Asian beauty standards have been an interesting topic for me to do research on. I’d like to tell an anecdote which is based on my own personal experience, and how things have happened before caught my attentions. Whenever the big occasional events among families, I got family members’ complained on my small eyes, tanned skin color, round facial shape, and “healthy” body weight. Of course, after hearing these judgments, the confidence in my own appearance immediately dropped to baseline. Friends and other women around me commonly had plastic surgery done to increase the depth of eyes, raise the height of their nose, and re-structure their facial shape. When living surrounded by these things, I took it for granted and did not question why people do such things to their face. I thought of it as a freedom for individuals who are chasing their ideal appearance. After reading all the various news and the writings on the problems surrounding Asian beauty standards in another language from a different cultural perspective, I started to reevaluate the culture I grew up with. The more information I ran across, the more problems emerged to the surface; the question I have on this topic is: Is the criteria imposed on the Asian beauty standard by media healthy? And where do we get the influences which define ideal beauty in Asia? In this research paper I will include the causes and effects of westernized beauty standards in Asia, and seek to prove that Asian beauty standards have been strongly shaped by western influence.
Beauty standards can be different among races, cultures, and, nationalities. However, in Asia, I tend to see advertisements that are entirely filled with western models who have a petite and tall nose, big eyes, and, light-toned complexion, or Asian models who fit into these criteria of marketing. Western brands seem to take over the beauty market throughout Asian countries, and Asians have received it and turned them into their beauty standards in a very real way. According to the article, The Homogenization of Asian Beauty, from The Society Page, Asians followed the beauty standards from dominant groups of people in the media which indicates Western standards of physical beauty. It is not difficult to see why; since the majority of people in media are Caucasians, and their position of influence in politics, economics, and culture explain the reason why they have such impact on physical beauty standards throughout Asia and the world.
Another point from the article is the connotation of skin colors in Asia is a sign of status in society. The stereotype of light colored skin relates to the position of careers in society. In Chinese culture, we have an old saying “one white covers three ugliness” it indicates how we think of light colored skin can not only cover body flaws but also show wealth, power, and status in society. On the other hand, tanned colored skin reveals possible engagement in manual labor. When we think of the hard work of manual labor, we don’t think it is as elegant as white collars careers. The idea behind this theory is that upper class people tend to work indoor and are able to hire someone to do labor under the sun. Therefore cosmetic products which have skin whitening effects are popular among Asian cultures. It is true that I found myself talking about which whitening products from Asian cosmetic companies work best with friends. Or see popular bloggers recommend skin whitening products to people. I think this is not only how western media influenced us on beauty standards but also how we receive and react as well; women care about how people think of their appearance. Once they receive this message they say to themselves: “that girl is popular because she has light skin and big eyes. I want to be like her and become famous too.”
A Taiwanese-American author, Cat Shieh, tells an anecdote of her childhood about how peer pressure pushed her to get double eyelids surgery performed. This is a procedure which tries to emulate the eyelids of a Caucasian person with a prominent fold in the eyelid. First, she started with Julie Chen’s confession about having the double eyelid surgery, and she cited all of the Caucasian beauty standards and compares to the “unfixed” features she has. She felt that she struggled in her situation having un-popular Asian features and appearance. Then, she points out that although she grew up with the culture that most commercials and most characters in the media with power don’t really have fully Asian features. It is hard to fight with them because everyone is doing the same thing, so it feels alienating if you don’t. It is interesting to mirror myself into her situation, growing up in Taiwan, both my parents and my sister have done the surgery; outsiders might think it’s weird, but in Asia for people who don’t have bigger eyes they think it’s ordinary to do the surgery.
This is the theory of plastic surgery in Asia; natural features aren’t necessary to stay forever, instead, it is possible to change them by fixing them. We have the concept of fixing up the part you don’t like so you can look beautiful or at least average. It is also true that when we turn on the TV, all of the media platforms such as news, commercials, and movies are willed with models with western beauty standards features. The commercial marketing company did not just randomly picked the girls they like, of course, they did research on what are the features that will attract people to buy their products. Girls will dream to be like the girls on the screen, and it becomes such a vicious cycle. Since the influence of Western media is dominant in global culture, it has caused the ideal beauty standards to be based on Caucasian beauty ideals. The problem of racism still reflected on beauty ideal in Asian cultures, so the beauty standards are still based on priority of racial groups in global media. A face with westernized features is considered beautiful in Asia. A piece of news published from CNN talks about a Chinese girl who didn’t have enough confidence until she got double eyelid surgery. Her mother wanted her to look pretty so more opportunities will be waiting ahead in her life. Korea’s largest plastic surgery clinic BK Dong Yang quoted “Many patients want their faces like Americans”, and says that beauty standards have been westernized. She believes that “investing in plastic surgery to westernize the face will bring a return on the investment of 100 times” and also the adjustment of tongue connection will help Korean to pronounce English better. Indeed, English has become the dominant language in the world, and that is also the reason why English-speaking countries have dominated in global media. Therefore, Caucasians’ culture has become center among Asian countries, and Asian beauty standards has become based on Caucasian beauty standards.
Western culture is considered as a most popular culture in media. From any sorts of advertisements to political and economic news are all based on its culture. Since Asian culture is hard to find on mainstream media, and most of the advertisements and celebrities on media in power do not involve with inborn Asian features; I hardly find an image of representing my race and nationality. Although there are some Asian exposed on mainstream media, their features are usually de-raciliazed, and the idea of deracilization has expanded and turned into the ideal beauty in Asia. I personally think it’s very strange that Asians are so desperate for Caucasian features, and believe that if having a little western look surgery done it will lead them towards success in their career. It is interesting to see all the sources of how Asians’ beauty standards has based on people who dominate in global media, and to be written out on news. Now, it is clear why people take exterior looking seriously in Asia.
Two Learning Moments
The first important learning moment throughout the term was the significance of advertising. At first, it was hard to believe that advertisement contributes value to our culture. It is a platform that everyone receive messages and information from, and readers have a responsibility to develop its own filter for evaluating information from inappropriate messages from advertisements. I didn’t notice how powerfully the advertising has influenced our lives, and also reading through classmates’ perspective was very helpful to understand how it matters.
Another important learning moment was the second online group discussion, the one to one peer review with another classmate. Although it was only an hour long, it was enough time to hear what outsider’s thoughts of my topic and be able to talk to each other about what their concerns are. After that, I realized how community works. We all had the same goal to help each other to get into a better place. Also, throughout the course, although internet was the only way to communicate to each other and learn new things and exchange our perspectives, it really gathered a group of people into having discussion together. Having this experience is truly helping me to understand what community is.
Lah, K. (2011, May 23). Plastic surgery boom as Asians seek ‘western’ look. Retrieved November 15, 2015, from http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/05/19/korea.beauty/
Le, C. (2014, June 4). The Homogenization of Asian Beauty. Retrieved November 15, 2015,from http://thesocietypages.org/papers/homoegenization-of-asian-beauty/
Shieh, C. (2013, September 25). Julie Chen Shows Problems With Asian Standards Of Beauty. Retrieved November 15, 2015, from http://www.neontommy.com/news/2013/09/julie-chen-shows-problems-asian-standards-beauty