Double Eyelid Surgery?

Although I am less conscious of my ethnicity and
would probably be considered more ‘Americanized’ than not, as an Asian American
I find the practice of double eyelid surgery to be extremely disconcerting.  I am compelled to say that I am truly
disappointed with Asians who lack such self-confidence in their personal aesthetics that
they would require cosmetic surgery that not only alters their appearance, but also
relinquishes their congenital ethnicity in order to artificially adopt another.

Double Eyelid Surgery: Before and After

As the double eyelid is an inherently Caucasian characteristic,
I am also compelled to attribute the desire to attain such an aesthetic to the
hegemony of westernization.  Though
contemporary westernization purports a universality and inclusivity of
aesthetics and style, I believe Caucasian idealization to be implicitly imposed
as is empirically evident in Asians’ manifested desire
to acquire double eyelids in order to become more culturally integrated in the western world.

In her essay “Reflections on a Yellow Eye: Asian I
(\Eye/)Cons and Cosmetic Surgery,” Kathleen Zane acknowledges the possibility
of the aforementioned influences on the desirability of double eyelid surgery,
but alternatively argues that there is a greater cultural system of persuasion at work.
This is exemplified by her description of a former Korean American student at the
University of Rochester who, “reported that her father had offered her as an
unsolicited graduation gift the choice of either a car or a trip to Korea for
eyelid surgery.  She explained that this
was a fairly common rite of passage for her Korean American peers and surmised
it signified for her father a variety of relational meanings of his success in providing
for his children.” (Zane 161-192).

In considering these evidently cultural implications
that Zane suggests, I reiterate the question which Zane poses at the end of her
essay: “While avoiding crude and direct analogies, might eyelid surgeries be
deracialized as the equivalent of having one’s teeth straightened or capped,
i.e., as modifications to appearance provoked and supported by adherence to a
cultural, but not specifically racial, ideal?” (Zane 161-192).


9 thoughts on “Double Eyelid Surgery?

  1. After reading this the first thing that popped into my head was when I first learned about the difference between eyelids between Asians and Caucasians. I was watching an MTV special about fashion where Su-chin Pak was hosting the show. Later in the show they went to speak with a Korean-american teen about her eyelids and the tricks she did to crate that double eyelid. I honestly was in shock. I don’t know if I was just ignorant and truly oblivious about this issue. I never realized it bothered people of Asian decent so much where they went to the extreme of surgery. However in this specific television special the girl used some sort of sticky paper that she cut to frame her eye and make the double eyelid without surgery.

    I think from reading this I would compare it to any other surgery that is more culturally related rather than calling it racially provoked. Each culture has something physically that they either ignore or believe in when it comes to beauty and what they think is important. To me in the context of the Asians going back to their country to get the surgery done is more of something within their cultural rather than something racial. However no matter what I just believe should be able to get whatever surgery makes them feel better. It’s not something I would do, at least not now, however I would not judge someone for why they get their surgery whether it is cultural, racial, or for confidence.

  2. I don’t believe this surgery is the equivalent to having ones teeth straightened or capped. I too watched the MTV special by Su-Chin Pak and believe it is a sign of oppression and quite sad to see. This is because the lack of double eye-lid is an inherently Asian characteristic. It’s something unique about them, unique to their race. So for someone to get the double eye lid surgery I would assume that they wanted to look for a lack of better words, less Asian and more American. While I think people should do whatever makes them happy, I do feel that it is a bit heartbreaking that an Asian wouldn’t find their eyes beautiful.

    I see the similarly motivated cosmetic procedures in the black community. As a black female it really is quite sad when I learn of a new celebrity that is receiving skin bleach treatments. Beautiful light brown and dark brown skin is unique to our race. And its disappointing to see those with brown skin desire to be lighter. But i think it is years of oppression from mainstream culture and in recent years black people oppressing each other. You’ll hear people say they don’t want to be to be “black as midnight” and every other rapper talks about their desire to find “a yellow bone or red bone” meaning a lighter complected black person. Both issues in the Asian and Black community are truly disappointing because I feel that these things we’re constantly trying to change are beautiful but we’re conforming to mainstream (white) standards of beauty.

  3. I think the the first passage in this post about the feelings of resentment towards the Asian race for going through double eyelid surgery is a misguided feeling. I don’t think that Asian people who undergo this surgery are to blame, just like I don’t think that black people who get skin treatment are to blame. I believe that our white, male dominated society, and the people and institutions that support it, is to blame. The fact that people are willing to undergo serious surgeries to look like a certain type of person is deeply disturbing, but it is disturbing of the society that promotes and encourages this and not of the individual.

    I think that our media- whether that be TV shows, movies, advertisements, billboards, etc- needs to start taking conscious and critical steps towards opening up the idea of what is beautiful. If Asian Americans starting seeing Asian celebrities, politicians, advertisement characters, models, and so on, with similar eyelids then there would be a completely different notion attached to Asian American’s notion of beauty. All people are beautiful as individuals, and part of an individual is their race and each race should be appreciated and acknowledged for its beauty.

    • I would entirely agree with you, ‘littlehoop5,’ that societal influence (especially that of Caucasian dominance) is the culprit in eliciting the desires of cosmetic alterations such as the double eyelid surgery which I have described.

