have also developed an obsession with large, round eyes inspired by Japanese animation characters. As the world knows, Chinese girls are known for their almond-shaped, small eyes. But since we always want what we can’t have, Chinese fashion magazines only hire models who wear big, false eyelashes and contact lenses that enlarge your eyes with non-black colors to make them look more Caucasian.  In contrast, the Western fashion industry loves to hire Chinese models that look like real Chinese women for their exotic appearances. The most popular plastic surgery operations in China include changing a single eyelid to double eyelids. Chinese men consider big eyes to be the most attractive facial feature in mate selection.

Be Skinny or Die Trying (要么瘦,要么死)

As a Chinese girl that studying abroad for eight years, I always feel self-conscious of my body when I go back to China to visit my relatives. The first thing they comment on is how many kilos I’ve gained, how chubby I look, and how tanned I get in California.  But their favorite question is to ask is how much you weigh, in exact numbers. If you exceed 100 jin (50 kilograms, 110 pounds), you are considered overweight. There are no clothes for you to buy and no men will want you. It is a belief that is engrained into Chinese girls that you cannot weigh more than 100 jin. Therefore, shopping in China might be nearly impossible for a medium-sized American girl. The Large size in China is equivalent to the U.S. size 4. Most Chinese girls fall between sizes 00 and size 2. If you are over size 4, you are out of luck. I am a size 6 (small) in America and my girlfriends and relatives constantly call me giant or fat in public. It is a social norm to comment on people’s size/weight. It is so sad that many Chinese girls keep their extremely tiny figure by purging and starvation.  They do not workout or go to the gym because muscle is not considered feminine in the Chinese ideal of beauty. If Chinese girls don’t look pale and weak, then they will be mocked as a “nü han zi ” (manly woman) for being too strong and independent.  Most Chinese girls treat working on a constant weight loss program as a life-long goal to be attractive and desirable for men.

One of my male Chinese friends, a rich second generation in Beijing, told me that he just wants a woman with a pretty face and Victoria Secret model figure that he can bring out as an escort. Intelligence and personality come last in his mate selection.

The Chinese media embrace the mantra of “There are no ugly women in the world, unless you are too lazy to make yourself one.” The world has changed so much, and I don’t like the idea that Asians don’ t look  Asian anymore. We get plastic surgery and use tons of make-up to look as white as possible. Why can’t we be grateful for all kinds of beauty and body shapes in China? It’s time we go back to appreciating natural beauty in the materialistic modern China.