I few months ago, I posted a story about the ridiculously strict beauty standards in South Korea. Most alarming is the number of young women electing to have plastic surgery to create double fold eyelids. Many Asian women are born with hooded eyelids, and the surgery, called blepharoplasty, creates a crease that is typical of Western eyes.
Well, on Wednesday, September 11, Julie Chen confessed on her show “The Talk” that she had the procedure after it was advised by a “big-time agent.” Her insecurities about her eyes began when she was 25 and working as a correspondent in Dayton. Her boss told her she could never be an anchor because she was Chinese. Later, when the aforementioned agent told her the surgery would take her “straight to the top,” she decided to go for it.
The story has been out for a few days, and a lot of summaries of the segment have been written. Rather than rehash the content one more time, I’d rather show you the video and give you my thoughts on this subject.
I’ve watched the segment a few times now, and the more I think about it, the angrier I get. There are a few parts I find particularly upsetting as an Asian woman. For starters, her boss in Dayton explained that her eyes were problematic because, “I’ve noticed when you’re on camera and you’re interviewing someone, you look disinterested, you look bored.” This is so unbelievably racist that it makes my blood boil. Here is a picture of my mother, just a couple years older than Chen was when she had the surgery, looking really, really bored.
Furthermore, hooded eyelids only seem to be a problem when they are on Asian women. On American and European women, they are called “bedroom eyes” and are seen as sexy. Don’t believe me? Google “Blake Lively” or “Claudia Schiffer.”
Finally, the most offensive part of the segment, for me, is when Sheryl Underwood tells Chen, “You don’t know about giving in to the man.” If “the man” is described as “the establishment” or “authority in power,” then of course Chen gave in to “the man.” I think it’s utterly dismissive to imply Asian people don’t have their own struggles with racism. In fact, I am grateful that Chen brought awareness to the bigotry we encounter. And acknowledging our struggles in no way minimizes anyone else’s.
I do not dislike Julie Chen. We all make choices, and I don’t believe people should live with regret. I can admit that I find her choice to have surgery discouraging, but I appreciate that she seems to have mixed emotions about it. I am also impressed with her courage to share her story and open an important dialogue.
I’m concluding this article with this image of a young girl, because she and all other Asian girls are the reason why this nonsense has to stop. This is the next generation who may feel shame about their eyes. Can we please stop trying to all look the same and celebrate our differences before she’s old enough to get the message?