Friday, May 04, 2007

Taiwan's betel nut beauties (檳榔西施)

Here's something for you to chew on before I upload more photos from my recent Taipei trip. The sight of scantily-clad girls selling betel nuts from kiosks decorated with bright neon lights is a uniquely Taiwanese phenomenon. Named after the legendary beauty Xi Shi (西施) from the Spring and Autumn Period (春秋時代) of ancient China, these girls drew increased media scrutiny as competition for customers' attention led them to don more revealing clothing. In recent years, regulators clamped down on such activities to ensure the return of modesty.

However, some women's groups have controversially defended the right of working-class betel nut girls to dress provocatively as part of a legitimate effort to improve their economic lot. They point out that sexy images of international supermodels, pop stars, and trade show models are no less provocative but are condoned and even admired by the wider culture.


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