April 27, 2021Madeleine Bong on April 27, 2021
I was once told by a friend of mine in high school that he preferred my eyes then another friend of ours simply because I have an eyelid crease, meaning I do not have a stereotypical Asian mono-lid. Need I go further?…
Somehow this memory popped into my head during therapy as I was recounting all the experiences I could remember that have led to my many physical insecurities. I paused for a moment after sharing this and everything seemed to start to click together. I have been educating myself a lot on white supremacy, racism, micro-aggressions, cultural appropriation etc… and what I’ve come to understand is how closely related beauty standards are to white supremacy. It is almost so blatantly obvious that I’m slightly, but not really, surprised that I didn’t catch it before. I say, not really, because our way of life is built on the foundations of white supremacy that everything we do, think, feel, want, desire stems from this toxic system.
When my friend told me this, I remember feeling happy, proud, and beautiful. I was another step closer to fitting in…to being white even if that meant putting down another person. I am already the model minority so to have the white man compliment my looks was a “good” sign. I grew up in a dominantly white community in California and for any coloured person reading this who has had a similar experience… you get it. From a young age, you quickly learn that you are different from white people in a way that is inferior. White is the standard. PB&J’s are the standard. Not the “smelly” Asian food that your mom packs for you in your Hello Kitty thermos. Micro-aggressions start from a young age. You aren’t quite sure what to make of them but you can sense the negative, derogatory energy quickly. I remember in middle school forcing my parents to buy me expensive Abercrombie jeans, Uggs, and Juicy Couture sweatsuits (you know the one) simply because I wanted to fit in. Sure, this is a common feeling for all young children regardless of the colour of your skin but the difference is, is even though I was wearing the things that everyone else was, I couldn’t actually hide my race. As I grew older, I started experiencing more micro-aggressive language (see below for examples) and the older I become, the more racist the phrases are. Why? Because, alongside being a person of colour, I am also a woman of colour.
For 25 years, I have tried my hardest to conform to our world’s beauty standards. But who decides what beauty is and looks like? To name a few, Hollywood (top grossing films are directed by 95% white folks), social media (filled with white influencers), music (producers are 95% white), etc etc the list goes on and on….do you see? Robin Diangelo in her book, “White Fragility” says, “one of the most potent ways white supremacy is disseminated is through media representation” (31). If you still deny this, think about Michael Jackson bleaching his skin, or the millions that go into skin whitening and eyelid surgery services. Did you know that Jackie Chan and Jet Li were asked to receive this surgery to better appeal to the audience…ie white people. Even my cousin once told me when she was about 16 that her friend was sent to Korea for her birthday to get eyelid surgery. Something, in that moment, I wish I could have done too.
I guess I’m writing this because, I was at first shocked at the rise of Asian hate crimes. But through reading up on my history and looking back at all the subtle/not so subtle racism I experienced from elementary school and onwards, I realized that none of this is new. Racism does not always look like physical violence. It is within our language, thoughts, movies, social media, music, jokes, and energy. This shit is everywhere people and it builds up until it explodes into violence. Former President Trump incited this growing violence but the hatred was already in the hearts of so many people.
I never thought my story was all that special because I assumed it was something that all Asian women go through and that it was “normal”. I now know that this is not normal and through sharing my experiences and learning from others, we begin to show those who are ignorant what our reality is. Want to know how to start dismantling white supremacy? It starts from you. Dismantle the prejudices you have about yourself and others. Start there and see what happens. Your self-reflection is your liberation, my liberation, our liberation.
see below of a list of common phrases I have heard and still hear, and my current insecurities stemming from that
Some micro-aggressions and other BS I have heard towards myself and others
“You should go for X, he likes Asian girls”
“You are very pretty for an Asian girl” or “You are a beautiful Asian woman”
“You’re a hot Asian”
“Asian women have tight pussies”
“I love you long time”
Insert someone creating slanty eyes
“You’re oriental, right?”
“You’re Asian so you must be good at math”
“You have big eyes for an Asian”
“No, but like where are you really from”
“Your nose is round like a bear’s nose”
“Oh, you’re one of those Asians” (a comment I received from another Asian when I dyed my hair purple, my response “fuck yes”)
“You have such almond eyes”
“Your hair and eyes are so dark”
“Asian women love white men”
My current Insecurities I am working through
Embracing my dark hair without needing to bleach it and spend $$$
I used to wear blue contact lenses when I was middle school. I still don’t like my brown eyes as much.
My desire for eyelid surgery. I use eyelid tape when my eyes are swollen from crying or whatever reason.
I try to not be super tan when I see my extended family. They always comment on how tan I am.
Body shame. (weight gain, muscle loss etc)
My round nose.
My wider face shape.
Simply being Asian in a very very white world.
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