      In defense of the diction and structure of my post, I do subsequently establish the notion of societal influence as the primary culprit only after expressing ‘disappointment,’ and not ‘resentment,’ towards Asians who undergo double eyelid surgery. I am ‘disappointed’ in the lack of self-confidence that these Asians possess, though I understand that their lack of self-confidence is constructed by the society that surrounds them. Regardless, I believe this to still stand as a valid criticism because societal influence is omnipresent, and it is still a personal choice as to whether or not we decide to follow or resist it.

  4. I was surprised to learn in class that many compare this surgery to women in the ‘Western’ society getting breast implants at an alarming rate. First of all, I don’t think that this is an accurate comparison for many reasons. Women do not get breast implants as a ‘rite of passage’ or a sign of maturity, it has way more sexual meaning than implications to an ‘ideal beauty’. I think that the eyelid surgery is done because it is seen as a beauty standard Asian women want to uphold, and even though it has a connotation of ‘Westernization’, it is still not the same as if all of a sudden Asians were getting breast implants at alarmning rates to fit in more to the Western culture. I think that even though these surgeries are both cosmetic surgeries, they are totally different from each other.

  5. Each day we hear about someone going through surgery to change something physical about their body. I think because the eyelid is what sets the Asian race apart from other races, it is what raises problems for people in society when a person from the Asian race wants to change their eyelid. This does not surprise me however. I do believe that everyone should embrace who they are. I think that people who want to undergo this surgery however should have a choice to without it being frowned upon. I do not believe that wanting to have this surgery is going against the culture, I think that women of the Asian culture have different views of beauty and is similar to women who feel like they need to have plastic surgery because of what they view as beautiful as seen in the public eye. I do believe that because I am not a member of the Asian community that I do not realize that taking this apect of your physical feature could be a shame to your race as a whole, I do believe that even after having surgery, she will still be who she is and her eyelids can not change that she is an Asian American women.

  6. Living with a Korean-American roommate for three out of the four years I’ve been at this university for, the topic of double-eyelid surgery, as well as nose surgery has been brought up quite a few times. My first Korean roommate was born in South Korea, and raised there (and is studying here for her college education), would always comment on how ‘big’ my eyes were or how ‘pointy’ my nose was. I never understood why it was always brought up. I would comment on how I loved her eyes and her nose, but she would ignore everything I had to say. She told me that in Korea it is rare to meet someone who hasn’t had double eyelid surgery or nose surgery. Why? I asked. This was all new to me at the moment. She told me because her and her friends idolize the Western culture and feel that the people were much more beautiful and highly respected. Her father, like Kathleen Zane mentions in the reading, offered her surgery after graduating – if she wanted. I shyly asked her if she would take him on the offer, but she said she wouldn’t. She had said that she would rather be a little upset at herself rather than being in fear undergoing the surgical knife. Her alternative? Because she wasn’t happy with her eyes or nose, she would focus on something that she could change without going through surgery: her skin color. She used whitening serums and refused to go into the sun. All of this was very bizarre to me but it all makes sense. There is a pressure to look a certain way to be able to function in certain societies. In my roommate’s town, Westernized ‘beauty’ is embedded into them since childhood and they will do what they can to change themselves into what is viewed as beautiful. With this, I do think that it is different from getting breast surgery, but the same in a way. Of course the extremes are different, but in the end, society has trained people to believe that the only way they can be happy is if they modify themselves as they see fit. We provide them with the seed that grows into this obsessive nature to want to resort to these measures to be satisfied. It is sad, but it is happening everywhere, we just can’t see it all the time because we are fixed with other issues.

  7. Ahhhhhh this is so horrifying. Speaking as someone with serious eye problems, I cannot imaging running that sort of risk with your vision. But that said, I have watched two friends seriously consider plastic surgery. One was for a practical reason (breast reduction) but the other was super insecure about her nose her whole life. As far as I know, she didn’t have an actual deviated septum, or anything that might warrant it medically. But she is Jewish, and her nose made her look even more so. It’s to the point that people won’t even ask her about her ethnicity, they just assume. She also grew up as one of the few Jewish girls in her area, so I think as a kid she stood out more than she wanted. It’s sad that looking anything but WASPy is still cause for people to want to trade in parts of themselves for newer, “better” features. As America gets more multicultural, this should theoretically decrease, but this doesn’t seem to be happening a quickly as it theoretically should. The face of the standard of beauty has not kept up with the changing face of America.

  8. This subject matter completely caught me off guard. I was not even aware Asian individuals were even concerned about their eyelids. I thought the eyelid was seen as a positive feature within the Asian community because it is somewhat of a signature trademark. I think it is so amazing and ridiculous at times the things people put importance into. The eyelids seem like something so minor that defines beauty. It also blows my mind how many people always try to line up their beauty with European standards. I am aware that European standards are very influential, but I am not quite sure why it is always dominate in many cases. I know the level of self-esteem was mentioned earlier in the post. I think this is important to consider when thinking about how beauty can affect other aspects of individuals’ lives. A person’s emotions, mental and physical health can be affected by their beauty. This is where an Asian individual’s eyelids change from being minor to major to the way a person views their beauty.

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