As mentioned in my previous post, all research projects face difficulties. For me, I’m struggling to figure out the exact topic that I will write about and whether or not the topic is feasiable. I had started with the big umbrella of models and China but then narrowed down to model treatment. What I fear is that I will not find enough substantial primary sources to produce a ten page paper. A different shift on the topic is to look more at China’s first international supermodel Liu Wen and her portrayal in China. These two ideas are great starting points but I have to do my research on the topics and really choose a direction to go in and stick with it. Hopefully, as sources arise it will become more clear which topic works better.
I am incredibly excited about my research project and the topic I have chosen. That being said, my research has had it’s setbacks. It’s incredibly difficult to find primary sources coming from model’s perspectives. Many models are fearful about posting their personal feelings on the internet about the industry which has limited my ability to find sources. Once I dig a little deeper, I am hopeful that I will be able to find more accounts from models because that has been my biggest setback in this project.
Other than that, I have lucked out in the amount of primary sources that I have found. Many scholars have written on Chinese gender inequalities, working conditions and the difficulties that women experience in the workplace.
Overall, I am looking forward to diving a little deeper into this project over the next few weeks.
For my research paper, I am looking at the Chinese Modeling Industry and how the modeling industry has transformed because of outside influences. Most importantly, I am interested in looking at how models are treated in China. Often, models speak out about the inadequate living situation, untenable working conditions and poor relations with other models.
Since my project topic is contemporary, I am using social media to look at the modeling industry. The most notable Chinese model is a young woman named Liu Wen. She has become an international model and a national icon for the younger Chinese generation. Wen’s instragram account is one of the primary sources I will be using. On her account, she posts pictures of herself in certain shoots, promotional items she has received and the glamorous places she has visited. Wen’s account provides a very positive and idealistic image of modeling and to the viewer, makes modeling seem very appealing. For Wen’s personal benefit, her instagram does not reflect any bad aspect of the industry but as a historian, I need to see that bad side of the modeling world. Wen’s instagram appearance is so positive that it’s hard find any pitfall in the modeling world.
I am glad to use social media as a part of my research project but am finding that social media is providing me a very skewed and one sided picture of the Chinese modeling world.
Liu Wen featured on the cover of Vogue
source: instagram account of liuwenlw
The image I choose is from 1953 and was done by artist Xin Liliang. The image represents female peasant workers in a rice field. The main girl is well dressed and looks happy to be working. The other women are also well dressed and look blissfully content working. The girl appears to have a clean image and indicates that she takes care of herself. The landscape of the image is portrayed as vibrant by using bright colors. The water looks incredibly blue and the rice seems to be thriving. A city is somewhat visible in the back right corner but the picture almost indicates that city life is out of reach for these women and their lives in the field trump the city.
The clothing choices for the women are highly unrealistic with the actual clothing peasant women would have worn in the fields. These women would have worn old, tattered clothing not fresh jeans or a nice white apron. The women are depicted as being incredibly healthy and that their work is enjoyable which indicates the party’s message that these women enjoyed contributing to society in any capacity. Every women seems to be working diligently which again indicates that all these women believed their jobs were important. As noted earlier, the bright colors used for the landscape are aesthetically appealing and attracts a viewer to the image. The colors send the message that life in these rice fields is thriving.
The artist gives a great depiction of “life” in the rice fields for female peasant workers. By that, I mean that she makes this work look appealing to a broader audience and helps to support the notion that women are contributing to society. Sadly, this idealized image does not match up with the reality of most women who worked in rice fields.
Image contributed by: Xin Liliang for Chineseposters.net
Over the beginning weeks of this semester, I have become very interested in the image of Chinese women after reading my initial article about the modeling industry. I was struck in that article by the harsh conditions that Chinese models endured such as poor living and working conditions. Women are placed at the helm of a “handler” who can decide every part of their day to day life. Also, these women have no control over their living conditions and are often subjected to rape by male models. I have begun to become interested in Chinese women in the modeling industry but more so in the larger Chinese culture.
Following that theme, I found a blog that lists the “10 Best” Chinese women. The majority of these women are in their twenties and are models, actresses, singers. The beginning of the article notes that the most beautiful Chinese women have smooth porcelain skin, single eye lid folds and are skinny. These qualifications leave a very narrow standard for women to be deemed as pretty. After looking through the list, many of these women appear as young girls not women. What I am most struck by is the poses in the pictures. I am currently taking a class titled Perspectives about Sexuality and we recently discussed how certain magazine poses geared for women help to portray women in a certain light. Many times these women are placed in poses that make them look helpless, frail yet beautiful. The majority of the women located on this top 10 list are in poses such as these. One of the comments even notes how she looks beautiful and frail. I find this extremely fascinating how the western definition of beauty and poses has infiltrated China where an entire generation of girls are being placed in this same narrowly defined category in society.
