Beauty standard and the measure of success for women

Posted on 01 July, 2015 in Thoughts

A couple months ago, I came across a Facebook post by Elle Vietnam Magazine as follows:

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Phụ nữ nhất định phải nỗ lực giảm cân, chăm sóc da thật tốt và kiếm thật nhiều tiền.
Khi bạn vừa gầy vừa xinh đẹp, trong ví toàn là tiền tự mình kiếm được, bạn sẽ chợt phát hiện ra, làm gì có thời gian để mình suy tính thiệt hơn, làm gì có thời gian để mình đi tò mò chuyện người khác.
Đàn ông có thể là của người khác, nhưng tiền nhất định phải là của mình. Không có việc gì khiến bạn thấy vững vàng hơn bằng việc tự mình nỗ lực kiếm ra tiền đâu. Phụ nữ tuyệt vời nhất chính là người có kinh tế độc lập.


Women must work hard to lose weight, to take great care of their skin, and to make a lot of money.

When you’re skinny, beautiful and your wallet is full of your own money, you would realize that you have no time to compare yourself with others, no time to gossip.

Your man can become someone else’s, but your money is yours and yours only. Nothing can make you feel as strong as earning and spending your own money. The most wonderful women are those who are independent financially.

The post was hashtagged #Opinion, and the source was given as “Translated by ABC” (What on earth is that kind of a source????). I’m not sure if it was translated correctly, but boy, I can’t believe a magazine like Elle can publish something like that, even though it’s only on their Facebook page. Really, Elle? Women must lose weight? And make a sh*tload of money? How much weight should they lose? What’s the beauty standard you’re holding here? How much money is enough? What about a person who has curves on their body and no thigh gaps like the girls on your cover? What about a happy stay-at-home mom who made that decision to step back and take care of the kids so her husband can focus on his work? Also, what does being skinny and beautiful has to do with “not gossiping about others”?

It was even more ridiculous once I get to the comment section, with so many people agreeing with the post. Thankfully, some people chimed in that they would prefer if “losing weight” were changed to “staying healthy/ fit”. One person commented “A woman with everything but isn’t skinny is merely an ordinary one with a mediocre lifestyle”. WTF. Seriously, WTF. I think the idea that a person must be skinny and rich to be worthy is absolutely sick. Since when has a woman’s worth been measured by certain characteristics? Women of all sizes, weight, height, races, and social classes are worthy human beings. This is nothing but a ton of fatphobia masqueraded as a liberal ideal standard of successful women.

It brought back memories from 2005, or 2008, I can’t quite remember. I came back to Vietnam to visit after some time in the US, and with all the food I consumed in the winter I naturally gained some weight compared to myself before leaving Vietnam. The popular comment I received from many people, especially older people, was “wow, American butter and milk make you so fat and chubby”. They said with a warm, hearty smile and a pat on my shoulders, which made me wonder whether they’d ever considered my feelings upon receiving such comments. I remember some of my friends who starved themselves to achieve that thigh gap, to get down to 43kg (95 lbs) when they’re roughly 1.65 m (5 feet 4 inches) tall. There were several diets that circulated among them: some only ate an apple a day, when others opt to drink some vinegar three times a day. They tried diet pills, diet teas, slimming belt, etc. Fortunately none of those friends had any serious problems from those extreme measures of losing weight. I guess my love for food is so strong that I’ve never quite got involved in such extreme diets. I learned to eat things in moderation (obviously with a few exceptions haha), to frequent the gym, and most importantly, to love my body and be happy with what I have. I’m pretty sure that I’m still on the meatier end compared to the girls in Vietnam, but I’m more concerned about keeping myself fit and healthy than making me look like the models on magazine covers (!). There’s still a lot of fat-shaming presented on several media outlets not just in Vietnam but also in the US, but I hope there will be a time when it is changed for the better. It gives me hope to see some comments on that post in Elle Vietnam, where people called Elle out for proposing a sick beauty standard and instilling in young girls a distorted goal to work hard for.

One Response to “Beauty standard and the measure of success for women”

  1. Huyen says:

    I can’t agree with you more…

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