In the wake of the dialogue surrounding asylum seekers and racism (which I know has little to do with fashion), I thought I would revisit a subject that I feel very strongly about. As we are celebrating the beauty in all shapes and sizes, races and ages this week at BWA I wanted to start a dialogue with our lovely readers and find out what you all think about plastic surgery, race and beauty.
One of my earliest memories is sitting in the bathroom fascinated by my mothers beauty regime. Every little girl wants to try on (and probably ruin) their mothers lipstick, rouge on their cheeks and stand in front of the bathroom mirror, mirroring the kissing faces their mothers pull while putting on their faces. My mother is from South Korea, and as long as I can remember she has had an obsession with maintaining beautiful skin. It has paid off, for while she is in her mid fifties to all outward appearances she is forty years old. Whenever my aunties came to visit from South Korea, I was always startled by their obsession with western beauty. They want their noses higher, eyes bigger, eyebrows thicker, skin whiter – it seems that the romantic ideal I kept of the oriental beauty is some non-existent fabrication… This obsession with beauty, that all women seem to inherit, has truly evolved with the evolution of cosmetic technology.
As a halfie- half Korean half Australian, I am fortunate enough to have an eyelid. I realise this sounds ridiculous, for surely you say, all humans possess eyelids. Not Asians. Many Asians feel they do not possess the coveted eyelid crease most people in the Western world take for granted. It is a genetic trait that results from a greater amount of fat that sits upon the eyelid, making the crease difficult to form. As a result, the rates of double eyelid surgery – the surgery that sews an eyelid crease above the eye – has exploded in the last couple of years. According to online site Medscape, the ratio in South Korea of plastic surgeons to the general populace is the highest in the world…a world where one can book a cosmetic treatment over their lunch break and return to the office a new – albeit less real – woman. In fact, recent advances in general anesthetic technologies mean that some doctors can perform breast augmentation surgeries over lunch!
But can we really blame my aunties for unrealistically coveting this ideal? When so called celebrities such as Heidi Montag broadcast their cosmetic alterations as an attempt at fame that reeks of desperation, and the global ideal women are size 6, uncommonly tall and predominantly Anglo-Saxon, it is no wonder this discontented ideology has seeped into the hearts and minds of women across the globe. There have been very few Asian women featured in couture campaigns or magazine covers, and those that are echo Anglo-Saxon features, it seems an Asian woman is only considered beautiful when she resembles the western ideal of beauty. Thankfully this is starting to change, with diversification of supermodels is starting to seep into high-street campaigns. One sometimes has to wonder however, whether this is truly a celebration of beauty in diversity or a PR tactic to ensure a brand is associated with positive and politically correct messages. Whether this is cynicism at its worst on my part or truth is questionable.
In my own life, I have experienced a fair amount of racism, not necessarily directed at myself. In fact, as a half Asian born in Sydney there is not a whole lot “Asian” about me other than the obvious external features and my connection to my heritage. In a way, I have encountered a sort of anti-racism, where my friends and acquaintances will poke fun at Asians, forgetting my heritage, remember I am there and turn to me saying “Oh except you”, or “You’re not really Asian anyway”. As if being Asian is an insult that I am luckily exempt from, as opposed to a heritage, a genetic trait, a culture. If we live in a world where society enables an individual to cultivate ideals that promote such a xenophobic way of thinking, then perhaps the way to prevent woman across the world from dissatisfaction in their looks is to encourage a progressive acceptance of all nations, cultures, sexual preferences, religions and political ideals.
What do you all think? Are you ok with plastic surgery or do you think it is a reflection of a superficial society?