Tag Archives: ethnic

Are eyelids the no. 1 beauty concern in the Asian community?

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?

Kimchi in aisle two!

by Jen Chau
kimchiGood news for you “ethnic” foodies out there! Looks like our tastebuds are changing enough that ethnic grocery stores are being noticed more and more…big supermarkets are even carrying more ethnic foods in order to satisfy our cravings for Chinese, Mexican, Indian, Korean and Cuban cuisine.

Mealmakers across the country are discovering small ethnic grocers that once primarily served immigrant communities. Even in overwhelmingly white regions like Albany, culinary adventurers like DeFrancesco troll the aisles of stores like Lee’s, stocking up on whatever unusual sauces, candies and snacks strike their fancies. Tracking the growth of these grocers is difficult; most of them are scattered wherever immigrant populations appear and want foods familiar to their heritages, says Michael Sansolo, spokesman for the Food Marketing Institute in Washington.

But the growth hasn’t gone unnoticed. Major supermarket chains are dedicating more space to ethnic foods, Sansolo says. It’s an attempt to draw shoppers who may otherwise head for these specialty markets.

Demographically, it makes sense. Hispanics and Asians now represent about 18 percent of the U.S. population, and account for more than half of the nation’s population growth since the start of the decade, according to the Census Bureau.

Basically, at this point, we still see that anything aside from apple pie and hot dogs is relegated to “ethnic food” aisles. It would be nice to see a bit more integration at the grocery store ;), but perhaps it will take a while since clearly, the way that we discuss ethnic cuisine sets it apart. Certain ingredients are easily labeled “unusual,” with only “culinary adventurers” as takers (Are they really that unusual? Perhaps people who find themselves closed to trying food “not their own” are the unusual elements here?? :)).

Ok, perhaps this is a small (even petty) thing to be analyzing, but I do think that this speaks to how Americans tend to be so confined in our thinking. So, if you are X ethnicity you are only meant to eat X food? And if you stray from that, then WHOA! You sure are adventurous!? I think I probably just take for granted that I live in a very diverse neighborhood where you can’t help but get familiar with a variety of cuisines….but I do recognize this is not the norm for others. Anyone want to head over to Stop and Shop, get some spicy daal, cilantro, dumplings, and have a wild and adventurous night? ;)

Foods that aren’t really “ethnic”

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

fortune cookieGrowing up in Hong Kong, I watched a lot of American sitcoms. I was always fascinated by things American families had on these shows that we didn’t have. Of course, Hong Kong’s technology was always at least 5 years ahead of the U.S., but there were certain gadgets we just didn’t have because there was no demand for them. Things like refrigerators with ice makers (so cool!) and wall-mounted phones in the kitchen with extra-long cords (how I longed to hide in the closet to chat on the phone!).

But I remember being particularly fascinated by episodes in which people would order Chinese food. What on earth were those cardboard contraptions with the wire handles? Or those things they called fortune cookies?

Most of you probably know (I hope!) that fortune cookies are about as Chinese as as a Burger King Whopper. But there are a lot of other foods marketed as “ethnic” that actually aren’t at all. Check out this interesting article from Chow.com. Here are some of the foods they “out:”

Navajo Frybread
What it is: Thick, round lard-fried dough, served with honey or powdered sugar, or wrapped around ground beef, taco seasoning, and shredded cheese (called an Indian Taco)
Faux origin: Navajo, traditional
Real origin: White U.S. influence, mid-19th century

Fried Chow Mein
What it is: Fried preboiled egg noodles, often served with vegetables and meat
Faux origin: Chinese
Real origin: Chinese-American, mid-19th century

Chicken Tikka Masala
What it is: Chicken pieces cooked in a tomato gravy, often containing cream
Faux origin: Indian
Real origin: British, 1950s–70s

Hibachi
What it is: Americans use hibachi to refer to two distinct things: a small aluminum charcoal grill, and the large multiperson hot-plate cooking technique used in certain Japanese-American restaurants.
Faux origin: Japanese
Real origin: Part Japanese, part 1960s American, with Japanese mistranslated origins

Pasta Primavera
What it is: Spaghetti with assorted vegetables, often in a heavy cream sauce
Faux origin: Italian
Real origin: Created by Le Cirque owner and maitre d’ Sirio Maccioni in 1976

Fortune Cookie
What it is: Thin, lightly sugared dough folded around a slip of paper
Faux origin: Chinese
Real origin: U.S. West Coast, early- to mid-20th century