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View Full Version : In Japan, ''Onna wa niku''


Emily
19th November 2006, 15:20
Here's a rather interesting article about a fellow in Japan who is doing his part against the idealization of the emaciated look:

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20061119x4.html

I'll post the relevant text below, in case the article vanishes, at some point:

.................

COUNTERING SLIMNESS CRISIS
Scourge of skinnies stands firm on fleshiness

By YUMI WIJERS-HASEGAWA
Staff writer

Sunday, Nov. 19, 2006

A third of the models who appeared in Madrid's civic-sponsored Cibeles collections last year were banned from the same fashion event this September. The move -- which triggered debate in and beyond fashion circles around the world -- came after city officials declared that the women's extremely underweight figures would encourage eating disorders.

And even now, in skinny-worshipping Japan, there is one man who is boldly challenging the "emaciated beauty" norm and striving to make people realize that a woman's charm is in her fleshiness.

"I was always attracted to women who are somewhat round and soft, rather than the many girls who look like walking skeletons," said Seiji Nonaka, the 40-year-old owner of a company that designs and sells T-shirts.

He said, however, that it wasn't until late 2003 that he decided to take "firm action" on the issue after he went out drinking with a good illustrator friend of his, Radical Suzuki, and his female assistant in her early 20s.

"She was a nice girl, but I remember becoming more and more irritated as she went on and on about the new slimming methods she was trying, even though she was already skin and bones," he said...

"I thought there must be something wrong if a bag of bones like that took such weird supplements. That's why I started a movement to eradicate all yaseta-garusu," Nonaka said, using a Japanese wordplay he'd invented meaning both "thin girls" and "girls who crave being thin."

According to a 2004 health ministry survey, 18.9 percent of Japanese females aged 15-19 were underweight, due to their body mass index (BMI; a person's weight divided by the square of their height) being less than 18.5. The proportion was 21.4 percent for women in their 20s, and 15.6 percent for those in their 30s.

Looked at another way, a Japanese woman of the average height of 157 cm, would have the minimum BMI of 18.5 if she weighed 45.6 kg. But according to a health ministry official working in the area of health and nutrition, for a woman of that height, a BMI of 22 -- or about 54.2 kg -- is medically viewed as the optimal weight associated with a low occurrence of illness.

As it is, more than 73 percent of Japanese women aged 15-39 have a BMI of between 18.5 and 25, meaning they are of "average" weight. However, the health ministry survey found that more than 43 percent of those women were laboring under the misconception that they were either "f**" or "a bit f**" -- with just 13.1 percent reckoning they were "thin" or "a bit thin."

As part of his movement to eradicate yaseta-garusu, in March 2004 Nonaka produced a T-shirt bearing the legend Onna wa Niku, meaning "Women are Flesh."

Then, in October 2004, he launched a Web page on Mixi, the Japanese social-networking site, under the same name, with the appeal: "Please help me eradicate all yaseta-garusu."

The first year, only a few dozen people joined the community, and only five T-shirts sold. But two years on, the site now has close to 700 members and about 100 T-shirts are being sold each year.

"The logo 'Women are Flesh' might sound offensive to feminists, but I wanted to make a strong impact," said Nonaka.

Certainly, though, many men who visited his site have praised his move.

"Why did such site not exist before?" one asked, while another said, "You are totally right!! Skinny girls are so unsexy!!!" Yet more emphatically, one man even declared that "only mucchiri [voluptuous] women were attractive..." -- and someone else said he was only interested in women whose weight was "in three digits." [Editor's note: Japan uses the metric system]

"I think girls have, among themselves, made up a culture in which they must be skinny -- but that's the opposite of what many of us like," Nonaka said.

Interestingly, Nonaka went on to say that most people who bought his T-shirts were women -- buying them as presents for their boyfriends.

"These are girls who are chubby and insecure because they are a minority in Japan. They want to confirm that their boyfriends are truly happy with the way they look."

To such girls, Nonaka hands a gift card designed by his illustrator friend, which shows a full-bodied girl wrapped by a ribbon. "It's a message to ask the boyfriend to accept her," he said.

While Nonaka admitted the motivation for his campaign was in part to raise the number of possible candidates to be his "ideal girlfriend," experts such as Hideki Wada, a psychiatrist and professor at the International University of Health and Welfare in Tokyo, said the national obsession about superthin young women and girls is a "crisis" -- and the media is to blame, he said.

"As many as 100 young women die of anorexia each year in Japan, but the media keeps idealizing [B]pathologically underweight women," he said.

One of the prime media candidates that Wada singled out for blame was Seventeen, a magazine published by Shueisha Inc. He said he had just learned that the (same) model who had been Seventeen's top pick for seven years, but left this summer at age 21, had a BMI of as low as 15.

"Emi Suzuki, who has modeled for Seventeen since 1999, is 168 cm tall with a nominal weight of 43 kg -- which gives her a BMI of 15, or 30 percent under her standard body weight," Wada said.

"Suzuki might have a rare physical trait, but at 30 percent under the standard body weight or more, [the] brain and other crucial organs often start failing. It's very dangerous for a teen magazine to present someone like that as ideal, because girls imitate them," he said. In addition, he pointed out that the girls most prone to anorexia are aged 14 to 17 -- precisely the magazine's target age group.

