Everyone wants to look beautiful right? But how can you ensure you meet and adhere to the current trends and measures of this so heavily sought after title?
In China, it appears the answer is an ever growing list of absurd beauty challenges that mark an unnerving trend emerging across social media platforms such as Weibo (China’s Twitter). Welcome to the word of body shamming. Until very recently I had so naively believed it to be a solely western phenomenon, but how wrong I was. Either it already existed universally or has become a terrible export of western image-centric culture.
You may already know that the desired or most ideal look, in South-East Asia, revolves around impossibly white porcelain skin, long black silky hair, a slight frame, big eyes and very poised pointed features. A list of ‘requirements’ that has spawned endless tubes of whitening cream, eye popping contact lenses and a rapidly expanding cosmetic surgery market.
But before jumping under the knife, smothering yourself in ladles of cream and living your life through the assorted rainbow of contact lens iris colours its best to check whether you already meet these culturally imposed standards.
Belly Button Test
This first test is pretty simple. To ensure you have the necessarily frame to be considered beautiful all you need to be able to do is reach around your back and comfortably reach your belly button. Easy!
The result saw an explosion of young internet users rushing to prove themselves and their waistlines. The web was flooded with netziens uploading millions of images of hand wrapped belly buttons. Emboldened by the unnerving trend of positive messages of reinforcement lavished upon the participants. With the topic creating an incredible 104,000 discussion trend … somewhere the BBC reported.
Whilst a considerable chunk of social media seemed almost entirely in favour of the challenge, one male blogger took a stand by posting his somewhat successful attempt at the challenge. Instantly dashing ideas that you had to be skinny or of slight frame to either successfully reach the finish like (your belly-button) or to be beautiful.
This champion for social normality (if such a thing exists), let’s just say champion for undefined or more open standard of beauty, received 2,634 likes and reached viral levels having been shared more than 8,452 times.
The test quickly drew criticism as being nothing more than a matter of flexibility in the shoulders attainable by anyone, regardless of their waistline. But here it seems it was 1-0 to unhealthy body images.
Collar-bone Coin Challenge
Reportedly roughly a week later, having decided that one test of the perfect body wasn’t enough, Chinese social media conjured up their next figure defining test.
In this instance of completely sane body judging, your figure was considered to be ‘better’ the more coins you could fit on your collar-bone(s). The logic here is just striking, it’s a well known historic measure of beauty. One in which humanity has been taking pride in for an untold number of years. But hey, who am I to judge?
Sexy right? Just look at all those silvers resting on that bony outcrop, poised so elegantly – I think I’ve found wifey right there.
The craze also attracted a number of more comic additions, with people taking a stand against absurd perceptions of money laden collar-bones. They boldly undertook the challenge, except with a bit of a twist, balancing everyday items like eggs or phones.
A4 Paper Waist
No, this isn’t the name of a new up and coming indie band, but forms the title of the next body shaming fad to have launched itself from within the bowels of China’s social media.
Requiring a little less co-ordination than balancing your loose change around your neck, this test simply demanded that you hide your waist behind an vertical A4 piece of paper. No cheating guys, it has to be vertical! Coming in at around 21.0 by 29.7 centimetres (8.27 by 11.69 inches) this challenge culminates in the ideal way to determine just how acceptable your waist line truly is.
Once again this fad attracted a mind blowing number of web surfers, who dutifully posed in front of the camera behind their glimmering white prison cell doors. Each one in turn successfully closing the cultural cage of imposed body images around themselves and others.
Once again a reasonable back lash occurred with citizens of the world taping several pieces of paper together or opting for slightly larger sizes like A3, before posing candidly in front of a mirror revealing their ingenious methods of fighting back.
Or by just highlight how ridiculous a challenge it really was:
The ‘app’ly named iPhone Knee challenge was the next instalment in the continuing march of ‘hey look what I can do as it relates in no way to real or healthy concepts of beauty and appearance’ challenges.
The goal was once again not overly complicated, but did require the possession of an iPhone 6. Now with an artificial price tag, the reasonably well off could show off just how skinny and thin their legs were by gently resting their delicate hand-machine on their knees. Both knees had to be narrower than the 5.44 inch phone to be considered a success.
Resisting the personal urge to high five and congratulate each and every knobbly knee’d contestant. I looked on in wonder as once more people responded in their droves to the calling of the absurd, yet undeterred by all the ‘haters’ the internet had to offer. With one comment thread on Weibo attracting 1.95 million users alone.
Protests quickly arose, with anti-body shaming activists posing with the larger iPhone 6 plus or ipads, but alas it seemed to no avail.
2B or Not 2B
Just take a minute, take one big step back and just re-evaluate your life. Does your face fit within the boundaries set by the humble 2B pencil? If not, how do you show yourself in public everyday you monster?
Moving to a so far untapped area of the body, those obsessed with being overly thin and inventing strange ways to measure it have hijacked your art supplies and are now judging you with them. Its a cruel and altogether odd world.
Luckily this challenge was more of a joke, with a little word play added for good measure. Whilst the tag line “I don’t have the A4 waist or iPhone 6 legs, but it’s okay – at least I have a 2B face,” was doing the rounds, the fact that 2B sounds like the Chinese ‘Èrbī’ (Idiot/stupid or to act stupidly) was greatly appreciated by the masses.
But this wasn’t to be the light at the end of the tunnel we had all hoped for.
100 Yuan Wrist
The final extremity to be tested in this long list of inanimate objects and prevailing body parts is the noble wrist. Something so fundamental to the way in which we live our lives.
Much like the iPhone Knee challenge, this venture required a display of opulence and wealth. To pass the contestant had to demonstrate their naturally thin, and therefore beautiful, wrists by wrapping one in the velvety cushion of a RMB100 note.
Some daredevils out there even resorted to the use of smaller notes! Stepping up the challenge and laying down the gauntlet of skinny wristed-ness.
What this really proved, I’m still unsure. But much like its predecessors, to be considered an attractive fully functioning member of society this was a must. Otherwise, as penance, you were forced to have your wrists removed permanently.
… I’m just kidding.
When will this nonsense end!
Of course I am detailing all these latest misguided body-shaming methods because, sadly, I can’t do any of them! I’m just sitting here now seething with envy and jealousy. But what interests me is that I haven’t heard or seen any challenges for the men of this world. Whilst pressures for women to conform to certain images has been around for a long time. In more recent years the world’s media has began to bombard men with equally unrealistic standards. Why hasn’t there been, I don’t know the Bicep Bowling Ball Challenge? In which men must prove how manly they are by comparing their arm muscles to varying sizes of bowling balls? I’d issue such a gauntlet myself, strolling around the streets slapping people in the face with a white leather glove as if declaring a duel, if I had any muscles myself to speak of, or wanted in any way to condone these crazy body tests.
What do you think of the whole body image situation, thoughts and feeling? Did you or have you taken part in any of the challenges listed, or perhaps ones that I may have missed? Feel free to leave your comments in the box(es) below.