Asian beauty standards are a hell of a lot more harsh than American ones, and a hell of a lot more sexist, too. Not that I’m letting America off the hook. We are the nation that went bananas over Angelina Jolie’s thigh at the Oscars. But where America frequently holds up at least the pretext of feminism from time to time (I won’t go into how genuine it is), Asian beauty standards are openly biased.
Women are expected to be thin and gorgeous. To be fair, everyone is expected to be thin, but women’s employment can depend on their adherence to a particular cultural norm. Look at the treatment J-Pop star Minami Minegishi received when she got caught sleeping over with her boyfriend. She had to shave her head (the record company claims they didn’t require this) and record a tearful apology about her bad behavior. And in addition to the public humiliation, she was demoted within her group.
Her boyfriend, a dancer for the group, appears to have suffered no such repercussions. Even if he was fired (who knows maybe he was) nobody is asking about him. But the woman, for committing the crime of making herself seem less than available, had to demonstrably surrender a portion of her beauty and surrender her position. Disgusting.
In South Korea, female flight attendants are expected to wear skirts. And about six million other things. There are ten pages of appearance instructions for women in Asiana Airlines’ rulebook, while men only have to follow two pages of guidelines. And the women are calling it a major victory that they’ve gotten Korea’s human rights’ commission to agree that pants are probably OK. Asiana is thinking about making changes. Maybe. Sometime in the future.
The only reason for women to have more orders to follow than men is that the women are held to a higher beauty standard. Probably one written by the men, but doubtless enforced by plenty of judgmental women. And the only reason for them to have to wear skirts is because skirts are associated with femininity and sexuality. God knows they aren’t practical. (Just imagine, if you will, having to slide down one of those inflatable jet wing escapes in a skirt.)
Sexism irks me wherever it rears its ugly head. This ridiculous double standard is certainly not anything new. But to look and see how far women haven’t come in any culture is always something of a shock.