A4 challenge encourages healthy thinking

By Li Aixin Source:Global Times Published: 2016-3-26 0:58:01

Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT

 You never know what the next big trend will be. It was only a few month ago that the "belly button challenge," touching your navel by reaching behind your back and around your waist, became a craze. The newest way to show off your slim figure is the "A4 waist challenge."

Started from female celebrities, the challenge has seen thousands of people in China posting images of themselves hiding behind a vertical piece of 21-centimeter wide A4, to prove whether their waif-thin waist can be totally covered by the sheet of paper.

Yet the challenge has sparked debate, and even sharp criticism around the world, with many foreign media asking "Have we reached the ultimate low in our obsession with appearance?" or arguing "The trend is putting body image pressure on women." Some even claimed that the challenge is a form of discrimination against fat people. Others pointed to the growing prevalence of anorexia as a warning that the obsession with looks has gone too far.

China's images of beauty have radically shifted over the times, from the distorted feet favored for centuries to the gamine look of the 1920s in Shanghai. The Tang Dynasty famously liked Rubenesque good looks with wide hips and proud curves.

Yet an A4 waist size is neither a skeleton-thin look nor size zero. Instead, it is a healthy and attainable goal for some women. More importantly, people seem to have failed to notice how many pictures were taken in gyms, and how many women were wearing gym suits in the shots.

If the challenge proves anything, it showed that a growing number of women are willing to make efforts for a better shape by doing exercise and sport, rather than simply starving themselves or turning to diet pills to lose weight. They are not sacrificing their health. On the contrary, they are making themselves stronger. The posted images are the best proof of their pride and confidence in it.

In the current era, in which most people are overwhelmed and occupied by their work while fast food is flooding the market, staying skinny through exercise can demonstrate their diligence and willpower.

Showing off a little in this case is therefore not a bad thing. It can not only harvest support and encouragement from friends and family, but might also inspire others to pursue a nice and healthy figure as well.

Granted, there may be no such thing as pretty enough, skinny enough or sexy enough for women. Yet women today are intelligent enough to keep fit without going to extremes.

When pursuing an A4 waist, we are not going to start a fast as in the Spring and Autumn Period, when many people at court starved to death because the King of Chu, a kingdom in the period, loved a narrow waist. Nor will we put ourselves into a basquine like in the 16th century in Europe, where noble women tried to squeeze their waists to 15 centimeters or even thinner.

The A4 waist challenge might seem bizarre to some, yet it is just entertainment in the end. For most people who participated in it, it's for fun. Instead of feeling hurt, those who have less-than-ideal figure can try to dip their toes in the water of exercise. And instead of criticizing the trend, we might as well think about the merits it brings. You don't have to care about the challenge, but everyone wants to look good. After all, summer is on its way.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. liaixin@globaltimes.com.cn

Posted in: Viewpoint

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