Undressing Summer Inequalities

Summer life in the Chinese countryside is spent without air-conditioning and a dream of stripping off sticky clothes and immersing in cold water. Now for women, this dream could never be a reality because modesty is of the utmost importance. I bake in the summers as my Chinese Nainai finds baring my shoulders and legs inappropriate. One must respect one’s elders and appease one’s in-laws. So I can be a good little YangXifu and cover up. I guess this means a bikini is out of the question?

But it is oh so hot!

So as I walk by the river yearning to go swimming, I remember how I must be respectful of the culture in which I am living. Chinese people in the countryside are simply more modest. As I am thinking this, I notice there are people in the water up ahead. There is a group of men and boys swimming in the river! I would love to just jump into the clear cold water and swim with them! As I get closer, the men see me. They all stand up and wave. I am confronted with several wet naked Chinese men energetically waving more than just their hands. It’s quite an unwelcomed view.

Am I upset?

Yes!

Why do I, as a woman, have to cover up so much but men can go out in public naked?! It is simply not fair.

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “Undressing Summer Inequalities

  1. Mc chan

    O man that’s why I hate the mainland Chinese! I’m from hong kong why don’t you move to hong kong is much better!!!!

  2. thelocaldialect

    I visited the village just a few weeks ago and the sundressed I’d just bought a few days earlier never came out of my backpack. I don’t really care unless I’m around my sisters and brothers in law, but yeah, you can’t go around bringing shame on your family by looking like a wanton foreigner, can you? Sucks too because it is so flippin hot!

    • My first summer in the country I only brought tank tops. My Nainai made go shopping for something to wear before I could be seen by the neighbors, can you imagine the kind of clothes I had to buy out there?!

  3. J

    yeah, I guess it is very hot in most parts in china right now. My Irish mate went to the greatwall a few weeks ago, 43 degrees on that day, holly sweet lord. I joked him as the most brave man in China… haha.

    Well, I still prefer stay in hot hot China rather than in cold rainny England or Ireland where you can only enjoy summer for more or less 20 days. Only thing to cheer me up is that thinking X’mas is coming soon???

  4. x

    1.中国北方有些地方的农村,可以看见年纪比较大的妇女上半身不穿衣服的。当然,你显然不行。
    2.你可以让你的丈夫陪你去游泳。

  5. So many months afterwards, now winter is around the corner… I hope you’ve been doing fine and that you’ll find some time to update on how you are doing!

    This summer clothing topic seems very faraway now… It’s cold and raining outside. However, now I realize that the first year I met my Chinese in laws (it was 2004) I was quite likely totally inappropriate in some many ways, the clothes I wore (or didn’t wear) included.

    • So did you change how you dressed infront of your in-laws?

      It is always easy to dress inappropriately or at least not fit in. Even in fall, my mother-in-law yells at me for heavy wearing winter coats and makes me change. For the most part though, people don’t hold foreigners to the same standards.
      I’ll try to update soon!

  6. Chris

    That is really unfair.

    But think of it like this: If you were a Chinese girl who is involved with an American guy and you two were living in the middle of say rural Iowa, I am sure you will be very noticed by all the guys. Now imagine it is hot and all the country boys are having a great time in the river, and you decide to strip down to nothing but a bikini.. what kind of attention will you get then? What kind of things will those guys say? o_O It is not hard to imagine.

    Rural China is not that much different.

    Now if you went to a public beach in say Qingdao (big city) you will still get some attention, but nobody will dare say anything, as long as you’re not 100% naked.

    Trust me, I have heard whispered comments in small town Canada in the middle of winter, fully dressed, and I am single.

    Ex. I was walking alone, a girl looked at me, and her boyfriend held her hand led her as far away from me as possible while still staying on the street whispering to her that I am Chinese.

    Ex. I had climbed over a fence (shortcut) to enter school. Girl looked at me kinda impressed I had climbed it so fast, then her boyfriend proceeded to make a comment about Chinese men’s privates. She denied that we were smaller, but her boyfriend enforced the idea on her that we were indeed tiny.

    So yeah, unfortunately I know how you feel 😦

    • There was a women who was sunbathing topless last summer in Qingdao and she got quite a bit of attention! I think the newspaper even printed a story about it. I’m just surprised that I still get so much attention in a bikini, but if you notice most of the Chinese girls wear very conservative swim suits.

  7. Luckily this is so not the case in Taiwanese cities. There are all sorts of standards of dress and sometimes I feel like the conservative one! It’s good to remember that no matter how far out of my comfort zone I may be, there’s someone else even further outside of theirs.

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