When White Standards are Still the Measure of Asian Beauty

“Plastic surgery is on the rise in ethnic communities across the United States, and in Asia it is as routine as having one’s wisdom teeth pulled. Are these alterations an attempt to look more ‘white’?”

Of course it is.

I read that preface to Andrew Lam’s piece, Are Asians Increasingly Undergoing Plastic Surgery to Look More White? (March/April 2007), an article that has now been reprinted in nearly a dozen different publications, and wondered why people still bother to pose that question. In the end, Lam reaches the conclusion that the new generation of plastic-surgery-seekers are not interested in looking more “white,” but only want “to look natural but better.”

Under this assumption then, Asian women flock to get blepharoplasty, rhinoplasty, and breast augmentation because natural Asian beauty consists of double lids, a high nose, and big boobs. Right. Asian pop stars are shaving their jawbones, whittling away their moon-faces to look more like the modern day Xi Shi, the quintessential beauty of classical Chinese lore, who by the way, was described as having a perfectly round, oval face, not the well-defined features of a Greek goddess.

The “to look natural but better” justification really means “to look like I was simply born with Westernized features and therefore innately prettier than other Asians who still look like slanty-eyed puerile mongoloids.” Then toss in the fact women see all other similarly-situated women as arch-nemeses. “To look natural but better” spoken by an Asian woman who just got nipped and tucked comes off as a passive-aggressive euphemism for “Though I still want to look Asian, I want to look better than other Asian women, which to me means I should look as Euro-Western as possible, but I won’t say that out loud because it’s so un-PC.”

Like the near-universal desire by women everywhere to be diaphanously skinny, certain features represent beauty among all the races today: a pale complexion, large round luminous eyes, a petite and pointy nose, and some semblance of fleshy protuberance in the chest area. Globalization on a massive scale means it is now easy to forget where things came from. Why do feminist activists in the Black community scorn some Black women’s desire to bleach their skin, reduce the size of their nose, and buy hair extensions? Because it represents the internalization of the aspiration to be more acceptable by white standards, the very standard that had them exploited and subjugated for centuries. Likewise, Asian women who apply a white standard of beauty to themselves are cheapening the struggles of their ancestors who fought against Western Imperialism.

The worst part of it is the unconsciousness. Asian women refuse to even concede of the fact that they are rejecting their heritage. After spending three hours locked in a bathroom applying makeup and straight-ironing my hair, I don’t walk out, blink at you and smile to say, “Yeah, I just want to look good for myself.” Puh-lease. Of course I realize I receive a far more positive reception from people, especially heterosexual men, when I’ve been primping all morning just to look like it’s effortless. I then use that to get what I want: a free extra scoop of ice cream with sprinkles on top at Baskin Robbins; better service at the checkout line; a helping hand when I’m hit with difficulty; and of course, getting more job offers at the firms I want after the face-to-face interview. Am I a horrible person for all this? Maybe. Though that doesn’t change the fact I’m still getting ahead.

Asian women who are beautiful by white standards also get ahead farther in this lifetime than Asian women who are only beautiful by traditional Asian standards. If you want to get ahead by looking like you naturally look more “white” and betray your genetic legacy, then by all means go ahead; but do not ignore the giant panda in the room and pretend it has nothing to do with race-based insecurities.

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About akrypti

small town roots. enthusiast of many trades. oh, and yeah, high-maintenance like you wouldn't believe. tweet with me @akrypti.
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