Calling Priscilla Chan, the long-time girlfriend and now wife of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg “short and dark” isn’t especially nice. To do so on her wedding day borders on spiteful, although that’s what Sohu.com, one of China’s best-known web sites, chose to do last weekend.
“Dark, short and squat nets tall, rich and handsome” shrieked the headline of the story about the couple’s wedding in California at the weekend. It also featured pictures of Chan in a white wedding gown, looking much prettier than the headline suggested.
China isn’t known for its political correctness. But the coverage was too much for some. One contributor chastised Sohu via Sina Weibo: “Editors, does wording have to be so mean?!” Another noted that Chan is no floozy, having just graduated from the University of California with a medical degree, hoping to become a paediatrician. The comment: “Only in China is a woman who has achieved that still belittled like this … so tragic.”
Another microblogger, perhaps missing the point, defended Chan by pointing out that her new hubbie, Zuckerberg, wasn’t exactly an oil-painting: “How is he tall and handsome? How is she dark and short?”
Some context here: light skin tone is generally thought more beautiful in China, which explains why local women spend so much on skin whiteners. And height? In a country that has suffered chronic malnutrition in times past, height is regarded as an indicator of ‘good’ ancestry.
When it comes to choosing a spouse, for many Chinese looks (rather than character) tend to feature prominently on the list. Being rich is also pretty important.
According to a survey on Sina.com, 81.2% of 2,315 people taking part said a male spouse should be “tall, rich and handsome” and a female “white, rich and pretty.”
Of course, Zuckerberg ticks the list in wealth terms, albeit not quite as spectacularly now as he did this time last week. More of a surprise for many of the online commentators is that a man as successful as him would choose to marry Chan.
“Very ordinary,” opined another weibo comment. “But it does suggest that they’re truly in love.”
As we have earlier reported, Zuckerberg is learning Chinese, so he may have grasped a little of the meaning behind the Sohu headline. If that’s the case the chances of his forging a future strategic alliance with Sohu – should Facebook ever break into the China market – now look slim, thin and dim.
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