Apparently “ethnic” plastic surgery is on the rise across many countries, including the U.S. Maureen O’Connor, a writer for NY Mag who is half Asian and White, wrote about her visit to a plastic surgeon who specializes in altering your physical appearance in order to eliminate the features that define your ethnicity.

From NY Mag:

“You’ve got some nice Caucasian features,” Dr. Edmund Kwan says, inspecting my face at his Upper East Side plastic-surgery practice, where the waiting room includes an ottoman larger than my kitchen table. “You’re half-Asian mixed with what?” Chinese mom and white dad, I reply. “You inherited a Caucasian nose. Your nose is nice. Your eyes have a little bit of Asian mixed in.” He proposes Asian blepharo­plasty, a surgical procedure to create or enlarge the palpebral fold, the eyelid crease a few millimeters above the lashline that many Asians lack. “You’ve got nice big eyes,” he admits, but eyelids more like my father’s would make them look bigger.

To some, Kwan’s assessment may seem offensive—an attempt to remove my mother’s race from my face as though it were a pimple. But to others, it will seem as banal as a dietitian advising them to eat more leafy greens—advice having nothing to do with hiding one’s race or mimicking another. Asian blepharo­plasty belongs to a range of niche cosmetic procedures known colloquially as ethnic plastic surgery, the popularity of which has spiked in recent years—and is prone to heated arguments, major misunderstandings, alternating whiplashes of sympathy and disgust, and some intensely uncomfortable reckonings. (Including, perhaps, the ones in this article.) The issues at stake are loaded: ethnic identity, standards of beauty, the politics of diversity, what constitutes race, and whether exercises of vanity can reshape it.

People go under the knife for different reasons, when it comes to plastic surgery. Often times I’ve thought about getting a nose job, not to erase my “blackness” but to actually give myself a more prominent bridge.  But when it comes to ‘fixing’ something like your eyes if you’re Asian, does it automatically mean you’re trying to eliminate your ethnicity?

“The general idea then—and I keep hearing it even today—was that Asians who have facial and eyelid surgery want to ‘Westernize,’ ” says Flowers. “And that’s even what Asian plastic surgeons thought they were doing then as well. But that’s not what Asians want. They want to be beautiful Asians.”

…Why do white people fixate on the “Westernizing” elements of ethnic plastic surgery? While working on this article, I found that people of all races had principled reservations about and passionate critiques of these practices. But the group that most consistently believed participants were deluding themselves about not trying to look white were, well, white people. Was that a symptom of in-group narcissism—white people assuming everyone wants to look like them? Or is it an issue of salience—white people only paying attention to aesthetics they already understand? Or is white horror at ethnic plastic surgery a cover for something uglier: a xenophobic fear of nonwhites “passing” as white, dressed up as free-to-be-you-and-me political correctness?

But what if the reverse happens? I’ve always envied my sister’s prominent almond shaped eyes, that some will still refer to as being “slanted”, maybe on top of getting a bridge in my nose, I can get my eyes reshaped, but that doesn’t make me less Black or more Asian. Does it?

I would never judge a person on what they of surgery they choose to have, or why, but hopefully people realize that just because there’s a quick fix when it comes to ethnic plastic surgery, doesn’t mean their genetic make-up will change.

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  • Myra Esoteric

    A huge part of Westerners criticizing Asian beauty standards for being “white washed” is that a lot of Western media does not want to portray women, according to authentic Asian standards of beauty. This is a form of erasing Asian opinions while fulfilling a diversity requirement. The Western media portrays an “attractive” East or Southeast Asian woman according to their own stereotype as opposed to the standard that is actually found in these countries.

    It is the equivalent of if the Western media portrayed every good looking black woman as having a very dark complexion. Now that is only one type. But it’s telling how the East and Southeast Asian women in the Western media usually do not look like Fan Bingbing, Li Bingbing and other people who fit the East Asia beauty standard.

    This is a form of imperialism like “I know what you people should like, your own culture is misguided”. I’m (a skin lightening user) Chinese and we have not been colonized by the West. In fact actually looking biracial in China or Korea is highly marginalizing.

    If one is talking about post colonialism, talk about countries that were actually affected by this. In the actual post colonial countries being biracial is privileged because it’s a sign of European blood quantum.

  • Anna

    I am so surprised to read people, here and all around the web, denying the whitewashing trend when it’s SO obvious. They say it’s only about aesthetics, but then, why does it always focus on white standards?
    If it’s not about looking ‘whiter’ how come so many people want fairer hair and eyes? Why do so many dye their hair and only choose European colors (never blue or green…)? Why do they say “I merely want to change” whereas the very idea of hair color variety IS a Caucasian feature? Why are color lenses so common (for Caucasian color, again)?
    Why no European people, on the other hand, dream of black very curly hair and black eyes?
    Why do so many Black and Asian dolls (yeah, toys for our children) have pale brown eyes instead of black?

    I think most realize but simply won’t admit it out of pride; others don’t realize because it’s so common that it’s almost normal for them to hide ethnic features.

    Either way, this trend frightens me. Not only because it’s very bad taste (European features don’t suit non-European people, it looks so fake ever on stars) but because we are telling our children to be ashamed of their skin color, that it’s not ‘fashionable’. :(

    A close friend witnessed a meaningful scene in Japan, in a night club (and it was 15 years ago, must be worse today): a Japanese girl was made fun of because she was the only one among a group of ordinary students who hadn’t died her hair. It was for them old-fashioned to have their beautiful black hair. All had fake brown or even fake blond hair…this scene made my friend aware of the problem, and me too, added to what I see in the medias everyday.

    So people, please, stop saying it’s ‘only fashion’ because it spreads and remains over the years. And by the way, trying to mimic your neighbor while claiming you don’t is a childish attitude of denial. Think of what you’re showing our children!!!