A group of women in Akihabara, Tokyo have started Pomeranian: The Chubby Maid Café, staffed by “not-so-thin” girls who wear waitress costumes. For those unfamiliar with such cafes, check out this Boston Globe primer. Vice magazine interviewed several of the workers there, but first reminds readers just how unconventional these women truly are:
Dieting is, sadly, an important ritual for girls all over the world. But as with everything else they do, the girls in Japan take it just that little bit too far, right up to the point where it’s basically obsessive-compulsive disorder.
…proudly showing off their flab in a nation famous for its low obesity rate and pressure to conform makes these girls sort of like the foodie equivalent of a crust-punk throwing a lit Molotov cocktail into a bank.
Ichigo, the cafe’s founder (pictured, right), says she was inspired to start Pomeranian after working at another cafe with mostly thinner coworkers. She said the cafe start-up has been an empowering experience and hopes it makes a broader social statement:
As for girls, I also wish they wouldn’t take their chubbiness as a negative thing. There are tons of girls out there who are chubby and attractive, so they should regard them as role models. Also, even if you notice that someone’s chubby, you shouldn’t comment on their weight so much [laughs]. It’s a unique trait of theirs, and that’s an important thing to have.
The feeling is mutual for many of the other maids. Says Kaya:
I always said to myself, “I must lose weight, I must lose weight,” but since working here I now think, “There’s nothing wrong with being fat.” Being able to accept myself in that way has been a huge change. I’m a more confident person, and other people have said I’ve become more positive.
In looking at the accompanying photos of the women interviewed, I didn’t think any of them looked even remotely chubby, especially Kozue, but, of course, I’m looking at them through an American filter. By Japanese standards, Kozue qualifies as chubby. She explains:
I think the word “chubby” means different things to different people. For example, some people see Kanako Yanagihara [an overweight entertainer in Japan] as being “chubby,” but I personally think that “chubby” is just when you don’t fit into the clothes sold at normal clothing stores, which I don’t. So when I meet customers who have someone bigger like Kanako in mind, they often say that I’m pretty average-looking, slender even. It upsets me when they say that.
Jezebel describes the cafe as a kind of “Hooters with a weight minimum,” and wonders if its yet another example of women being treated as objects. That may very well be true, but the women interviewed all insist they feel empowered and good about their bodies for it, so I say rock on.