China's backlash against beauty ideals
For women in China, the problems associated with weight have traditionally been societal, less health related.
The semi-mythical appreciation of fat women epitomised by Tang dynasty beauties is just that – a myth – overshadowed by popular aesthetics such as “白幼瘦” (bai you shou) which perpetuate the belief “beauty” is fair-skinned, skinny and innocent.
But international brands such as Victoria's Secret are beginning to challenge societally imposed judgements on ‘ideal’ body concepts; the company recently hired “plus-size” Chinese fashion agent and body positivity champion, Yang Tianzhen, as a mainland brand ambassador.
"Confronting restrictive body ideals is not unique to China - brands in all markets have a role to play in promoting the beauty in body diversity."
While there is clear commercial incentive for brands to appeal to a broader swathe of society – over 50% of China’s adult population is now considered overweight - this nonetheless marks a significant step in the promotion of body positivity.
What’s more, there is ample evidence on Chinese social media to suggest many women welcome such debate. Threads on ‘停止追求白幼瘦’ (stop trying to be white, young and skinny) and ‘每个人的身材都是完美的‘ (everybody is beautiful) gain increasing attention.
Confronting restrictive body ideals is not unique to China - brands in all markets have a role to play in promoting the beauty in body diversity.