She’s Just Got That Look

CNN’s Kyung Lah did a very interesting report on how Asian women are seeking out plastic surgery in South Korea in an attempt to “Westernize” their facial features, or to put it in a more simple way: to look more like a white woman. Link below:

Now as a young black man from Detroit, I can understand some of what is going on here. In America some black women have been bleaching their skin, seeking out plastic surgery, and straightening their hair to appear more white. Anyone who is close to a black woman already knows that her hair is a very, very, very important aspect of her appearance and most of the time, it is straightened from the natural, curly state. From a young age, I became aquianted with the idea of the “Other Woman”, or the attempt by black woman to look like this woman they saw somewhere else. This woman was not black.
In Lah’s report, Martin Wong of “Giant Robot Magazine” says (and I’m paraphrasing) that wanting to look more Western is a sign of self-hate; that you believe that you and your people are ugly. I agree with him. This is where I get a little mad because I’ve come to appreciate and love the different looks that women have all around the world. I like all them because they are different. Also, when a woman hates the way she looks, we men suffer. More on that later.
What also makes me upset is that the young girl in Lah’s report was being pushed by her mother to undergo this procedure at such a young age. I’m not usually one to butt in and tell people how they should raise their kids, but I will this time – – her mother should be encouraging her daughter to be comfortable and proud of her face and her cultural identity.It seemed as if this girl’s mother was mostly motivated by the prospect that her daughter will have an easier time in life if she looks more Westernized, but I’m willing to bet that deep down, she and a lot of other women who get this plastic surgery have learned to self-hate. Why? How?
The Globalization of the Lovely; a transmittance of what is beautiful and what is ideal in a woman on a global scale. Giant ads inundate young girls as they walk down the street. On buses. On television. On the computer. In their magazines. All depicting unrealistically thin women with photoshopped features, long straight hair, straight nose, light skin, and giant eyes. It’s not only that, but these idealized Western women are celebrated in movies, commercials, and in television shows, its almost always the white woman who is the most beautiful in the story, the protagonist, the one whom the main male lead is trying to win over. The image of the white woman is being used as a cultural weapon against other ethnicities of women to chip away their self esteem and to drain their spiritual strength (I know, sounding a little New Wave mystical here; lemme’ bring it back). This has an effect on all of us, in the cultural sense, because when you deal with a woman who has learned to hate herself, it becomes much more difficult to deal with her on a casual level much less build a solid relationship around her.
In the old days, a woman’s beauty was her power. In a male dominated society, a woman’s ability to be desired by men gave her some bargaining power as well as social influence. Even today, that gender structure is still here (although quickly atrophying). When you say to a woman that “you are not beautiful”, in some ways, you are saying she is powerless and not worthy of attention. When an Asian woman, or black woman, or latin woman looks at all those god damned Women’s magazines and they see all those beautiful white woman depicted as the center of attention and admiration, that is like saying the Asian, Black, and Latina woman is ugly and not worthy of admiration. Now imagine looking at that page after page after page. You watch TV; its there. In a movie. Every where you turn. Before you know it, you’re laying down on a table ready to get your face cut up.
I was talking about this on my facebook page and got some quick responses. One of my friends (who happens to be a white woman), let me know that there is in fact a lot of pressure on white woman to appear beautiful as well; that these Beauty Wars leave behind no survivors, regardless of race. She intimated that there was just as much pressure and disempowerment because, as a white woman, sheshould be able to attain this “ideal” look. However, I think there is a difference between what white women face and what other minority women face. With a white a woman, you might learn to hate yourself because you don’t stack up to the image. As a minority woman, you learn to hate yourself and all of your brothers and sisters.