Zoe (death_spoon) wrote in egl,

Government Programs and Social Pressure Slim Down Japanese Women

I have always been under the impression that this community has many differing opinions on what type of person should wear lolita. Backlash (or positive endorsement) for ita, weeaboos, bro-lita, lesbians, faty-chans has been prevalent in secrets, arguments, and drama for years.

One of the common reasons there is so much issue over the "proper" weight to wear lolita are often the "one-size-fits-all" approach many brands take. (With the exception of BTSSB in recent years for offering multiple sizes shirts ad dresses). This often segregates the community into those that can and cannot fit into certain labels. And by proxy, this separates girls who can wear brand and who require commissions. There are of course accessories and what not, to spruce up your outfit in terms of the amount of brand (if you care about such things). But of course, the truth remains: Brand sizing limits certain people from wearing the clothing they love and in some cases, causes improper dieting, low self esteem, and eating disorders.

I recently found this article on change.org. A fantastic website everyone should read at least once a day. They cover every issue known to man, and cite sources well, for all those skeptics out there. My favorite section is "Women's Rights". This is an article they posted a few months back, but since I never saw it here, I am posting it now. I think it will be very interesting to read from a lolita standpoint, as it can influence the Japanese brands we like to wear. (Especially the waist size. Look for that measurement in the article.)

And as always: Let's keep the following discussion respectful!

Government Programs and Social Pressure Slim Down Japanese Women

"Metabo" was one of the first bizarre hybrid words I heard while teaching at an all-women's university in Japan. The Japanese have a number of words which have been adopted from foreign languages and given Japanese pronunciation and characters (for example: "birru" for beer) and it always takes a minute to figure out exactly what they refer to. My students used "metabo" constantly: "She's too metabo!" "No Sarah, we don't want to become metabo!" "No lunch because am too metabo."

Finally I started to get it. I asked a fellow teacher who'd been in Japan for fifteen years what it meant. "Ah, metabo!" she said knowingly. "You'll hear it all the time. It means metabolic, which is the polite Japanese way of saying fat." Right. According to a Japanese physician interviewed in The New York Times, the word is useful in encouraging patients to lose weight, as it sounds less intimidating and stigmatizing than "obese."

The Japanese government in recent years has been intent on getting its citizens to lose weight, instituting a national standard for waist size and mandating that people who do not meet it follow weight loss programs with the guidance of their doctors. Companies are required to measure both their employees and their employees' families. Recently, a health ministry panel in Tokyo called for reducing the standard for a healthy waist size for women from 90 cm to 80 cm, despite the fact that Japanese women appear to be getting skinnier and skinnier.

The Wall Street Journal reports that a quarter-century ago, Japanese women were two times as likely to be thin as overweight; now, however, they're four times as likely to be thin. Since 1984, all women from ages 20-54 have gotten thinner (indicated by a BMI of under 18.5). And the pressure is growing, particularly for young women who are growing up in an era of glowering government reports about "metabolic syndrome" and its dangers and having their waists measured on a regular basis.

My students would confide to me that to be a good wife or get a good job they had to stay thin.  The first thing one class of students said on the first day of class was "you are so thin!" The girls gathered around me and berated me with questions about how I stayed skinny, a theme that would continue throughout the semester. Some of them came to class woozy and tired and when I asked why, they'd say they hadn't eaten lunch to lose weight. We're talking about very small girls here, ranging from 90 to 120 pounds. They encouraged and supported each other, and in the papers they'd write describing one another "thin" was always an adjective used with much admiration.

Of course, books claiming that "Japanese Women Don't Get Fat Or Old" and outsiders' stereotyping of Japanese women as skinny don't help, and coupled with the government's weight loss programs they amount to telling women they are no longer Japanese, or at least no longer good, admirable Japanese people, if they are overweight. The result: more and more women eating the "0 Calorie Jelly" type products amassing on convenience store shelves, and half-asleep students skipping meals to stay thin.

If societal measures aren't taken to curb this mounting pressure, Japan could find itself facing a crisis of equal or worse magnitude than "metabolic syndrome": the onslaught of eating disorders and health problems associated with the obsession with extreme thinness.  Continued emphasis on weight loss without any accompanying organizations or programs devoted to healthy body image seems like a recipe for disaster.

Article , March 15, 2010

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