Written by Yan Zhuang
Uniqlo’s children’s clothing section in China has gained an unexpected new clientele: adult women.
In the latest viral challenge to hit Chinese social media, women pose for selfies in the locker room wearing children’s T-shirts from the Japanese fashion giant. The trend has sparked a heated debate over whether it promotes body shame, with experts raising concerns that it reinforces the country’s unhealthy beauty standards.
“This is a dangerous trend, not only in terms of a drive for thinness and the pressure this puts on women and girls, but also in terms of the overt sexualization of women,” said Tina Rochelle, associate professor at social and behavioral sciences. at the City University of Hong Kong that investigates the influence of gender and culture on health. She said petite clothing is likely to be tighter and tighter on a woman’s body.
On Weibo, a microblogging platform, where the hashtag “An adult tries on Uniqlo children’s clothing” has been viewed 680 million times, criticism is divided between those who oppose the unrealistic beauty standards promoted by the challenge and those who express the concern more practical than women. they stretch the clothes and make them useless.
One user called it “another way to display the ‘white, young, slim’ aesthetic,” referring to a phrase commonly used to describe the country’s dominant beauty standard. The person added: “It emphasizes unhealthy body shame and should be strongly resisted.”
Another commenter wrote: “Although I am envious of the figures of those women, they should buy the clothes after trying them on! The clothes are all stretched out, how can children wear them! “Uniqlo did not respond to emails on Thursday seeking comment.
The challenge has been labeled the latest version of the “BM style”, a type of fashion recently popularized by cult Italian brand Brandy Melville, which is youthful, casual and above all slim (their stores are only one size: extra small). .
Since the brand opened its first Chinese store in Shanghai in 2019, it has become a symbol of aspiration for young women desperate to get into their clothes. An unofficial size chart circulated on Weibo showed how much women of different heights would have to weigh to fit – a 5-foot-3 woman would have to weigh 95 pounds.
Brandy Melville did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. Jia Tan, assistant professor of cultural studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the garment industry is a major driver of what is considered “standard” size. The same sizes are generally smaller in Asia than in the West, he said, and the “standard” sizes exclude a significant portion of the population.
“I think we must first question the tremendous social pressure on women, and why the garment industries can have so much power to standardize our appearance, before pointing the finger at adult women who wear child sizes,” she said So. In an email.
Similar online challenges have gone viral on Chinese social media before. In 2016, women, and some men, posed with their waists behind a vertical sheet of A4 paper to show that they were “paper thin.”
That challenge was so popular that celebrities participated and covered it by Chinese state media, prompting a feminist activist, Zheng Churan, to write in response: “I love my fat waist” on a piece of paper held horizontally above your waist.
In 2015, for the “navel challenge,” people reached behind their backs and around their waists to touch their navel, apparently to show off how thin they were.
There seems to be a growing awareness of body positivity in China. A few months ago, a store faced backlash for labeling larger sizes of women’s clothing “rotten,” prompting her to apologize.
But Rochelle, a professor at the City University of Hong Kong, noted that while there was a growing willingness among women to report bodily shame and share their experiences online, there was little indication that society as a whole was changing.
“It doesn’t seem to have gotten home here that shaming fat and publicly discussing a woman’s weight can have a huge impact on a person’s well-being,” he said.