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College girl students graduate to 'body studies'
( 2003-08-12 09:34) (HK Edition)

College girls are losing the lustre of their traditional pristine image.

A beauty salon in Lanzhou, capital of Gansu Province, sees its business thriving among college girl graduates this year as they spend several thousand yuan on beauty enhancement to wow their way into a better job. [Newsphoto.com]
A photo exhibition that is touring the country features dozens of nudes. "All of our models are college students or graduates from schools in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, a place known for feminine beauty," claimed Dong, a Shanghai organizer of the show.

"We are very demanding of our models. They have to be under 20 years old, with soft skin and perfect physique. Otherwise, the art work cannot express the quality of high education, the purity of youth or an upbeat spirit."

A professional photographer who has seen the show was skeptical. "What does this have anything to do with the student status of the model? Do they mean the female body looks better simply because she is a student?"

Many critics say this is just a gimmick. The emphasis on women students helps arouse curiosity in the audience. It provides an excuse for those who are tempted but afraid that others may accuse them of low-taste voyeurism, said Ai Xiaoming, professor at Sun Yatsen University and an expert on gender issues.

College girls may have appeased the anxiety of the peeping Tom among the discreet, but college girls appearing nude have also reinforced the public perception that those in the ivory tower have gone astray.

The image of propriety is giving way to one of depravity.

The media becomes rapacious on getting wind of a college girl gone bad. One Wuhan reporter did an investigation of local campuses and came to the conclusion that 20-30 per cent of women students moonlight in houses of ill repute.

"When someone puts on heavy makeup when getting a call at midnight and rushes off in a taxi, you can pretty much guess what she is up to," said the reporter.

Most commentators say that it is unfair to "demonize" college girls with such unscientifically deduced data. Indeed, campus walls can no longer shield one from the ills of society at large, but it is an insult to paint them all as would-be hookers or mistresses.

Chinese media's obsession with women in school has deeper roots in both sensational journalism and ambivalence towards women in the process of age and status change, according to some experts. It smacks of communal leering at those growing out of adolescence into young womanhood. Besides, who can resist the inherent drama of a symbol of purity turning wild?

The loss of innocence is very palpable when these young women, in their junior or senior years, have to face a tough job market. Some of them try to marry, or at least hook up with men with a good income and living in urban centres.

When scouting for jobs, a few of the women are so desperate or audacious that they include a portfolio of glossy photos that show them at their provocative best.

"We are not living in a secluded age any more, and college girls are no different from other people. It does not make sense to refer to them as a distinct social group. Before long, such things would not even count as storms in a teacup," said a sociologist.

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