Thick Dumpling Skin

[It's what's on the inside that counts]

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Travel Guilt

It has been almost a month since I boarded a plane in San Francisco and left for some personal time off. During my trip, I slept, wandered, and ate. Oh I ate.

I was fascinated by all the different kinds of goodies both Australia and Japan had to offer, savory or sweet. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see some of the amazing foods I encountered. Red bean paste in pretty much everything, pickled vegetables, and all different kinds of ramen, just to name a few of my favorites from Japan.

However, week two of my vacation I started to feel guilty. Real guilty. I started to feel terrible about myself. One, because I kept on putting things in my mouth that I knew were not as “healthy.” I was not eating all the different colors of the food pyramid/food board/whatever that thing is called. Two, I would eat even when I wasn’t hungry for the sake of trying new things, like the two dinners that I had the other night. Three, because I was totally and utterly out of my usual fitness routine.

Despite the fact that I would walk all day due to sight-seeing, I felt horrible about my exhausted body at the end of the day. I would think back on all the things that I ate and silently feel ashamed. It also didn’t help that a friend remarked kindly, “you haven’t been eating very healthy at all.” 

… Accurate statement. 


Sea urchin croquette. How do you not try this?!

It took a few days for me to stop feeling shameful. I had to really remind myself that I am on vacation and out of my element. I admire those people who bring their running shoes with them to Egypt (ahem I brought mine too), but what I was doing was quite normal for a tourist. Of course, I miss sweating it out at yoga down the street and going for my usual jogs, but hey, I won’t be gone forever (although that sounds amazing). I’ll be back at it in due time.

I say when in Rome… 

How do you deal with travel guilt? Are there particular things that you try to do or fit into your itinerary so you can stay above it?  

- Lisa

Filed under travel guilt japan

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Lisa’s Heading to Boston

Lisa’s heading to Boston! Well, she’ll be heading to Boston once she’s back from Japan… 

Boston College where you at? It’s time for the Boston College Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM)! Every year, BC celebrates Asian Pacific American heritage throughout the month of April with events that promote the richness that is APA diversity, history, and culture. If any school is NOT doing this, well, it’s time to get with the program (knowing that APAHM is not just about one month out of the year, of course).

This year, Lisa will have the honor of speaking at the opening ceremony on April 1st, 2014 at 7 pm in the Heights Room. Click here to RSVP, and do it now as reservations will close this Friday. 


Do you want Thick Dumpling Skin at your event? Contact us!

Filed under speaking engagements boston college Boston apahm asian pacific american heritage month

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On Our Radar: Made in Bangladesh

I’m sure by now, some of you have seen the infamous (sexually suggestive) American Apparel ad. Which one? Right. I’m beginning to lose count myself too…  

The ad features a topless model of South Asian descent, with the words “Made in Bangladesh.” boldly printed across her chest and a detailed account of her background. Read more about the ad here.


For a few days, I wasn’t quite sure how to wrap my head around the ad. Even though I admired Maks, the model, for embracing this photoshoot and unreservedly showed off her body in what I dare to say, a graceful fashion, there was just something about the text and the image together that made me uncomfortable. 

Well, my friend Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed responded today and she couldn’t have articulated my thoughts better:

Shunoh, I think it’s great that you felt fully comfortable to express yourself. I want to be clear, there’s no “slut-shaming” to this. I’m all about radical forms of feminine art. I think brown is beautiful, and when you are raised in this vapid city of Los Angeles where White standards of beauty are pushed down our throats, it takes a certain kind of strength to fight all that and declare, “I’m brown, I’m an immigrant, and I’m beautiful too.” Brown skin is underrated in this society and baring breasts when making a political statement has the potential to be that much more profound.

But it’s a fine line between self-expressive and being exotified and commodified.

You think you chose to be creative — but in actuality you were plucked by your employer to sell an object. I believe the object you are selling is high-waisted pants, but it’s unclear from the photo. They are rolled down so suggestively. What American Apparel is selling is sex, and in this case, by having “Made in Bangladesh” across your bare breasts, you are selling fetishized sex. One where the brown woman is objectified.

American Apparel is a known American-made clothing company that prides itself on being sweatshop-free and paying “fair” wages (albeit with questionable sexual harassment allegations against CEO Dov Charney). They are selling their clothing. Thus, we can ascertain that the message in the photo implicitly rejects the notion of buying Bangladesh made “objects.” The implication is that Bangladesh is bad, and American is good. Burka-ed Muslim women are bad, and bare-breasted “former” Muslims with newly found American freedoms are good. Right?

But you’re fine with that rejection, right Maks? Because in the press release you state that in high school you distanced yourself from your Islamic upbringing. That you don’t identify as Bengali or American, and you don’t fit into conventional narratives, and that’s why you are essential to Los Angeles.

The thing is I’m Bengali, American, a Muslim, a non-hijabi woman, and I’m also an Angeleno. I work constantly to break the mainstream conventional narrative I’m constantly placed in. And I don’t think that makes me any less important to the mosaic that is LA. In fact, LA is littered with women like this, like me. My Los Angeles embraces this diversity and my mosaic is beautiful. Whereas the LA in this marketing campaign is tinged with Islamophobia and xenophobia.

