Chinese social media users are hailing their nation’s female athletes for their sporting prowess at the Tokyo Olympics and for defying beauty standards to which women are usually subjected.
On microblogging platform Weibo, a hashtag translating to “Olympics severely corrected my aesthetics standard” has been viewed over 540 million times as of Friday afternoon. Many social media users said they see themselves in the Chinese athletes.
The online discussions started after a woman shared her feelings on Weibo on Monday. She said Chinese female athletes had inspired her to understand beauty free from body image anxiety.
“They are as beautiful as it gets. The flawed skin, tough bodies, and unwavering eye,” the user wrote with the hashtag. “The Olympics corrected me just like doctors reset a strained neck after sleep; with one crisp ‘crack,’ my understanding of aesthetics has been broken back into their original direction, without the restrictions of labels and categorization.”
Wang Chunyu of Team China leads her Women’s 800m semifinal field on day eight of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, Japan, July 31, 2021. People Visual and IC
A woman surnamed Zhu said she had always seen herself as a “fat girl,” and watching many athletes who wouldn’t necessarily fit the “model-like” definition of beauty during the Olympics had inspired her to be comfortable with her appearance.
“I am glad to discover, through years of effort, that we finally accept different types of beauty and stop applying the same standards to everyone,” Zhu told Sixth Tone.
As of Friday, female athletes from Team China have won more than half of China’s gold medals. But despite their sporting achievements, television commentators have not shied away from talking about their appearance, or asking outright sexist questions.
Yang Qian reacts after winning the gold medal in the women’s 10m air rifle event, July 24, 2021. People Visual and IC
Yang Qian, the gold medalist shooter, was asked about her “ideal man” by a journalist from state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV), to which she replied: “As long as they’re positive and kind.”
Another gold medalist, Gong Lijiao, from the women’s shot put team, was referred to as a “female man” by a CCTV journalist, constantly suggesting that future husband might lose arm wrestling matches to her. She was also asked about her plans to get married and start a family, to which she replied, “After retirement.”
“The aesthetics that originate around white, skinny juveniles are not only imposed on women by the patriarchy; some women are accomplices who also impose this view on those who do not fit the beauty standard,” read a comment under Gong’s interview with a female journalist.
Pressure to conform to perceived beauty standards in appearance and body image have been linked to women seeking out increasingly pervasive surgeries, posing health risks and even death. The drive to attain perfection has also led to a rise in eating disorders among women in China, with many suffering from anorexia and bulimia.
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: China’s Gong Lijiao reacts during the woman’s shot put final at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Aug. 1, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. Dylan Martinez/Reuters/IC)