Chinese Beauty

It is my pleasure to post another blog from Lexie Ermi regarding her observations of cultural nuances in Hong Kong.

The situation she describes here gives me pause. I cannot imagine what it would be like to embrace a "truth" like these young girls face. I have had the honor of working with many Asian women, and every one of them are competent, driven and beautiful. It saddens me that this pressure is pervasive in Hong Kong. Self-esteem is critical to development.

Thank you Lexie for reminding us that this world has a long way to go. In an article I read this past weekend about Why Most Women Will Never Become CEO, the author talks about the reality of appearance with women remains a significant criteria in getting noticed professionally. When will character and competence reign over physical beauty?  


hongkong"In Hong Kong, beauty maintains a high premium. In China the view of beauty is more convoluted than it is in Hong Kong because in Hong Kong there is more of a Western influence, but the insidious effects from Mainland China's view of beauty have crept into the way Hong Kongers view beauty as well. I saw the effects in my students and the way they treated both me and my team. 

When we were in training, one of the leaders from Mainland shared a story with us that illustrates the way the Chinese view their women. Our leader and his wife adopted a little girl from China and wanted to get her a doll that looked like her. Those are big with little girls. I had a Bitty baby with blonde hair and blue eyes when I was little and she was my very favorite toy. But he and his wife discovered a sad truth when they tried to find this doll for their little girl. No stores, not a single one in China, sells Chinese baby dolls. Every single doll looks like a Western girl. You cannot find Chinese baby dolls in China. Chinese beauty is not celebrated in any way; indeed the girls are condemned for not looking like Western girls. What kind of message does it send to a little girl when her "lookalike" doll looks like a blonde, blue-eyed girl instead of looking like herself?

The trend of dislike towards Asian beauty continues for these girls as they grow up. When we took our kids out one evening, they took us to a "sticker booth." This is a booth where as many people as is physically possible cram into a booth and take photos of themselves. Our girls wanted to take pictures with me and my teammate Megan. As we stood with them preparing to take the photos, they kept telling us how beautiful we were and how they were not beautiful at all. The photos can be doctored at the end on a kiosk, and as the girls showed us how to do that, they told us that this was where they made themselves beautiful. They do not think that they are beautiful at all, merely because they have dark eyes, dark hair, and yellow skin. Seeing this idea in action, seeing this truth in the girls I taught for three weeks, was heart-breaking. And the truth is that they are all beautiful; they just don't see it because they have been taught to think that Western girls with blonde hair and blue eyes and fair skin are more beautiful. hkstudents

Even the boys feed this stereotype for the girls. Nearly every boy that I taught told me I was beautiful. None of them told me I was nice or smart or kind; at least not until they actually got to know me. The initial reception we all received, arriving in Hong Kong as Westerners, was overwhelming adulation of our looks merely because we were Western. Even Dylan, our single male on the team, was constantly told how handsome he was and how much the boys wished they looked like him. One girl even asked me if everybody in the United States had "pretty blue eyes" like I do.

I think they are all beautiful. They have lovely, almond shaped eyes and the smoothest, darkest, shiniest hair I've ever seen. I, with my ridiculously curly hair in the 100% humidity, was very much in awe of that hair. But they don't see it. They do not realize they are beautiful because no one tells them, and instead even the culture itself reinforces this understanding that Western beauty is the ideal. It is tragic for those girls and boys." hkboy

When I googled "Beauty pics" to possibly post on here, I went through at least 40 images before I found a person of color, and even then, only one black woman and three middle-eastern women. Not one Asian. The vast majority were light hair, light eyes. I am troubled.

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