This extensive Buzzfeed article investigates the troubling story of Leo Jiang, a man who has spent years and tens of thousands of dollars on cosmetic surgeries designed to mask his “ethnic” Chinese features. While the phenomenon of plastic surgery is an increasingly common one, Jiang’s deliberate attempts at “de-racialization” and obvious psychological issues confound the conversation on beauty, race, and the choice to go under the knife.
Jiang explains his reasoning for undergoing such extensive facial reconstruction, and his childhood trauma being teased as a Chinese “other” growing up in the UK:
“I believed that my ugliness was in part due to my ethnic features. My father thinks I’m ridiculous for building a complex system of beliefs based on that shallow stimulus. He says, ‘You’ve gone and done this, so you must be very proud of it, but initially it was some stupid kids opening their mouths to you.’”
But Jiang’s attempts to “Westernize” his own features cannot speak for the decisions of many South Korean men and women to opt for the colloquially-termed “double eyelid surgery,” which some have called an overt reflection of the East’s fetishization of Western beauty standards. Such a reading may be a simplistic imposition of our own Western understanding of race and beauty into a very different societal context. NYU’s Sharon Lee explains:
“Race does not enter the consciousness [in Asia] in the same way it does here. It’s easy to pathologize a whole country of people. This notion that Korean women want to become white becomes a really easy answer. That’s not to say that race isn’t important, but when we stop there we’re overlooking much larger structural and historical phenomenons. No Korean woman says, ‘I want to look white.’”
Jiang’s provocative journey and its implications for the larger conversation on cosmetic surgery’s increased ubiquity is explored further here.
This poster’s comment on the Buzzfeed article sums up everything I want to say on the issue, forever:
Victoria Le - Brown University:
What a repugnant article, soaking in unquestioned bias, condescension, and racial privilege.
While it was very nice of you to even include opinions from the defenders of these procedures, it’s clear that you’re completely uninterested in weighing the merits of their arguments or even extending to them real compassion or more than the vaguest and most pitying curiosity for their rationale.
You quote Jiang saying that “Whatever I do, I can’t become white,” yet you still feel comfortable diagnosing him with the need to “pass” and to “become this new [implied: whiter] person.” I’m not saying that racial insecurity has nothing to do with certain Asians’ decision to tuck their eyelids or reshape their noses, but you seem unwilling to entertain any other possibilities. Like here: “Protestations of doctors like Cheung aside, the procedure’s history belies its original intended purpose.” A) That sentence is stupid. No crap the procedure’s history belies its original purpose - its original purpose is its history. B) People do things for all sorts of reasons that can have nothing to do with their original intended purposes: get tattoos, keep kosher, wear blue jeans.
And it’s one thing to have a firm opinion about an issue, another to let your biases interfere with your sense of journalism. You describe the risks of blepharoplasty and jaw-narrowing surgery without explicitly acknowledging that non-racialized cosmetic procedures pose the same risks.
It’s especially sad because there’s so much about this issue you could have discussed in greater depth: the generational gap between proponents and opponents of surgical enhancement, the effect of globalization on various cultures, the changing cultural landscape of major Asian cities, how class influences people’s decisions about their bodies and appearance, how traditional Western and Eastern ideals of beauty intersect to create the kinds of body modification you see in Asian countries, etc.
Instead we get:
“Bei was undergoing jaw narrowing surgery - a slightly, but only slightly, nuanced version of taking an angle grinder to your lower jawbone” - I love that sneering “only slightly,” as if something like a facelift (remove and reattach your face!) isn’t a similarly intense procedure. Or as if grinding down the jawbone isn’t also done as a part of non-cosmetic surgery.
“I ask if [Jiang’s] lost the perspective that this is a medical procedure, and things can go wrong. Again, it doesn’t seem to properly sink in” - Again, I love the condescension.
“She was white and had dyed-blonde hair - her own, decidedly less invasive attempt at physical reinvention” - When white people change their appearance, it’s fine and not at all symptomatic of a deeper racial sickness.
“After we part, he’ll walk to a private dance class for which he’s paying $80 an hour…. A few weeks later he’ll wake at 5 a.m. for voice and drama lessons to learn how to act confidently in social situations” - How bizarre and snidely insinuating. It’s true that there is a specifically Asian market for lessons in confidence, but you might as well mention how Western stereotypes and pressure to conform feed that market.
