For starters, there seems to now be more room for different kinds/expressions of beauty, without one necessarily being considered more “beautiful” than another. Take Suzie Bae, for example – an idolized member of an all-female K-pop group, Miss A – considered by many Koreans to be the nation’s “first love” due to her flawless skin, clean/natural face and long, healthy-looking hair. Chaelin Lee, better known as CL, is also a member of Miss A – but looks completely different (and is just as popular). Unlike Suzie Bae’s demure and classic innocent vibe, CL rocks different kinds of hair (from black to blonde to everything in between) and experiments with different, edgy makeup looks. Despite the good girl vs. bad girl dichotomy between the two loved pop stars, they’re both considered style icons – a definite indication that there’s room – and acceptance – for more diversity in terms of Asian women expressing themselves.
Another indication of changing times lays in the evolving perspectives and expectations regarding older, aging women. As many of you know, preserving a youthful and feminine appearance through skincare and makeup/hair is definitely emphasized in Asian societies – and though this hasn’t completely changed, there are signs that older women are being valued – age and all; older actress and mother Haruka Igawa remains a top-selling cover celeb in Japan, and a figure many younger women look up to and hope to be like when they are her age. Even in China, actress Qin Yi made a comeback after the Cultural Revolution in the 80s – and was idolized for it, even though she was in her 90s.
Perhaps the most promising sign of progress, however, regarding evolving female beauty ideals can be seen through the growing acceptance of famous young men and women experimenting with gender norms/expectations. For example: Widely known and loved Chinese actress Li Yuchun rocks an androgynous look, with jet-black short hair and wardrobe choices that veer more toward the masculine (see: suit jackets, long slacks) – and was the cover star of a popular Chinese fashion magazine. South Korean rapper Dragon (considered a heartthrob among many teens) regularly wears makeup and female clothing.
The fact that more feminine boys and more masculine girls are becoming more widely accepted – even if not totally – is a positive sign. It should be noted that acceptance indicates some form of tolerance, and even baby steps are still signs of progress. In the circumcision article we read this semester, it was evident that boys becoming “soft” was a concern among older Japanese men/general society – so the fact that there’s an expanding room for all sorts of expression is great, and shows that no matter how hard one tries to repress something, it will eventually ooze out through the cracks in your fingers.