Explain it to the kids

I found these beautiful living models posing outside the Versace in one of the infinite number of malls around the city.  The first question that came to my mind was “How much plastic surgery have these kids invested in?”

Plastic surgery is somewhat pervasive in East Asian countries, but in a different way than in the US.  I’ve heard some European American women speak about how much they prefer Asian ideals of fashion and beauty— decrying it as somehow more natural and somehow less insidious than the American counterpart.

This is total bullshit.  Vanity is vanity the whole world round, and Asian women only seem natural because European American women don’t know to look for the indicators of the artificial.  It’s not all about breasts that you can use as a floatation device, but the signs are obvious if you give the situations a little bit of thought (see below this advertisement for a Taiwanese plastic surgery agency).

Asian women aren’t thin because of some mystical property of the foods of the Eastern world (have you looked at the caloric intake of a bowl of white rice?), it’s because most of them starve themselves to attain a blisteringly restrictive social requirement for thinness. Eastern ideals of beauty have been instruments of oppression throughout history.

One of the most uncomfortable things I’ve found in Asian plastic surgery is the tendency to lean towards facial features that seem Western or Caucasian.  The issue, however, is more complex than most Americans seem to realize.  When most Americans hear about Asians taping their eyes to make them bigger or convert their monolid, they often interpret it as some form of racial self hatred or angophilia.

In my experience, however, this is far from accurate.  The desire to have a larger eye to face ratio seems embedded in some basal human perception of youth—  it’s the same mechanism that makes babiespuppy dogs, and Sailor Moon seem adorable.  The Chinese are far from angophiles—there’s still a strong xenophobia that permeates some parts of the culture, even with Westernization and modernization.  I’ve had multiple conversations with Chinese people where Caucasian features were discussed as “creepy” or “ghostly.”  The fact that this mentality persists is perhaps not surprising when you consider the racial homogeneity of the Chinese population.

However, even though the racial implications of plastic surgery are disconnected in the mindset of the Chinese majority, it becomes a sticky issue for the Asian American minority.  The situational differences are akin to why performing in blackface in America means something very different than performing in blackface in China.  For Asian Americans, there exists a very real context of the racial inferiority complex brought on by being a minority, and the pressures of needing to integrate into a society whose prejudices consider anyone who is not “Black” or “White” as a foreigner.

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