“where two pretty parents are surrounded by ugly kids” - Yes, “pretty” and “ugly.” Not the more journalistic “who have undergone cosmetic surgery” or “who have not undergone cosmetic surgery.” I get that the ad itself is invoking a social bias, but could you try not to use language that perpetuates the kinds of attitudes that drive people to seek out cosmetic surgery in the first place?
“It’s all a way to muddle the real emotion behind the actions - 16 years ago some dumb people made some dumb comments and it’s still dominating his life” - Spoken like someone who’s never been the victim of persistent and culturally encompassing racial prejudice (yes, yes, you’re only agreeing with Jiang’s father, but you have even less of a basis to infer anything about Jiang’s psychology).
I’m Asian. I haven’t had any of these procedures done, but my mom has (an eyelid tuck), and as far as I can tell, she’s happy with her surgery and content with herself in general. If there was a racial component to her decision, she never mentioned it.
But racial prejudice is more than just a few isolated incidents. It’s not just that a kid in school can call you a chink or a gook or make squinty eyes to mock you. It’s that there are almost no Asian actors or actresses in Western-made film or TV; it’s that the Asian (more likely half-Asian) performers who do appear tend to conform to Western beauty standards; it’s that stereotypes about Asian impotence and submissiveness are tied to height, penis size, and jaw strength; it’s that eye makeup is designed for Western features; it’s that you can get passed over for jobs or relationships because of your appearance; it’s that people look at the before and after pictures for these surgeries and think the “after” picture is the beautiful one.
When will we finally get sick of hearing white people like the author of this article ridicule racial pathologies among people of color - pathologies which white people helped to create, or at least benefit from without question? If you really cared about Asian self-esteem, you’d worry more about what Western culture is doing to help or hurt Asians, instead of just blaming the victim.
You don’t give a shit about us. You really don’t. You pretend to feel sorry for us. And then you turn your back and casually affirm yourself as the more ~beautiful~ one, among backhanded comments about preserving our natural beauty.
You don’t really give a shit about dismantling harmful beauty structures. You don’t give a shit about our sufferings or the shit that you did to us. You don’t give a shit about our skin, our eyes, our jaw, our cheekbones, our hair and our bodies.
You just want to feel good.
when will these people get bored with harping on the subject that “omg all Asian people wanna do is look white” as though there weren’t other cultural factors at play? how many of these bullshit “journalists” have published articles like these in the last couple of months, and how many of them said something OTHER than the same five bullshit points? NONE!
they can all go fuck themselves I am so fucking sick of hearing “you just want to be white”
if I just wanted to be white I’d wear salmon polos and eat bland food
(TW: racism, homophobia.)
Nothing is the same without you. You should be here telling us jokes and planning our next camping trip. We should be celebrating your 15th birthday but instead we are grieving your death. The only way we can survive your tragic loss is to hold on to our love for you.
Your pride in all things American and compassion for the less fortunate would have helped you fulfill your dream of becoming a National Guardsman. Your polite manners and your kindness illustrated the values your parents instilled in you. You should never been mistreated because of your Vietnamese heritage or because you were gay. You were absolutely perfect the way God made you.
After the investigation, we understand the truth and why you felt you had to leave this Earth. We need to bring you JUSTICE and peace by eliminating the hate that you suffered at school by both kids and adults. We are fighting so that other bullied kids get help at school instead of being victimized by those who have a duty to protect them. You deserved better and not a minute goes by without us thinking of you. We miss your handsome face and the joy you brought to our lives.
Don and your family
R.I.P. David Phan
May 19, 1998-November 29, 2012
David Phan would have turned 15 yesterday. He took his life in November after being bullied mercilessly for being Vietnamese American and for being gay. Read the full memorial post at Hyphen Magazine.
can we just remember that joan calling irene a ‘bitch’ comes directly after irene dehumanizes joan, a woman of color, as a ‘mascot’?
and yet i’ve seen twice as many complaints about joan’s misogyny than i have about irene’s racism (and hell, not even going to cut corners, racialized misogyny since it’s dehumanizing a woman of color as an object for a white man)?
wish some of y’all would take racism as seriously as you do misogyny =|
Today I found out that this guy I dated shortly is in a new relationship with another asian person so I did a little digging and apparently his last few relationships have all been with asian people. When I was with him, I never felt fetishized but this does seem really problematic to me. The thing is that I’ve been thinking a lot about it, and I’ve had this fear that maybe some day, some of the guys I’ve dated will say something along the lines of “yeah, I dated an asian once, too. In college” as if I’m some sort of college experiment. But when it comes down to it, I don’t know if I’d rather date a fetishist or someone who thinks of me as some sort of “other” to spice up their otherwise perfectly unblemished, white, love lives.
