Wed, Feb 22, 2017 - Page 13 News List

Meet the women combating fat shaming in Taiwan

Amy Lin and Mallie Hsieh are taking to social media to spread body positivity through jokes and good humor

By Dana Ter  /  Staff reporter

Mallie Hsieh, left, and Amy Lin discuss body image in this video on their Facebook page, Roudan Tianxin.

Photos courtesy of roudan tianxin

“Where do fat people make friends?”

“Why do some fat people have three folds on their belly?”

“Are fat people’s stool bigger?”

These are some of the questions viewers ask Amy Lin (林昱君) and Mallie Hsieh (謝莉君) in their most watched video on Facebook, which has over 33,000 views.

The two plus-sized friends started the Facebook page Lady Bom Bom Power, or Roudan Tianxin (肉彈甜心), in 2015 to combat stereotypes of fat women, a problem they believe is deeply ingrained and widespread.

In their monthly videos, they discuss the difficulties overweight women have finding fashionable clothes and laugh over spiteful remarks made by concerned relatives while suggesting to viewers effective ways to respond to such comments. Sometimes, they bring in guests to talk about their own experiences with fat shaming or skinny shaming or for being judged for being a tomboy or identifying as gay or lesbian.

“I have no friends,” Lin replies jokingly to the viewer who asks where fat people make friends.

“I used to have three folds on my belly, but now it’s become one big blob,” says Hsieh as she grabs her stomach and jiggles it around.

As to the inquiry on poop size, Hsieh says: “I’m not sure if fat people’s stool is bigger. However, mine is hard — though I think that’s common for a lot of people.”

EMBRACING BODY POSITIVITY

While the humor their videos convey borders on the self-deprecating, their message — that overweight people are still people — is simple and moving.

During the day, Lin works at the Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association (台灣同志諮詢熱線協會), an NGO that serves the needs of the LGBT community, and Hsieh, a social worker, spends her time dealing with people with HIV/AIDS.

“The people we work with don’t want to be treated any differently than the rest of society,” Hsieh tells the Taipei Times.

Working with people who have been ill-treated has inured Hsieh to criticism of her body size.

“What people say about me and Amy doesn’t really bother us anymore,” Hsieh says.

In addition to making videos, Lin and Hsieh regularly give talks at universities around Taiwan. Last year, they spoke at Tamkang University in New Taipei City, Yuan Ze University in Taoyuan and Hualien’s National Dong Hwa University.

“Most people in the audience will say that we are brave. But they add that it will still take some time to change people’s perceptions of feminine beauty,” Hsieh says.

The duo draws inspiration from the body positivity movement in the US, which teaches people — especially women — to be accepting of different body types and forgiving of their own bodies in order to advance overall mental and physical well-being. The movement also encompasses the idea of “fat acceptance” — remedying anti-fat sentiment and reclaiming the word “fat” from its negative connotation.

Lin admits that she derives most of her body-positive education from outspoken Western celebrities such as American plus-sized model Tess Holliday, UK singer Adele and Australian actress Rebel Wilson.

The same can be said for Hsieh. “There are a lot of plus-sized YouTubers and bloggers in the West seeking to change negative perceptions of fat women,” she says. “But the idea hasn’t spread to Taiwan.”

CONTESTING CONFORMITY AND CUTE CULTURE

Lin and Hsieh ascribe plus-sized women’s lack of representation in Taiwanese media and pop culture to an overall culture of conformity.

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