by Carmen Van Kerckhove
Did any of you catch Friday’s episode of the Oprah show? It was titled “Children Ashamed of the Way They Look” and included interviews with:
- Kiri Davis, the young filmmaker who created the phenomenal short film A Girl Like Me
- Grey’s Anatomy star Chandra Wilson about her own views on beauty growing up and how she’s raising her daughters
- A black woman who prayed that her son wouldn’t come out as dark-skinned as her. The son, not surprisingly, has developed quite a complex about colorism.
- Korean-American MTV host SuChin Pak, about beauty ideals in the Asian and Asian-American communities.
I’m not going to summarize the whole episode in this post, but you can watch clips of it on the Oprah web site.
As usual, I was a bit annoyed by the treatment of the eyelid issue. Anytime the mainstream media covers this story, it always makes the same few assumptions.
First, it never mentions the fact that there are many, many Asians who do have eyelid folds. I’ve never seen any statistics, but it seems to me that there are at least as many eyelid-having Asians as non-eyelid-having Asians. Actually I wouldn’t be surprised if the eyelid-having Asians are in the majority. (Excuse my crude terminology here – just trying to keep the language simple.)
Second, it equates getting eyelid surgery with wanting to look white. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. As I wrote in this comment on Reappropriate awhile back, there are many Asians with eyelids. Often they are considered to be more attractive, and yes, that is because of the omnipresent Western beauty ideal. But people who want to get eyelid surgery are doing it so they look more like those Asians with the big eyelids. Not so they look like Caucasians. White supremacist ideals may be informing the desire indirectly, but it’s not such a direct link of wanting to be white.
And finally, I was a little taken aback by Pak’s assertion that eyelids are the no. 1 beauty issue in the Asian and Asian-American community.
In my experience, the no. 1 beauty/looks-ism issue by far among Asians and Asian-Americans is weight. The standards of thinness among Asian women are far more punishing than those among white women. Growing up in Hong Kong, it seemed as if pretty much anyone over 105 lbs was considered a fat-ass.
And then in my opinion, the no. 2 issue would be skintone. No surprises here: fair is good, tanned and darker skintones are undesirable.
Eyelids do come up, but in my experience it trails far behind weight and skintone. But of course, that’s just my experience.
What do you all think?