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China Sex & Gender

Bold Breastfeeding Photos of Kyrgyzstan’s President’s Daughter Spark Debate on Weibo

The daughter of President Atambayev of Kyrgyzstan, Aliya Shagieva, recently sparked controversy for posting photos of breastfeeding her newborn son on Instagram. On Sina Weibo, Chinese netizens applaud Aliya for breaking taboos around breastfeeding in public – a recurring topic of debate on Chinese social media.

Manya Koetse

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The daughter of President Atambayev of Kyrgyzstan, Aliya Shagieva, recently sparked controversy for posting photos of breastfeeding her newborn son on Instagram. Aliya’s pictures are a bold statement in a country where the influence of religious ideology over how women should dress and act is considerable. On Sina Weibo, many netizens applaud Aliya for breaking taboos around breastfeeding – also a recurring topic of debate on Chinese social media.

Photos of the 20-year-old daughter of Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev, Aliya Shagieva, breastfeeding her baby are being widely shared and discussed on Chinese social media this weekend.

Aliya Shagieva made headlines earlier this month after she posted multiple revealing photos on her Facebook and Instagram (@homesickbluess), sparking a storm of criticism in Kyrgyzstan, where an estimated 80 percent of the population is Muslim.

Aliya Shagieva is the youngest daughter of the leader of Kyrgyzstan. She got married last year and revealed her pregnancy in March, when she posted a picture of her baby bump.

After she gave birth to her son, Tagir, she posted multiple photos of her breastfeeding her baby.

The photos sparked controversy in Kyrgyzstan, with many saying it is wrong for a woman to show off her body and with people calling Aliya “shameless” and a “disgrace to her father.”

Aliya’s father, President Almazbek Atambayev, made international headlines last year when he attacked people who are critical of women who wear more revealing outfits. At a press conference, he stated that women are more prone to become radicalized if they put on Islamic dress, saying: “Women in mini-skirts don’t become suicide bombers.”

According to a report published by the Forum of Women’s NGOs of Kyrgyzstan, the influence of religious ideology in Kyrgyzstan “substantially contributes to discrimination against women.” Bermet Stakeeva, programme officer at the forum, previously told The Guardian: “Islam has a strong influence on women, how to dress and act and it’s now being discussed widely, in mosques and on television, that women should live moral lives.”

Aliya responded to the criticism online saying that it is not right to sexualize breasts this way and that “the most important purpose of female breasts is to breastfeed” and that it is “nothing to be ashamed of.” She emphasized that women’s breasts are not men’s pleasure objects.

Sina Hubei and other Chinese media accounts posted the photos and Aliya’s statements on Weibo on April 21, soon triggering thousands of reactions. The majority of netizens supported Aliya, saying that breastfeeding is nothing to be ashamed of and applauding her for her stance and braveness.

“Kyrgizstan is a country where the majority of people are Muslim (..),” one person commented: “It’s good that she’s the daughter of the President, otherwise she could’ve been killed for this,” one netizen wrote.

“I saw these photos on WeChat and I really admire Aliya’s bravery,” one girl wrote.

“Only human thoughts are dirty, not any part of the body,” a popular comment said.

Many Weibo users wrote comments such as: “She is completely right. Breasts are for feeding your baby, there’s nothing offensive about it.”

Breastfeeding is a recurring topic on Chinese social media. In 2015, an incident where a mother was shamed for breastfeeding on the Beijing subway caused huge controversy on Weibo, even attracting the attention of UNICEF and Beijing authorities.

One Weibo user at the time said the mother should “pay attention to her manners in public place” and that she should not “expose her sex organ.” Weibo netizens collectively responded to the issue; some agreeing that breastfeeding in public is inappropriate, while others defended the woman.

Although the majority of Weibo netizens show their support for Aliya Shagieva in normalizing breastfeeding, not all netizens were supportive: “It’s great that your motherly love is so big, but why do you need to show it off like this?”

Others agreed with this stance, saying: “We all know how mothers feed their babies, but you’re the daughter of the president, why do you want to show us? I don’t want to see it.”

“What is she doing not wearing any pants,” one female commenter said: “She’s shameless.”

As for the young mother Aliya Shagieva herself – it seems that she is no longer active on social media after her photos attracted the attention of national and international media. On April 23, her Instagram account @homesickbluess was no longer available.

– By Manya Koetse

©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Celebs

Chinese Social Media Users Stand up Against Body Shaming

Manya Koetse

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Recent photos of famous actress Gong Li that showed her curvier figure have gone viral on Sina Weibo, receiving over 850 million clicks. With Gong Li’s weight gain becoming all the talk on Weibo, the public’s focus on her appearance has sparked an online wave of body positivity posts, with web users rejecting the all-too-common phenomenon of body shaming on Chinese social media.

First, there was the ‘A4 Waist‘ hype, then there was the ‘iPhone6 Legs‘ trend, the ‘belly button backhand,’ and the online challenge of putting coins in your collarbone to show off how thin you are (锁骨放硬币). Over the past five years, China has seen multiple social media trends that propagated a thin figure as the ruling beauty standard.

But now a different kind of trend is hitting Weibo’s hotlists: one that rejects body shaming and promotes the acceptance of a greater diversity in body sizes and shapes in China.

On August 26, Weibo user @_HYIII_ from Shanghai posted several pictures, writing:

Reject body shaming! Why should we all have the same figure? Tall or short, thin or fat, all have their own characteristics. Embrace yourself, and show off your own unique beauty!

The post was soon shared over 900 times, receiving more than 32,000 likes, with the “body shame” phrase soon reaching the top keyword trending list of Sina Weibo.

 

Gong Li Weight Gain

 

The body positivity post by ‘_HYIII_’ is going viral on the same day that the apparent weight gain of Chinese actress Gong Li (巩俐) is attracting major attention on Chinese social media platforms such as Weibo and Douyin.

