"Westernizing" the Asian Eye
by Geolani Dy
was raised in a Northern California suburb with a distinctly split
demographic makeup—five to ten percent Asian and otherwise almost
entirely Caucasian. American-born and of Chinese descent, Annie was
teased throughout childhood for having “small eyes”. At home, her
mother and family friends would repeatedly suggest a permanent fix:
not the “Sticks and stones may break my bones” idiom, but double
eyelid surgery, or Asian blepharoplasty.
Controversial and extreme to some, but simple and obvious for others, the procedure to create “double eyelids” on Asian faces has emerged as a very visible and debate-sparking trend, a new option for Asian Americans seeking to change their appearances. Eyelid surgery is the cosmetic surgical procedure most commonly requested by Asian patients in the U.S., according to recent literature in aesthetic surgery.
“Growing up in a place that was mostly Caucasian, the perception of beauty was definitely that bigger eyes were more beautiful,” Annie said.
As someone who does not have double eyelids herself, but instead, the “epicanthic folds” prevalent among people of Asian descent, Annie can understand why young women in her position find the surgical procedure appealing. When asked why she thinks people choose to undergo the operation, Annie responded, “It has a lot to do with self-esteem. Having larger eyes is prettier, it changes the entire way your face looks and the perception is that you are much more beautiful.”
I conducted a survey about perceptions of double eyelid surgery among college-aged students. A Chinese American female commented among her responses that Asian people, not only Caucasians, view larger eyes as an element of beauty. “Asians believe beauty = bigger eyes, and it's a relatively safe and easy procedure, so it's a quick and painless way to become more beautiful. Double eyelids are coveted.” This anonymous female knows several people who have gotten double eyelid surgery.
Just as any other cosmetic procedure might, Asian blepharoplasty draws a number of critics. Yet their objections carry a unique edge—it is not uncommon for people to view the surgery is a means of “looking less Asian,” or of assimilating to a “Western” or “Caucasian” standard of beauty.
“I feel like the fact that double eyelid surgery even exists is indicative of both an individual's misguided perception of beauty and of an entire society's reinforcement/perpetuation of these skewed values,” said an anonymous Chinese American male. “Asians and Asian-Americans should embrace the way they look and work to better themselves in more meaningful and less superficial ways.”
Popularity of the procedure is reflected in the abundance of “Double Eyelid Specialists” advertising on the Internet, the increased coverage by mainstream American media, as well as the sheer number of college-aged Asian American students who know a peer with surgically-altered eyelids.
Here I present a look at perceptions and realities of Asian blepharoplasty.
*Annie's name has been changed.
Photo source: www.marieclaire.com...
Takayanagi, Susumu M.D. “Asian upper blepharoplasty double-fold procedure.” Aesthetic Surgery Journal. 27(6): 656-663.