Did you know that the garment industry in Bangladesh is built on the backs of women? And

that last April outside your birth city of Dhakawhen the garment factory Rana Plaza collapsed killing 1,129 people and injured 2,515, that most of them were women? Did you know that hundreds of orphans were left behind, motherless and penniless? Did you know that in 2012 at the Tazreen Fashion Factory fire where 117 people died, it was said the deaths could have been prevented if the exits were not blocked?

We live in a global economy where we need to apply pressure to large corporations like GAP and Wal-Mart to require international factories to hold to a certain standard of safety. We are beyond the point where buying only American-made is the simple solution. Boycotting Bangladesh made products means we’re boycotting the Deshi-made women that helped get us here — our Ammas and Khalas and ChachisAmadher bhon, our sisters. We just want to make sure they are safe and can survive.

Don’t you see, Appu? That by having “Made In Bangladesh” splayed across your breasts,American Apparel is commodifying a recent tragedy that has killed thousands of people. They are taking the death of thousands of people in Bangladesh as a marketing opportunity to sell their clothes in America. Don’t you see how morbid that is? Don’t you see how your image has been exploited and how you’ve been manipulated?

Read Taz’s letter to Maks in its entirety here.

How we utilize our bodies to express vs. being exploited without realizing it is a fine line. When I say that, I’m thinking about Miley Cyrus, the recent news about the outing of a Duke freshman porn star, and many other day-to-day examples.

In this specific American Apparel ad, the objectification of the female body, or maybe even the showcase of the female body (if Maks doesn’t feel like she is being objectified) is not the way to change a nation that we are too privileged to understand fully AND that we are all benefitting from, whether we like it or not. 

I love Taz’s last paragraph, which is about how we can encourage real change:

We’re not so different, you and I. It’s just that how we choose to wear (or not wear) our hyphenated identities is expressed differently. I plan on continuing to buy “Made In Bangladesh” clothes — except, I’ll boycott the global corporations like GAP and Wal-Mart that refuse to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. I’ll continue to work on projects like Beats for Bangladesh: A Benefit Album in Solidarity with the Garment Workers of Rana Plaza to use radical forms of art to raise awareness and funds for the victims of this tragedy. I’ll continue to organize with South Asians for Justice – Los Angeles to tie the global struggles of the South Asian diaspora to the local. 

- Lisa

Know something that should be On Our Radar? Contact us!

Filed under american apparel maks Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed bangladesh

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Thigh Gap

All Amy wanted was a thigh gap, to fit into a size 2 dress before prom. My eyes twitch with disdain, and I shut my laptop. I couldn’t even finish the article on anorexia, as if the elementary prose didn’t already kill it. Once again, fine journalism showcasing anorexia as a female-teenage disease for white girls with Bieber obsessions and overly-tanned helicopter moms.

Image courtesy of Pink DNA.

Eating disorders, especially anorexia, are heavily female-biased and described as a lack of self-esteem and positive self-image. Anorexia in particular conjures up an image of a skeletal white girl—clad in her undergarments—glaring unhappily at her obese reflection. But eating disorders don’t always stem from issues with body image—people develop anorexia for many reasons besides physical dissatisfaction.

In fact, I was happier at a much higher weight. I never saw rippling mounds of lard in the mirror—I saw exactly what was there: bones, skin, and a lot of unhappiness. I hated being anorexic. I bruised upon contact with anything remotely hard, my thick oily hair crisped into wispy strands, and I could barely regulate my own bladder. Depression blanketed my days and weeks with unrelenting cruelty, and I wept constantly. I lost all sexual impulse. For me, eating disorders was not about body image nor perfection—it was about control. 


Control—that sweet, exquisite ability to mold my body into whatever I desired, and consequently, the reactions I elicited. The hunger-laced discipline of food restraint was my cocaine, my heroine. I cared less about the detrimental physical or mental side effects because for the first time, my parents didn’t comment on my thunder thighs or suggest I adopt some kind of diet. For the first time, I could buy from “XS” sized clothes and fit into petite little dresses that only professional models wore. For the first time, I shocked my friends in a way that didn’t involve crude humor or youthful inhibition. I basked in the worried whispers, the awkward and halfhearted compliments, the staring as small t-shirts billowed over my concave abdomen and flat chest. Despite my physical figure, I exuded confidence, ate “normally” in front of others, and had a full arsenal of excuses. I’m just Asian, we’re all skinny. I’m just training for a marathon, that’s why.

This manipulation of my environment was so addictive that my days revolved around restriction. I became a cocoon of my past self, numb yet filled with a masochistic happiness so bitterly decadent, I could sink into its cold caress. In my darkest moments, I scribbled calories onto my wrists so I wouldn’t forget them later. My internet history was filled with calorie count websites and nutrition articles, and I habitually lied to my therapist. As I plunged further into my dark hole, I would often gaze up, squint desperately at the pinpoint of light, and wonder how I fell.