The 54-year-old actress, who is known for starring in famous movies such as Farewell My Concubine, To Live, and Memoirs of a Geisha, was spotted taking a walk with her husband in France on August 24. The photos went viral, with media outlets such as Sina Entertainment noting how Gong Li had become “much rounder” and had put on some “happy fat” (幸福肥).

By now, the hashtag page “Gong Li’s Figure” (#巩俐身材#) has received more than 850 million (!) views on Weibo, with thousands of people commenting on the appearance of the actress. In the comment sections, there were many who lashed out against the focus on Gong Li’s weight gain.

“She just has a regular female body shape. Stop using ‘white / skinny / young’ as the main beauty standard to assess other people,” one commenter said, with another person writing: “Why do you all keep focusing on her figure, did she steal your rice and eat it?!”

 

“Why do you all keep focusing on her figure, did she steal your rice and eat it?”

 

Some people suggested that the COVID19 pandemic might have to do with Gong Li’s weight gain, with others writing: “If she is healthy is what matters, skinny or fat is not the way to assess her beauty.”

What stands out from the discussions flooding social media at this time, is that a majority of web users seem to be fed up with the fact that a skinny body is the common standard of women’s beauty in China today – and that accomplished and talented women such as Gong Li are still judged by the size of their waist.

 

Say No to Body Shaming

 

In light of the controversy surrounding Gong Li’s recent photos and the following discussions, posts on ‘body shaming’ (身材羞辱) are now flooding Weibo, with many Weibo users calling on people to “reject body shaming” (拒绝#body shame#) and to stop imposing strict beauty standards upon Chinese women.

The pressure to be thin, whether it comes from the media or from others within one’s social circle, is very real and can seriously affect one’s self-esteem. Various studies have found an association between body dissatisfaction and social pressure to be thin and body shaming in Chinese adolescents and young adults (Yan et al 2018).

The main message in this recent Weibo grassroots campaign against body shaming, is that there are many ways in which women can be beautiful and that their beauty should not be merely defined by limited views on the ideal weight, height, or skin color.

Over the past decades, women’s beauty ideals have undergone drastic changes in China, where there has been a traditional preference for “round faces” and “plump bodies.” In today’s society, thin bodies, sharp faces, and a pointy chin are usually regarded as the standard of female ideal beauty (Jung 2018, 68). China’s most popular photo apps, such as Meitu or Pitu, often also include features to make one’s face pointier or one’s legs more skinny.

This is not the first time Weibo sees a growing trend of women opposing strict beauty standards. Although the word ‘body shaming’ has not often been included in previous trends, there have been major trends of women opposing popular skinny challenges and even one social media campaign in which young women showed their hairy armpits to trigger discussions on China’s female aesthetics.

Especially in times of a pandemic, many netizens now stress the importance of health: “Skinny or fat, it really doesn’t matter how much you weigh, as long as you’re healthy – that’s what counts.”

Also read:

 

By Manya Koetse

 

References

Jung, Jaehee. 2018. “Young Women’s Perceptions of Traditional and Contemporary Female Beauty Ideals in China.” Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal 47 (1): 56-72.

Yan, Hanyi ; Wu, Yingru ; Oniffrey, Theresa ; Brinkley, Jason ; Zhang, Rui ; Zhang, Xinge ; Wang, Yueqiao ; Chen, Guoxun ; Li, Rui ; Moore, Justin. 2018. “Body Weight Misperception and Its Association with Unhealthy Eating Behaviors among Adolescents in China.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 15 (5): 936.

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©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Food & Drinks

Tianjin Restaurant Introduces “Meal Boxes for Women”

The special lunch boxes for women were introduced after female customers had too much leftover rice.

Manya Koetse

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China’s anti food waste campaign, that was launched earlier this month, is still in full swing and noticeable on China’s social media where new iniatives to curb the problem of food loss are discussed every single day.

Today, the hashtag “Tianjin Restaurant Launches Special Female Meal Boxes” (#天津一饭店推出女版盒饭#) went trending with some 130 million views on Weibo, with many discussions on the phenomenon of gender-specific portions. The restaurant claims its special ‘female lunch boxes’ are just “more suitable for women.”

According to Tonight News Paper (今晚报), the only difference their reporter found between the “meals for women” and the regular meals, is the amount of rice served. Instead of 275 grams of rice, the ‘female edition’ of the restaurant’s meals contain 225 grams of rice.

The restaurant, located on Shuangfeng Road, decided to introduce special female lunch boxes after discovering that the female diners of the offices they serve usually leave behind much more rice than their male customers.

The restaurant now claims they expect to save approximately 10,000 kilograms of rice on an annual basis by serving their meals based on gender.

On Chinese social media, the initiative was heavily criticized. Weibo netizens wondered why the restaurant would not just offer “bigger” and “smaller” lunch boxes instead of introducing special meals based on gender.

“There are also women who like to eat more, what’s so difficult about changing your meals to ‘big’ and ‘small’ size?”, a typical comment said: “Some women eat a lot, some men don’t.”

Many people called the special meals for women sex discrimination and also wanted to know if there was a difference in price between the ‘female’ and ‘male’ lunch boxes.

There are also female commenters on Weibo who claim they can eat much more than their male colleagues. “Just give me the male version,” one female user wrote: “I’ll eat that meal instead.”

This is the second time this month that initiatives launched in relation to China’s anti food waste campaign receive online backlash.

A restaurant in Changsha triggered a storm of criticism earlier this month after placing two scales at its entrance and asking customers to to enter their measurements into an app that would then suggest menu items based on their weight. The restaurant later apologized for encouraging diners to weigh themselves.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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