Meet Chubbiness, Japan's New Deliberately Plus-Sized Girlband
The Debrief: They're not really that chubby. But there's a real reason they're fetishied...
While stereotype would tell you that Japanese women are lean and spindly-thin, and actual World Health Organisation facts prove that the obesity rate of Japan’s population is lower than that of all other developing countries, weighing in at a teeny 3.2%*, plus-sized women are becoming fetishised in Japan. We’re not talking women the size of houses, unable to walk unaided, worthy of their own Channel 5 documentary, but just slightly cuddly, pudgy women who don't fit into sample sizes.
The phrase ‘marshmallow women’ started off on Japanese social media, was first mentioned in print by La Farfa magazine when describing model Goto Seina, and has now gained such swollen-footed traction that some lunatic has decided to put 10 figureheads of the movement together in a band called – wait for it – Chubbiness. According to Japan Today, the group was put together after an open casting call between music company Avex and Japanese fashion magazine Can Cam looked for ‘chubby’ girls. Over 3,500 girls auditioned, and 10 ended up making it into the group.
According to one interviewer, ‘their friendliness and candid characters make them easy to talk to, and that is one of their charming points as an idol group.’ And they’re not even bummed out that they’re referred to as ‘marshmallow girls’. As Seina put it: ‘Of course there will be different opinions – people who say “you’re a pig” or “you’re a fatty”. But for me, [marshmallow girl] makes me really happy.’
Now, before you go thinking that this, along with those vending machine selling schoolgirls' pants, mean that the sexual peccadillos of Japan are really weird, let’s put this all in context. Over the past few decades, an ageing population and the rise of convenience food has resulted in a lot of strain on Japanese health services. The population of people suffering with diabetes reached 8.9 million in 2009, and incidences of what the Japanese call ‘Metabo’ (metabolic syndrome, or plain old ‘obesity’ to us) have caused higher rates of cardiovascular disease.
This is enough of a concern to the Japanese government that, in 2010, it introduced a 'metabo' law. Employees must have the circumference of their waists measured by their companies. If 10% of a company’s workforce aged 40 or over have a waistline that’s above the stipulated limits (90 cm for men, 80 cm for women), they can be required to pay more money into health schemes for the elderly. Really. And the fat-shaming doesn’t stop there. Of course there’s an app where sexy anime boys shout ‘fatty’ at the user, imploring her to lose weight.
Just like how crisps are all the more tempting while you’re on a diet, being just a little bit overweight has effectively become taboo in Japan. And nothing’s sexier than a taboo, right? So maybe, just maybe, this marshmallow girls fad is the result of Japanese men being attracted to the taboo of a larger woman. We're not saying it's progress, but it's not that bizarre, if you take all of this into consideration. Time will tell if Chubbiness actually have any decent songs, though…
*The UK obesity rate is 23%; the US obesity rate is 35%
Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophwilkinson
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