"Like what happened in Madrid, it's important to convey the message that pathologically thin people cannot be beautiful," Wada said.

..................

It's nice to see plus-size beauty being recognized in other countries, and especially encouraging to read a news article which identifies that being too thin constitutes an actual heath crisis, not being too curvy. And how interesting that the Madrid ban has helped to inspire this project.

Unfortunately, www.mixi.jp -- which is the Japanese equivalent of myspace, and where Mr. Nonaka hosts his size-positive Web site -- is an invitation-only domain, and as such, it's not indexed by Google. Pity. It would be interesting to see how he is promoting his pro-curvy philosophy.

I did find a page that shows a clearer version of the t-shirt that he is marketing:

http://www.t-shirts.jp/line-up/onna.htm

The Unicode characters for his slogan (you'll need a Japanese font to see them) are

女は肉

which anyone can cut and paste, to search for further info pertaining to this idea.

vargas
21st November 2006, 14:02
That was very heartening to read. I hope membership to his site grows even bigger as time goes by. Obviously this insidious tyranny of thinness isn't just limited to the Western world.

"Like what happened in Madrid, it's important to convey the message that pathologically thin people cannot be beautiful," Wada said.
I think that statement is one of the most radical and important ideas I've heard related to feminine beauty standards. I think THAT should be on a T-shirt!

HSG
7th December 2006, 02:45
"I was always attracted to women who are somewhat round and soft, rather than the many girls who look like walking skeletons," said Seiji Nonaka...

He said, however, that it wasn't until late 2003 that he decided to take "firm action" on the issue after he went out drinking with a good illustrator friend of his, Radical Suzuki, and his female assistant in her early 20s.

"She was a nice girl, but I remember becoming more and more irritated as she went on and on about the new slimming methods she was trying, even though she was already skin and bones"
Mr. Nonaka must be applauded for doing his part to further size celebration in a country where the concept is still in its nascent stage. His frustration with his female friend who obsessed over diminishing her figure (<i>"yaseta-garusu,"</i> as he terms it) is a situation to which many men can relate.

Nothing is more tragic and upsetting than the case of a voluptuous vixen who is bent on starving away her beauty, just as nothing is more appealing than a goddess who freely surrenders to her desires, and eats whatever she wants--and as much as she wants.

This topic also reminds us of a glaring deficiency in the plus-size fashion industry: the near-total lack of East Asian models.

Whereas some ethnicities seem to be liberally represented in plus-size modelling, Oriental girls are all but absent. Ford model Tomi is the only notable exception, and since Ms. Peirano has tragically traded her long hair for a boyish cut, the time is right for more models of East Asian descent to enter the field.

Circumstances couldn't be better for such talent to emerge, considering the popularity of kimono dresses and similar styles. Oriental-inspired fashions are currently very much in vogue.

Anyone who claims that these designs aren't suited to fuller female figures are simply brainwashed by the modern media. Consider the case of Chinese actress Gong Li. Although she is only curvy in a Catherine Zeta-Jones way, her non-waif figure suggests what a gorgeous plus-size model of East Asian descent might look like, in traditional feminine apparel.

Gong Li is probably best known for completely stealing the show in the otherwise-insufferable film, <i>Memoirs of a Geisha,</i> in which she played the antagonist, the wicked (and irresistible) geisha, Hatsumomo. Although written to be "evil," Gong Li's character was actually by far the most sympathetic and captivating individual in this not-so-subtle bit of socialist propaganda. With her stunning beauty, fiery presence, and intoxicating vanity, Gong Li's temptress actually inspired far more enthusiasm than the tediously "good" geisha who was ostensibly the film's protagonist. Most viewers ended up rooting for Hatsumomo, despite the film's attempt to cast her in a negative light, in favour of her oh-so-humble (and dull) rival.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/forum/gl00.jpg"></center><p>An East Asian plus-size model could embody a thrilling mix of traditional, delicate Oriental femininity, with the sinful, robust sensuality of the fuller female figure. Such a talent could be a great boon to the industry.

Here are several studio stills of Gong Li from a Chinese film titled <i>Curse of the Golden Flower,</i> which are even more indicative of what plus-size beauty might look like, in the form of an East Asian plus-size model:<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/forum/gl01.jpg"></center><p>As the images show, fuller-figured qualities compliment the opulence of traditional Oriental dress perfectly. (Note also the sumptuous sets in these images, and imagine what a lavish editorial one might create to showcase today's Oriental-inspired designs in equivalent settings, on a plus-size model with Gong Li's beauty.)<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/forum/gl02.jpg"></center><p>This bodice style is somewhat similar to medieval European attire, although more ornate. A creative designer could easily convert it to a wearable contemporary piece--one that would look stunning on a plus-size model.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/forum/gl04.jpg"></center><p>True, much of traditional East Asian apparel utilizes flat surfaces, which are not always favouable to curvaceous figures. However, if the fabric is soft enough, Oriental-inspired designs modelled on voluptuous forms could acquire the rounded contours that would make them truly attractive.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/forum/gl03.jpg"></center><p>After all, Mr. Nonaka's t-shirt mantra is absolutely right: women are, indeed, <i>"best with flesh"</i>--a fact that holds true in every world culture.<p>- <a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/board/showthread.php?t=618">A related recent thread . . .</a>