Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Beauty Hong Kong Style: Hundred Pounds Or Less

This article talks about eating disorders among women in Hong Kong, though it frames it as dieting/slimming:

Agatha Yau, a marketing executive, is one of these women. She has done many things over the years to stay trim: taken diet pills, eaten meals of boiled vegetables and practiced delaying gratification.

"Sometimes, I'll look at the food and just smell it," Yau, 22, says one morning as she has her breakfast — a skim caramel macchiato from Starbucks. "I think to myself that once I get married and have kids, I'll be able to eat it" because there'll be less pressure to diet.

"Guys here are so small and skinny," she adds. "They need to feel masculine, and they don't if you're bigger than them."

In most developed parts of the world, women feel pressure to be thin. But such pressure is especially intense in Asia— in places like Hong Kong, Seoul and Tokyo— where scores of skinny women seem always to be looking for ways to get even skinnier. Experts say dieting in Asia tends to be more extreme than in the West because of cultural perceptions of beauty.

"The magic number is to be below 100 pounds, no matter your height or your weight," says Philippa Yu, a clinical psychologist at the Hong Kong Eating Disorders Association.

In Asia, women want to stay skinny without exercising because muscles aren't considered a feminine feature, says Sing Lee, director of the Hong Kong Eating Disorders Center at Chinese University.

I bolded the two opinions which point out the role of the culture as a cause of eating disorders. The social norms in the U.S. are somewhat different. You can have some muscles, as long as they are not large and as long as you are slim but with big breasts. That combination is about as common without serious interventions than the idea that all women in Hong Kong should weigh less than hundred pounds.

How very odd that I haven't really written about women and body image on this blog! Perhaps that is because I have so much to say on the topic? Too much to squeeze into posts which may drop into the ether as isolated bits not conveying all the complications in the issues?

Well, I'm certainly going to write more on it in the future. For the time being it might be enough to point out that eating disorders are dangerous.

Anorexia can kill in extreme forms and not eating properly when young has been shown to have a correlation with osteoporosis in later life. Vomiting, associated with some types of bulemia, can destroy one's teeth. Permanent dieting deprives the body of necessary nutrients and the energy that could be used for something else.
I chose the picture for this post both because distorted body image can be part of some eating disorders and because the mirror can be viewed as the distorting messages of the culture.