If you’re an American-born Chinese like me, you dreaded greeting your relatives at holiday parties. It’s not because you dislike them, but because without hesitation or batting an eyelash, they would all comment about how fat you’ve gotten (fat shame, anyone?). To a Westerner like me, this would be a massive uncalled-for insult. Baffled and shocked, I would feel humiliated and resign to an awkward silence. However, to a Chinese native, this is as common as commenting that you got a haircut or a new sweater.
The fact of the matter is that commenting on your appearance isn’t a social taboo in China as it is in America. Being called fat isn’t exactly a compliment or an insult, but more of a statement or observation.
Whitney Schindelar, an English teacher who taught in China recalls one particular class session where her smartest student in the class read his sentence aloud, “‘Whitney is the fattest person in our class.’” As opposed to an American classroom where the students may erupt in laughter, shock, and an Instagram livestream, there was absolutely “zero reaction” in her classroom. She goes on to explain that Chinese characters all start with a radical related to the word, such as “女” which means woman. This radical is also in “ 好” and “妈” meaning “good” and “mom”. However the radical “疒” is found in words such as, “瘦 (thin), 病 (ill), 症 (disease)” which suggests that being thin holds the same negative connotation as being sick or sore.
Approximately 38% of adults in the US are obese. This heavily differs from China, where the rate of adult obesity is much lower and therefore seen as less of a problem. Being fat or overweight is heavily stigmatized in America, but Professor Gary G. Bennett of Duke University explained to The Root,“In a lot of other cultures, weight is a sign of affluence. Where food has historically not been plentiful, there are just fewer social pressures to be thin.” This is the case in China, where being slightly plumper was a sign of beauty during the Tang Dynasty.
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In 1975, the Khmer Rouge came to power in Cambodia. In 1979, after killing around two million Cambodians, the Khmer Rouge were finally taken out of power. In 2018, after two surviving members were put on trial, the killings have finally been ruled a genocide.
According to the BBC, a tribunal found Noun Chea, the 92-year old former Khmer Rouge deputy, and Khieu Samphan, the 87-year old former head of state, guilty of genocide among numerous other significant crimes, including enslavement and torture. They were already serving life sentences prior.
They served under Pol Pot, leader of the Khmer Rouge from 1963 and 1997, whose tactics earned him the regard of being one of the most murderous and insidious leaders of the modern era. The Khmer Rouge kidnapped, tortured and executed its political opposition, drove its citizens to toil working in the fields, and tortured those who weren’t compliant, according to History.com.
After the fall of the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot fled from capture until 1997. Only a year after his capture, he died in house arrest at the age of 72, never truly receiving the punishment that the victims of his reign sought. In the years surrounding, many other Khmer Rouge members were captured and punished.
This 2018 tribunal was significant in having finally named the killings a genocide for the first time, which has been a point of some contention as it is not entirely clear to some whether the Khmer Rouge targeted specific identities. The role of Vietnamese in Cambodia, and their violent removal, played a significant role in the ruling. l
While the rulings hold some significance and can provide some closure for the country and those left behind by the brutality, Cambodians will perhaps never truly find reparations. “If we can get more, it would be better,” stated Lay Dong, a Khmer survivor, to DW. “But right now Cambodians are not in the situation to claim more justice.” Follow @nextshark for more stories!