For this assignment, I looked on the website titled “Women of China”. This website contains information about current women’s issues and provides perspectives from Chinese women. The article I selected was an op-ed piece discussing why the lengthy school process was causing men and women to get married later in life. The author wrote of men older than 30 and women about 27 as being “leftovers” meaning they have surpassed marrying age. The author proposed to shorten the duration of primary and secondary school so that young adults could enter the work force earlier and met their spouse.
I found this article very interesting in comparison to the documentary we watched last week. The people in the documentary had an unquenchable desire to be successful and were willingly to give up every personal part of their life to achieve success. After seeing that documentary, I was impressed by the work ethic of young Chinese adults and have to wonder about this op-ed piece. This women’s piece is certainly interesting but it seems tied more to traditional Chinese values such as marriage and family than the modern Chinese adult.
Here is the link to the article: http://www.womenofchina.cn/html/womenofchina/report/168965-1.htm
After watching the beginning portion of the Frontline video, I was struct by a few aspects of the film.
Firstly, the part pertaining to the community and power lines interested me. The community’s well being was completely ignored as the party made their choice. This story resonated with me and reminded me of the Chavez Ravine incident in Los Angeles, California where an entire mexican american community was displaced by the state without any concern over the community’s residents.
Chapter 7 which focused on love relations seemed very similar but different to American love stories. The rapped who chatted online with a girl and then sent her money to come visit but never appeared was not surprising. This is the quintessential American idea of “catifishing”, which Mtv even has a series about. While I find internet chatting bizarre, I was interested to see how this type of relationship occurred in China.
The arranged marriages were a bit difficult for me to even comprehend where we live in a society that has the notion that a person marry’s for love. In China, it appears that people are more honest with themselves and the idea of marrying for money. In our American culture, that is an influential part of relationships yet we continue to operate on the fantasy of marriages purely of love.
This semester I have read a few articles on women and been alarmed by their living conditions. Once again, Frontline frightened me about women’s conditions. The extent of human trafficking is a terrifying reality in China. What saddened me the most was the young girl, who’s mother unknowingly was sold as a prostitute and the community did not want to welcome her back. I felt the daughter’s pain and could not even understand how the community did not recognize that the woman was being mistreated. Women lack a basic amount of human rights.
Overall, the cultural gaps between generations in China seems almost as if generations are living in opposite worlds.
In keeping with my China Digital Times article focused on womens’ modeling in China, I read an article from global voices focused on women’s feminist activits. One of the main activist is named Xiao Meili. This woman’s efforts are remarkable in trying to raise awareness about women’s inequality and empower women to feel safe. The article notes how many women are put at a severe risk of sexual abuse by just walking on the street alone. Meili is doing a walk from Beijing to Guangzho which is noted to be about 2,000 kilometers.
Meili’s efforts are remarkable but I was saddened to see that she seems to be the only major face of the cause. As I read last week in China Digital Times, female models endure horrible living conditions. After reading this most recent article, I keep feeling more and more unaware of Chinese womens’ information. In the United States, we have a plethora of women’s activism groups and are highly more cognizant of womens’ interests than China. I am curious and excited to keep following female news stories throughout the semester.
For Friday’s assignment, I explored The China Digital Times and found an incredibly interesting article about modeling life in China. The article discusses how girls come to China on vacation visas and are placed in crammed apartments with many other models. The girls are managed by “handlers” who dictate the girls actions and book them jobs. If a girl does not do a job, she is most likely sent home. Often, these girls are incredibly young and are the mercy of the older male models. Girls work very minimal modeling jobs such as posing in front of an expensive car for eight or nine hours a day. Also, girls are put on restrictive eating diets.
What really interests me about this article is that the modeling industry in China may be only a smidgen less glamorous the modeling industry in other parts of the world. Regardless of geographical location, young girls are being forced to starve to fulfill this body image ideal that has been set. To me, China’s modeling industry is another sad example of the poor influence that popular culture has had on every day individual lives’.
Here is the link to the article: http://sinosphere.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/14/a-dark-look-at-modeling-in-china/?_r=1
Image: David Gray for The New York Times