I live in a primarily white town, and I’ve generally only dated white men, but reading this blog has made me ask myself some really tough questions, that I don’t really have the answers to. So I guess what I’m asking is, when dating primarily white men, what are we supposed to expect?
I’m going to take a crack at answering this, even though it’s an incredibly uncomfortable subject.
By racist standards, we’re supposed to be flattered by fetishist attention. Whenever I complained about that kind of behavior (e.g. men introducing themselves to me by saying “I’ve got a thing for Asian ladies”) even if I used mild language, the general response would be, “what’s wrong with you, that you can’t take a compliment?” I was accused of being a bitch, a prude, a racist, even a sexual fascist.
We’re supposed to expect, seek, and be grateful for this racist positive attention. But if we follow this standard, it’s also incredibly psychologically damaging.
So my advice is don’t expect it. Have a standard that anyone you date should not be a fetishist. You deserve better.
That’s easier said than done :-( so in practical terms:
1) try to weed them out early on. Say plain things like “I don’t like fetishists,” or “fuck, I hate yellow fever,” and see how they react.
2) expand your dating pool. Dating Asian men and other MOC can be difficult because there are also plenty of MOC fetishists, and even if they aren’t fetishists, we ALL still have to struggle with intra-POC and internalized racism. One of the most humiliating experiences of my life was explaining to an Asian man who was a close friend that I wanted to be more than friends with him… but he wasn’t interested, because he was getting into a relationship with a white woman who’d been a former friend. I don’t blame him, I don’t blame her, I don’t blame myself. It still hurt. But dating men who are not white can also be very relieving, in terms of knowing you’re not meeting racist expectations.
3) Stay far away from weeaboos. Don’t meet guys at conventions, anime clubs, almost anything to do with Japanese culture. Same goes for martial arts. Many male fetishists are obsessed either with anime or martial arts.
4) have high standards, but be pragmatic. Sometimes it’s impossible to tell if a person is a fetishist. Sometimes a guy is half a fetishist, but sees the light and realizes what a disgusting racist he is, and quietly changes. This stuff is really really really hard. Blame them, blame racism, but don’t blame yourself.
I felt a sour taste in my throat, the one that immediately precedes my gag reflex, when I read the NY Times piece about an immigration official who forced a woman to perform oral sex on him in exchange for her green card.
After the 22-year-old Colombian woman, whose name has not been released, went in for an interview for her green card with immigration agent Isaac Baichu in December of 2007, she started receiving phone calls from Baichu demanding sex. When he called her to meet in a restaurant’s parking lot in Queens, she was prescient enough to stash her cell phone, which was recording their conversation, in her purse. Her cell phone captured Baichu asking for sex “one or two times. That’s all. You get your green card. You won’t have to see me anymore.” Later in the tape there’s a minute-long pause when, the reporter writes, the young woman “yielded to his demand out of fear that he would use his authority against her.” The Times posted an audio clip of the woman’s recording in the web edition of the article (yay, multimedia?).
The sexual exploitation of immigrant women is nothing new, but there’s a very specific pattern of abuse tied to this case. News of a Miami ICE agent who made a pit stop at his home so he could rape the Haitian woman he was responsible for transporting to detention and reports of sexual assault on a woman held at the Don T. Hutto Family Residential Facility, a de facto prison in Texas for families awaiting immigrations processing, come to mind. Similar scandals have been reported in Maryland (Deputy Lloyd W. Miner this year), California (Agent Eddie Miranda in 2007) and Georgia (Agent Kelvin R. Owens in 2005).
From RaceWire, 3/27/08
Sheriff Arpaio of Maricopa County, AZ. He has physically assaulted pregnant immigrant women, forced them to sleep in soiled sheets by denying them sanitary products for menstruation, and notoriously shackled detained immigrants to the bed as they gave birth.
Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan on being detained at the U.S. Airport—twice. (Once, he was detained while promoting a film called My Name is Khan which was ironically about a person with the last name Khan suffering from repeated racial profiling.)
Multiple actors and other prominent individuals in the film industry with the last name “Khan” have been detained when entering the country. Irrfan Khan (The Life of Pi, Slumdog Millionaire, Spider-man) described the three times he was stopped—while on the way to receive honors for his roles in films such as The Namesake—as “humiliating.” Actor Aamir Khan was stopped and stripped searched in 2002. Director Kabir Khan, was reportedly detained at least three times in 2008 while filming in the United States. The New York Times ended up remarking on “The Dangers of Fying While Khan.”
