Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A two week pause from teaching and I was called fat

My 10 hours of freshmen oral English was replaced with two weeks of all day military training.  Dressed in their camouflaged uniforms and hats, all the freshmen of the university practiced marching around the playground.  They also learned Kung Fu combat.

Because of the remodeling, the Tree House has also had a major pause.  We recently finished with the paint job and the organization of the books and furniture; however, all the workers have been dead beat tired.  They have been either in military training and/or Tai Chi practice.  All of the English department freshmen and sophomore females were required to be in the 32nd University Sports Meet Opening Ceremony.  They have including my sitemate been practicing 4-6 hours a day, so we the PCVs offered to open the Tree House one hour a night from 6:30-7:30.

Classes were cancelled for the sports meet which is a 3-day competition for all of the teachers and students of the university.  Each person can volunteer to participate in various events from track and field to fun events like the three legged race or the slowest bicyclist.  The participating teachers of the School of Foreign Language were given off-white baseball caps, bright neon pink polo shirts, and dark blue pants.  For the opening ceremony, all of the departments dressed in their new clothes fashion from white blouses and black skirts, to red ties and black pants marched in ordered formation into the stadium shouting slogans about health and physical fitness.  

I've never had the opportunity to participate in track and field events and was excited to volunteer to do the 100 meter dash; however, there was a mix up and I ended up having to do the long jump.  I have NEVER done the long jump except during middle school at the French school while living in China.  I had a crash course.  Run fast.  Touch the white line but don't touch the colored line and snap your body or something.  People tried to demonstrate but I didn't really get the snapping of the body to fly forward into the sand pit.  It didn't matter.  Out of the 6 women, I was still able to get first place with a measly short distance of 3.2 meters.

A leader of the PE department who was watching, who took my picture, and who congratulated me on my win, with a smile jokingly asked why I was so fat and maybe I should stop eating so much.  This was kind of coincidental because recently amongst the China PCV community there has been a dialogue about the frequency of students calling each other fat and how this is detrimental to women's self-esteem and body image.  I kind of wonder though, are we as westerners judging the word fat through a western lens, our own value system?  Is the word fat a universally across all cultures, a negative, self-esteem and body image damaging word?  Are our Chinese students hearing the word fat the same way as we women from the west hear it?  Are our Chinese students reacting the same way we from the west would react if we were called fat?  Being called fat is such an impolite insult in the west and hurts us to our core.  Polite people in the west just don't call each other fat.  So then if we in the west and people in China react and view the word the same way then why do Chinese people call their best friends fat, their grand-daughters and their daughters fat, complete strangers fat?  

Is there a cultural difference surrounding the word fat between the west and China such that we are reacting to it and using it differently?  Or are we all regardless of culture subconsciously reacting to the word fat the same way?

1 comment:

universalibrarian said...

You are very much not fat. I am called fat EVERY time I go to the doctor here, Headache? You are too fat. Toothache? You are too fat. I think that it is very damaging. I look at my students and the ones who are naturally a little chunkier have a really hard time, especially the western ones and I watch already skinny girls eat almost nothing in order to "keep fit" Not in a healthy way. I think that people here just don't band together to fight the label as they have in the US. I think that it still hurts here in Taiwan and it sounds like it is very similar to where you are.