I fell because I needed more control.

Control. The holy grail of personality traits. Children better at delayed gratification perform better in school and exhibit fewer behavioral problems. As adults, they’re more likely to graduate college and earn higher incomes. Asian Americans, particularly those of immigrants, are notoriously skilled at delayed gratification, striving in the presence of pain, doubt, and unhappiness. Why stop at one hour of piano practice? Why become a photographer when you can attend medical/nursing/law/business/graduate school? Why does Sue Lee have ten medals and you have none? We learn early on the importance of filial piety, of sucking it up, of interpreting “insults” as motivation. Though many Asians refute the model minority stereotype, it was a strong reality for me. I was taught by my family and culture that I controlled my success through hard work, not some nebulous and capricious god. I controlled my emotions because those who cannot are weak.

So when one random attempt at weight loss actually succeeded, I took the reigns and sprinted off. I never once thought about looking back, forgetting the people and memories I shattered in my wake. I forgot every sense of propriety, every morsel of reason—for what? For that bit of control that lost me a few pounds? But I didn’t become anorexic because I’m Asian, though being one certainly exacerbated it. The stigma of mental disorders in the Asian community impedes discussion and recovery. Though honestly, I’ve always been (for lack of a better term) a control freak; I never procrastinated at school, scheduled “hang-outs” with my friends, made checklists for fun, and did my own laundry every week since I was 10 years old. But there’s a fine line between being a control freak and being a hyperventilating anal retentive—I was more carefree and outspoken than anyone I’ve ever known.

Recovery. Am I better? No. Because recovery is an incorrect term. No one recovers from an eating disorder like they recover from the flu. It is an eternal struggle, a war consisting of battles that ebb in intensity and frequency over the course of your life. Some days, life feels fruitless, and other days, I experience waves of optimism. But would I exchange pounds for happiness? No, I would not. But I suppose that’s the curse of an eating disorder.

For interesting articles, check out:

A framework to analyse gender bias in epidemiological research

Anonymous | Evanston, IL | U.S.A 

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On Our Radar: Lammily

Remember a while back we posted about a barbie that we actually liked? Well, here’what’s next: 

Motivated by a strong desire to show that “average is beautiful,” Lamm has decided to make his designs come to life with a doll called “Lammily.”

Lamm decided to take matters into his own hands after being bombarded with questions about where to buy a Barbie of normal size. The entreprenuer is offering prototypes of his toy to the first people to donate to his CrowdtiltOpen campaign, but his plan is to eventually be able to distribute the doll widely online and in retail. The longer term vision also includes embracing diversity by creating dolls with different ethnic backgrounds and body types.

Read more about it here

Com’on toy companies, get with the program. Oh and hopefully when Lammily is finally released, we’ll also see dolls of all colors in the same line so that Lammily isn’t the only good example out there.  

Know something that should be On Our Radar? Contact us!

Filed under lammily barbie nickolay lamm On Our Radar

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Happy International Women’s Day!

some chick says

thank you for saying all the things I never do

I say

the thanks I get is to take all the shit for you

it’s nice that you listen

it’d be nicer if you joined in

as long as you play their game girl

you’re never going to win

- ani di franco (face up and sing)


So… what DOES this day mean, anyway?  Do you only celebrate if you identify as a woman?  Is it only for “feminists?”

This day has been around since the early 1900’s and has grown to become a global day of recognition for the way gender equality is viewed.

Although we can celebrate how far we’ve come as a society, there are still many battles to overcome.  In the subjects this blog deals with, we know that the private is actually extremely public.  The reality is that eating disorders do not discriminate against gender, sexuality, race, or culture - and the stereotypes/stigma that continue to revolve around it affect how people are able to get help. 

Take a moment today to think about how the women in your life are impacted by what we, as a community, do.  Or don’t do. 

- Lynn

Filed under international women's day feminism

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Checking In

Just a quick note to let you all know that I am currently traveling the world… well, more like Melbourne and Japan, so much thanks to Lynn for holding things down here! You can follow my footsteps on my Instagram account. Recs are always welcome.

Courtesy of Sindy Chan.

There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think about this space. I have much news to give you all so here’s a promise that a more substantial post will come soon. 

- Lisa 

P.S. I’m currently working on a piece about Thick Dumpling Skin for OCA’s IMAGE Magazine, so stay tuned.

P.S.S. Boston, I’ll be in your area April 1st! More details to come. 

Filed under melbourne australia japan oca travel

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On Our Radar: Lupita Nyong’o’s Speech on Beauty

This speech by Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o hits home to our community when it comes to the truth about beauty and culture.  

Watch the entire video here.

And what my mother meant when she said you can’t eat beauty was that you can’t rely on how you look to sustain you. What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul. It is what got Patsey in so much trouble with her master, but it is also what has kept her story alive to this day. We remember the beauty of her spirit even after the beauty of her body has faded away.


Filed under lupita nyong'o beauty self love