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The Photo Scandal That’s Highlighting China’s Warped Beauty Standards

Chen Man’s work with the most recent Dior campaign has been accused of “purposely making Chinese women ugly,” sending Chinese media into a frenzy.
The Photo Scandal That’s Highlighting China’s Warped Beauty Standards

Too busy to check in on the RADII website every day? We got you every Monday with a summary of all the freshest takes on China’s youth culture in the last week:

  • Who gets to decide what’s beautiful? We have the full recap (and a perspective) on Chen Man’s photography that has been causing controversy across China.
  • Huawei’s new earbuds are pissing people off.
  • The Chinese box office has a new top dog.

Intrigued? Keep scrolling, my friend.

Chen Man’s Photo Scandal Highlights China’s Warped Beauty Standards

Photo of Chen Man via her Instagram account

Last week, French luxury brand Dior became the latest in a string of foreign brands to draw heavy criticism from Chinese netizens and media over their representation of Chinese culture and people.

The latest controversy comes in response to a photograph of a woman wearing a traditional, Qing Dynasty-esque garment, staring hauntingly at the camera while holding a Lady Dior handbag. The ad has been accused of pandering to Western stereotypes of Chinese people.

The photograph was swiftly removed from the exhibit, which closed on November 23, and the photographer has posted an apology on the Chinese social media platform Weibo, humbly accepting netizens’ critique.

Anger from Chinese netizens is understandable and valid. And critics have addressed the fact that the photo is much less glamorous than other pieces in the collection.

Many expressed concern with the kind of woman featured in the image: freckled, tanned (or seemed tanned due to the lighting and angle), with smaller, monolid eyes, and less pronounced features, styled to look like she lived a couple of centuries ago. Beijing Daily paired the photo with this headline: “Is This the Asian Woman in Dior’s Eyes?”

Many of the comments on Weibo maligned her latest work, claiming she has portraits where she looks “international and attractive,” while she “purposely made Chinese women ugly for international brands and publications.”

The long-overdue shift is undoubtedly worth celebrating. But while employing this newfound influence to demand more accurate, authentic Chinese and Asian representation in the media, we shouldn’t forget this: There isn’t one way to look Chinese.

What does beauty mean in China, and why does this matter?

RADII comrade and Chinese-American hip hop artist Bohan Phoenix just dropped a new track with singer-songwriter 9m88, and needless to say, it’s groovy as hell:

The rapper released the track on American Thanksgiving and notes on YouTube that he no longer wants to celebrate what the holiday stands for. Instead, he writes that he wants to “dedicate this song and day to my beautiful mother, Yumei.”

Don’t forget to call your mom today.

  • In this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes. And these two famous livestreamers just got fined millions of dollars.
  • 88 celebrities have been blacklisted by the China Association of Performing Arts for their “bad behaviors,” one of them being infamous pop idol Kris Wu.
  • As one of the hottest fashion trends, streetwear is going global, and Chinese youth are not lagging behind. Check out these 10 Chinese streetwear brands that are not Supreme.
  • We’re not sure how Anna Wintour is holding up, but fashion magazines are thriving in China. And here’s why.
  • One might be a lonely number, but not when you’re this tree at the Shanghai Chenshan Botanical Garden that has become a livestream sensation.
  • Yes, there’s another adaption of The Three-Body Problem in the works. This time, Bilibili is making an animated version of the sci-fi epic.

The Chinese war epic The Battle At Lake Changjin has made headlines again: As of November 25, it has surpassed the action film Wolf Warrior 2 to become the highest-grossing film in Chinese history:

The film could be perceived as a propaganda push, given that China’s propaganda department commissioned it.

Regardless, the massive success of The Battle At Lake Changjin demonstrates that China’s theaters don’t really need Hollywood.

Are you a gifted meme maker? Or a storyteller crazy about Chinese youth culture? Take a look below, because we’re currently hiring for the following positions:

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