Many interesting conversations are going on right now, involving race and beauty — and how ingrained racism might affect what we consider to be attractive… right down to our children.
First of all, you all saw the flak over the Korean beauty pageant contestants who all seem to have the same doe eyes, thin noses, and tapered jawlines? If not, check out my piece on BlogHer Surgery or Photoshop? What the Korean Beauty Controversy Says About Us. For many years, I’ve heard Asians say that the preference for “double” eyelids, tall noses and fair skin is not an attempt to be look more American (or European or whatnot), but a reflection of what has traditionally been considered beautiful in Asia. I used to agree that the preference for these features stems from Asian culture, but now I have to disagree somewhat. Given the history of colonization and also class stratification in Asia, if people who look a certain way have tended to be at the top of the heap in a country for a long time, and the bias toward those features becomes ingrained in that society, then it is now part of the culture? And that’s a good thing?
And the comments from many people in response to this latest controversy reflect that in some countries, such as South Korea and Taiwan, job applicants need to put their photos on their resumes, hence looking “good” is a practical matter. Also, according to the Wall Street Journal, plastic surgery is now increasingly popular among men, too.
It’s easy to see how people could feel that typical Asian features are not desirable. My own son’s experience being teased for “slanty-eyes” from classmates is an example of how Asian American kids can still face these stereotypes. Over at InCultureParent, Frances Kai-Hwa Wang also writes about her daughter’s experience with that same taunt. In her article Preparing Our Children For Racism, Part I, she outlines concrete steps parents can take to help prepare and their children for such incidences and teach them how to cope with racism and develop a strong self-identity. Hint: start early.