What is Real Beauty in China?

Beauty products company Dove is taking their “Real Beauty” campaign to China. The campaign aims “to challenge beauty stereotypes and invite women to join a discussion about beauty.”  It has been rolled out in the USA, Canada, Australia and the UK.

Translating the concept is proving difficult in China’s complex landscape of women’s issues. The China campaign features pictures of pregnant tummies, decorated with ornately painted questions such as, “If you knew I’d grow up to weigh 140 jin [154 lbs], would I still be your baby?”

On top of what is a completely different set of beauty insecurities, such as being too thin or having a flat nose, there is the much larger issue: the fact that many pregnant women don’t want a female baby at all. Other cultural issues, such as the leftover woman phenomenon, are making things even more complicated:

Overall, Hvistendahl [China based writer who has written about China’s ] told brandchannel that she finds the ads “encouraging” and promising. “On the other hand,” she said, “the campaign is about how girls are treated after they’re born. But the problem in China now is that girls aren’t being born in the first place.” Hvistendahl added, “I’d like to see something more focused on parents. We need images that ask questions like: do you want to be the sort of parent who puts demands on your child from well before birth?”

[…] Dove’s focus, which is not just on cosmetic users but on the parents who play a huge role in young women’s sense of self-esteem and beauty, is not misplaced. “Parents want their daughters to be beautiful so they’ll have an easier time finding a job or a husband,” a Beijing plastic surgeon told Reuters in 2011 for a story about China’s growing industry. Today, China is third worldwide for the per capita number of cosmetic procedures performed, a rate predicted to grow even in nontraditional surgery such as “designer vaginas.” [Source]

The article considers the competition, looking at how some other international cosmetics companies are creating smartphone apps in China. These apps offer users ways to filter out their imperfections, promoting a message which is the exact opposite of the Dove campaign.