As someone who already felt extra tall in comparison to other Asians, I clung to being skinny which quickly turned toxic. Cultural ideas of beauty all over the world often revolve around women making themselves smaller, but in countries like China, Japan, and South Korea, women are often told that being beautiful means being pale, slender, and ultra-feminine . In China, online fads like the A4 challenge (comparing your waist to an A4 sheet of paper) show just how pervasive the obsession with being slim can be. Even worse, when women deviate from those ideals, we find ourselves the target of unwanted comments and criticisms from relatives and strangers. I have definitely received negative comments from strangers, friends, and even family members, [...] especially when I began lifting weights, powerlifter Kenah Garcia tells Bustle. In recent years, however, there has been a growing number of Asian-American women, and particularly Southeast and East Asian-American women, entering the weightlifting community. Nowhere is this more apparent than on Instagram, where women like Cynthia Leu (168,000 followers) and Tiffany Nguyen (68,000 followers) have built a following by sharing videos of themselves powerlifting. (Powerlifting is a sport where an athlete tries to lift as much weight as they can in bench press, back squats, and deadlift.) Fitness coaches that focus on weightlifting, like Sohee Lee (154,000 followers) and YouTuber Stephanie Buttermore (385,000 subscribers), have also gained popularity. While social media can be a breeding ground for unrealistic body expectations, the increasing presence of Asian-American women showing their strength has proven to be empowering for a growing audience. Thanks to increased representation in popular culture and social media, more and more women are embracing fitness and exercise that rebels against cultural expectations of beauty.
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