By: Taotao Li
Photos by: May Tan
Dear Asian Beauty Standards,
There are many aspects of my Asian-American experience that I take pride in: the value and emphasis on family, bilingualism, dumplings (obviously), the list goes on. However, you fail to make the cut. Women’s fixation on and pursuit of you are both disheartening and toxic. As a result of our society’s failure to uplift and promote an inclusive and reachable beauty ideal, something like a single crease in our eyelids can dictate our worth. It’s twisted of you to make women feel disempowered because of features we were born with. Instead of owning and relishing ourselves, women throw thousands away on plastic surgery procedures or skin bleaching products, all to attain something utterly unattainable. Perhaps the most dismal part is that your promoted image of beauty is rooted in classism and colonialism, imposing the attributes of one region as the beauty ideals of another instead of celebrating differences. Even though this image is outdated, too many women still seek to obtain it.
The memory of visiting my family in China and having various people tell me that I would be “so much prettier” if I were simply paler is all too vivid. My mom has even frequently exclaimed, “If only you had inherited my nose,” which is slimmer and taller than mine and a desirable physical feature in China. The clear crease in my eyelid is frequently brought up as a topic of conversation, even after only meeting someone for the first time. These experiences have not only made me doubt my own self-worth, I believe they’re indicative of a deeper and, frankly, alarming fixation women have with fulfilling and attaining you. It’s saddening that features that should be points of celebration are instead ones of shame and insecurity. You hone in on and promote a single ideal image featuring physical attributes that the vast majority of women are simply not born with. While some may envy that I have double eyelids, even that singular feature that is so coveted by other Asian women is overlooked by the fact that I’m not pale enough or various other features that don’t meet the Asian ideal. It’s not a fixation with one aspect of you, but your entirety that facilitates this cultural toxicity.
Needless to say, asking you to change is much easier said than done. And while I do believe there are some drastic transformations you should undergo, there are also changes in individual mentalities that we should each adopt in order to help ourselves move toward a more inclusive Asian beauty ideal. I hope in the near future that women stop evaluating their self-worth based on your narrowly-defined standards. I hope one day that someone will tell me I don’t have to be five shades paler in order to be considered beautiful. I hope you promote the beauty of all Asian women, and empower them to celebrate what they have rather than lamenting what they don’t.
TAOTAO LI is a freshman in the College, hoping to pursue a major in Government and about 30 other things. In addition to being a writer for Thirty Seventh, she is passionate about social justice issues, Pixar’s Ratatouille, and blowing every penny she’s ever earned on skin care.