Friday, March 13, 2009

never perfect

If you get a chance, you should check out this film.

I caught it last year when it screened at my school. It deals with the subject of double eyelid surgery in Asian and Asian American communities, and questions the larger idea of cosmetic surgery and the various reasons why people, and especially women, undergo these procedures. My favorite quote, and the quote I find most telling, is when Mai Anh says, "Some critics might say, 'You're abandoning your Asian heritage.' But what Asian heritage am I abandoning?" It's interesting to me the ways in which race becomes tied to the body in popular discourse, how physical markers become evidence of an imagined or real racial heritage, e.g. skin color, eye shape, hair texture, and how those markers effectively drive certain cosmetic surgery procedures. Also, as one interviewee states, "I don't think it's as simple as people want to say, 'She wants to look white.'" How can we negotiate the different and complex reasons why Asian women undergo double eyelid surgery, and how accurate is it to say because they want to look white? Is that singular reason appropriate, or does it mask a wide range of historical and political factors that are often ignored in the wider dialogue about race in America? What does it mean that a huge number of Asians living in Asia undergo eyelid surgery, where they are the dominant racial group, as opposed to Asians living in America, where they are not? The film, I think, really addresses the issue from a multifaceted point of view and attempts to find a more holistic answer than the tired, "She wants to look white" excuse.

For more information as well as screening dates, check out the website here.

Sidenote: the director of my university's APA program makes a cameo!


  1. I don't think that means that she's abandoning her Asian heritage at all. I'm Asian and I have double eyelids. Double eyelids doesn't mean more WHITE-er. So what would we say about breast augmentation? What race are those women aiming to be? I think a lot of cosmetic surgeries have more to do with what we perceive as beauty based on the hundreds of thousands of images we see all around us through various media outlets.

  2. I agree with the above comment. Having double-eyelids does not mean you're more white because there has been statistical data that in China about 50% of people have double eyelids naturally. Looks should not have anything to do with one's ethnicity. For me personally I believe that identifying yourself as a certain ethnic group depends on how much you've given back to that certain community. For instance, if I had small eyes, it doesnt mean I'm asian. Whereas if I given back to the asian community, then I think you can really identify yourself as asian. Thats just my two cents.

  3. This is so interesting. When I was little, my eyes suddenly became double-lidded (no idea how), and I remember my grandma and mom saying that I was lucky and that women in Japan would love to have eyes like mine. For some reason, they didn't explain what they meant, which left me really confused (especially since I hated how my eyes changed!). I should ask them what they meant. for the interesting video and post.

  4. Imagine this. A young, impressionable woman opens up a magazine and sees what she is told is what a perfect woman looks like. She sees it in magazines, and she sees it on TV. Everywhere around her, even in clothing stores. Her friends all read the same magazines and are told to wear the same clothes. They all dress alike, talk alike, act alike, but there is one difference. Her friends are all white and she's Asian. When she looks in the mirror, whose face will she want to see?

    Since we started talking and learning, we were told that 1 + 1 = 2. How do we know? Someone told us, and everyone believes it to be true, so how can they all be wrong? Similarly, our youths are trained that to look like the women in magazines and on TV is to be beautiful. They think that everyone knows it to be true, so how can they all be wrong? Our women are too often told that they are too short, too fat, their nose is too small, their eyes too slanted, their breasts too small, and so on. When will they be told that they are too perfect just the way they are.

    Now, to say that race does not play a factor here is to be either naive or ignorant. Race dictates everything here. Who decides who is on TV? Who decides who is in the magazines? Whose culture is depicted in the each type of media? It's no coincidence that the media is overly saturated with white faces and bodies that just so happen to be the "model" that women strive to become.

    It's important to look at what double eye lid surgery represents. It's no longer enough to dress and act like a white woman. You now need to try to look like them physically too, even if that means altering your physical appearance with surgery. It is an abandoning of your heritage. How can you say that you are keeping your heritage if you are destroying what was passed down to you? Imagine taking an Asian holiday and completely changing it to mimic a European one? We don't do that with our traditions passed down to us, so why should we do it to our bodies.

    Young women are searching for acceptance by society both in the West and abroad. Since society says that to be beautiful and trendy you have to look like the women in magazines. Go to Asia and look at the expensive department stores, and you will see stores with all European names full of European styles that have ads plastered on to the walls with European models. Thanks to globalization, even women abroad now believe that they need to be "Westernized" in order to be beautiful. They are looking for the prestige that even a Gucci or Prada bag can't give you. They go one step further and mutilate their bodies in the image of societal standards.

    The sad fact of it all is that no matter how an Asian woman alters her appearance, in the eyes of society, she is still not white, and there is nothing she can do about that. Let's not accept this form of racism. Let's not allow society to force our women into believing that they are not beautiful just the way they are.