Big and beautiful asks:
I’m an European woman. Because of my job, I’ll be staying in China for 2 years. I’m already studying Mandarin, but I’ve never had a Chinese friend or boyfriend. I’m curious about Chinese men’s opinion of women who are taller and larger than them. Is there a lot of discrimination? Is their ideal woman short and skinny? Where I live, most men don’t like dating a woman who’s bigger than them, but it’s not completely taboo.
When I walk the streets of China, I don’t see a lot of couples like John and I. That’s not just because I’m a Western woman and he’s a Chinese man. I’m also three inches taller than him, and many pounds heavier — a combination you rarely see even with Chinese-Chinese couples.
It’s no secret that Chinese women are under a lot of pressure to be thin:
…eating disorders, particularly bulimia nervosa (binge eating followed by purging), are increasing in prevalence in China at an alarming rate, especially among girls from higher income families aged 12 to 22 (Chen and Jackson, 2007). A revealing human interest story featured on the All-China Women’s Federation website about two American-born Chinese (ABC) girls studying in Beijing, highlights their difficulties adjusting to cultural differences in regard to both weight and skin tone. The article notes that whereas both girls wore small sizes in the United States, in China they are considered “fat” (and are readily told so by both friends and casual acquaintances) and can only fit into large sizes (Martin, 2007).
I’m sure these societal expectations factor into why I almost never see a Chinese man with his arms around a woman larger than he is.
As for height, I think Chinese men are no different than men the world over — that they might feel like “less of a man” if she’s taller. My Chinese husband claims he doesn’t mind I have a three-inch leg up on him, but that hasn’t stopped him from joking with me that there’s a “ban” on high heels in our family (which really isn’t a “ban” because I stopped buying heels years ago, deciding that fashion wasn’t worth foot pain). All joking aside, if I ever changed my mind and suggested wearing some stilettos, you can bet he’d put his own foot down. His acceptance of our height difference still demands that we go no further beyond what nature gave us.
When a Chinese man dates a woman who is taller and heavier than they are, they’re definitely going against the grain of society, and dating expectations. But you could say the same about when a Chinese man dates a Western woman. I’ve never done a study on this, but I’m willing to bet there’s some overlap here — that the unconventional Chinese men will also be more open to dating bigger women.
Even so, don’t be surprised if these Chinese men happen have a no-high-heel rule. 😉
P.S.: You might also find Jo Kelly-Bai’s relationship very inspiring, as I do.
What do you think?
Do you have a question about life, dating, marriage and family in China/Chinese culture (or Western culture)? Every Friday, I answer questions on my blog. Send me your question today.