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Speaking on Body Image – International Women’s Day event hosted by PAWA

Writer/ performer Yang-May Ooi joined author Edna Fernandes and others to discuss Body Image as part of the 2015 International Women’s Day celebrations.

The Pan Asian Women’s Association panel discussion on Body Image took place at the Nehru Centre on 04 March as part of their 2015 International Women’s Day celebrations.

I was delighted to take part one of the diverse panel of women debating this subject, along with chair Edna Fernandes, publisher Sally Gloyne and new media artist Jee Oh.

Here is the blurb:

What is the definition of female beauty and who chooses what makes us “beautiful”? A globalised world and the internet age has led to a transformation of how we view female beauty which is having a profound impact on young girls everywhere. In the past, beauty was defined by individual culture — for good or ill. It was a concept born of local tradition, history and aesthetics. Yet in the social media age we have moved towards a standardised concept of beauty being imposed on young girls and women worldwide. From selfies to magazines to websites, we see the cult of size zero, overt sexualisation and a Westernised ideal being sold to girls everywhere.

The Pan Asian Women’s Association (PAWA) and Nehru Centre will host a panel discussion to explore who defines beauty in the internet age? How has the concept of beauty shifted from one rooted in culture towards a universal ideal? Thirdly, we will explore how this development is impacting on our girls’ lives — encouraging eating disorders, skin whitening treatments and increased use of plastic surgery. Our conversation will take us from Europe to China, Korea, India and beyond.

Beauty is a business all about the bottom line: profit. So, how can we as women change the business model by producing editorial content that refuses to conform to the stereotype and celebrates women of all shapes, colours and sizes?

Jee spoke about the culture of mobile phone selfies that has influenced a generation of young girls and their sense of identity, beauty and self. Sally told us about T Magazine, which is run entirely by a team of teenage girls who are fed up of the conventional definitions of beauty in commercial media. We were also treated to a film of dynamic young women talking about natural beauty and their disdain for the hard sell of cosmetics and a standardized image of beauty pushed by advertising.

For my part of the discussion, I talked about the idea of beauty in the context of history and cultures, using the practice of bound feet in ancient China as a lens through which we can look at our own constructs of what it means to be a woman and what expectations are embedded within concepts of beauty. I shared some of my research for my solo performance – and book – Bound Feet Blues and also explained the practice of footbinding, using elements from the performance. That became the jumping off point for a look at how restrictive our current notions of beauty can be and asking if there can be more diverse views of what beauty could look like.

L – R: Jee Oh, Yang-May Ooi, Sally Gloyne, Edna Fernandes

There was a great audience discussion afterwards with a number of young women and teenagers stepping up to give their views. I was really thrilled to see such engagement and such passionately feminist outspokenness from the young women and girls there. I have great hope for the future of women if they are going to become the next generation of influencers and leaders!

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About Yang-May Ooi, StoryGuru

Yang-May Ooi is a creative artist whose work explores the transformational power of personal narrative. She has been an award-winning TEDx speaker, bestselling author and acclaimed story performer. She is currently developing her solo show Bound Feet Blues - A Life Told in Shoes for a 3 week run in London's West End in Nov/ Dec 2015.

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About Yang-May Ooi

Yang-May Ooi is a creative artist whose work explores the transformational power of personal narrative. She has been an award-winning TEDx speaker, bestselling author and acclaimed story performer. Her sell out solo story performance, Bound Feet Blues, was showcased in London's West End in Oct 2014. to 4+ Star reviews. The show returns to the Tristan Bates Theatre for a 3 week run in Nov 2015 - see

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