February 28, 2008

Do You Measure Up?

I wish I had more time for blogging; every week Asia Weekly has at least four or five stories that I'd like to quote from. This is one of those stories.

The search is on for ideal females to present medals at the Olympics, says the South China Morning Post. Citing a Xinmin Evening News story that offered a "glimpse of what the government defines as the ideal beauty," it reported on criteria used by judges combing through Shanghai's top universities to fill the 40 slots reserved for local beauties. Presenters must be between 18 and 24 and meet 15 body-type requirements, including:
  • "The whole body should not be clumsy, too fat or slender, unbalanced or an abnormal shape."
  • "The distance from the forehead to the base of the nose, from base to tip of the nose, and from tip of the nose to chin should be equal."
  • "The length of the eyes should be three-tenths the length of the face."
  • Shoulders must be "full and even . . . not drooping or shrugging."
  • "Soft and smooth" thighs, with "slightly protruding calves."

  • While I've read articles about people trying to "quantitize" beauty before, the fact that the Chinese are using such a system strikes me as being rather Asian. When companies may literally have thousands of qualified candidates for a job, Asian companies often use unusual criteria to weed out some of the competition. Height requirements are a very commonly used criteria whereby short people (occasionally men, but more often than not women) are excluded from a job, even though height may have no role in the person's ability to do that job. I've read several stories about women, desperate for jobs, who have gone through painful bone-lengthening surgeries in China that sometimes create unintended deformities. This type of surgery is, under normal circumstances, perfectly acceptable, being used primarily for people who have one leg longer than the other - an aunt of mine could have benefited from such a surgery had she been younger when the surgery was first developed. However, it's sometimes done here in Asia as an elective surgery on people who normally have no need for such a surgery.

    Likewise, it was quite common for Korean companies, when I lived there, to discriminate against potential employees on the basis of their English skills. Once again, more often than not, there was frequently no need to use this criteria because the company didn't necessarily need anyone to communicate in English on the job; however, to whittle down the number of acceptable resumes, young Koreans often had to score above a certain number on one of several standardized tests (which most of my students took once every month, even before knowing how they had done on previous months' tests).

    So I'm not surprised that the judges would use so many requirements to select forty women for a two-week job at the Olympics. I wouldn't be surprised, either, if several thousand women tried out for the forty slots. Perhaps for the 2012 London Olympics, some enterprising TV producer will create a reality-TV show, perhaps along the lines of "American Idol," where the London presenters will be chosen publicly.

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