This much is clear:
If you’re an award winning actor named Khan, you will still get stopped and humiliated at the airport. When that rare character in American media finally shows up sharing your name, he will be played by a white British man. That actor will wear your name for one movie and sneer and strut to great critical acclaim. You will wear your racialized name, your skin color, and hope you don’t get detained another time.
U.S. domestic security forces can do in just a few minutes what some people pay thousands of dollars every year for therapy to accomplish: keep non-white superstars humble and grounded. Thanks, TSA.
Half of my family clan has the surname Khan.
Effects of Thinking White People Are “All Like That”:
- Literally nothing other than white people having their feelings hurt on the internet
- I’m not joking there is no real world consequence of this
Effects of Thinking People of Color Are “All Like That”:
- Saudi student is literally surrounded by FBI for cooking rice under terrorist suspicions
- White people literally can not associate positive words with Black faces because of racism
- More white people use drugs but Black people are sent to jail for drugs at 10 times the rate that white people are
- Black people who “sound Black” earn less money than those who don’t because of associations with stereotypes. Black people who “sound Black” are less likely to get called back for jobs
- Black children grow up literally associating being Black with being bad and ugly
- White people when tested shot more unarmed Black subjects than armed and unarmed white subjects
- Hate crimes increase after Boston tragedy
- Moroccan High School Student is linked to Boston tragedy for being Brown
- Bangladeshi man is beaten by people out of racism
- NYPD Commissioner wants Black and Latino men to fear him after the police targeted literally 90 percent Black and Latino men in New York and humiliating them by frisking them in public under the assumption that they had weapons. Studies found that white men were the ones who overwhelmingly had weapons while Black and Latino men didn’t
- White people blaming and convicting Black men for crimes they never committed and everyone believing them because of racism
- Stop and Frisk, ruled unconstitutional was practiced by New York police disproportionately and unfairly affecting 90% Black and Latino men because of racism
- Universities throwing racist ‘Fiesta Party’ homogenizing culture with extreme racism
- Here are some of the numbers on hate crimes against People of Color and btw, Neo Naziism is increasing!
- Every 28 Hours an African American is Extrajudicially Murdered in the U.S.
- Black people 3 times more likely to be arrested for Marijuana
- Black people receive much harsher sentencing than white people for the same crimes do I need to go on?
But yeah, white people’s feelings :*(
I actually changed my mind, I’m adding more
- Deaf Black man is stabbed out of racism when his sign language is mistaken for a GANG SIGN
- Anti-Islam posters run free on the train to reinforce racism anti-Islamic sentiments and Islamaphobia
- Oops! Chicago police raids the wrong house, holds an 11 month old at gunpoint to raise their hand, kills their dog all because of racism and assuming it was a crackhouse! Oopsies
- Let’s take it overseas! Black people in England and Wales are 7 times more likely to be stopped by police than white people. Asian people are twice as likely
- People assuming Native american baby names are actually Native and have any meaning to any ethnic group when they don’t
- Here’s a whole collection of people saying racist stereotyping homogenizing disgusting stuff about Natives
- People protesting (Idle No More) defending Native people’s humanity are attacked with violence
- White kids think it’s totally okay and normal to photograph themselves lynching a Black baby doll like an effigy
- Member of the most glorified band in the world Paul McCartney made a racist white supremacist song called ‘No Pakistanis’ and everyone still glorifies him as a good person
- Racism in actual political campaign in Massachusetts against a Native runner portraying her name and image in a racist stereotypical inappropriate manner
- Indian Sikh school students protest for students who are banned from wearing their turbans in public schools in France
- Here’s a graph of the statistic that approx every 28 hours an African American is extrajudicially executed in the US
- NYPD profiling and targeting LGBT*Q People of Color
- Black students (especially boys and children with disabilities) face more and harsher punishments in public schools and are being pushed out of schools into the criminal justice system.
- Black male incarceration has jumped 500% from 1986 to 2004
- Albany police: SWAT literally uses a poor Black neighborhood to train in because they say it’s ‘realistic’
- The audio recording from a young man of color of a NYPD stop and frisking him based solely how he looks calling him a “FUCKING MUTT”
- Incarceration rates by ethnicity
- All of this fucking cultural appropriation
A Health Ministry inspector poured bleach over pots full of food in a Sudanese restaurant in Tel Aviv Sunday night.
The inspector, from the ministry’s district office for Tel Aviv, was participating in a raid by police and municipal inspectors on illegal businesses owned by African migrants. Altogether, the raid shut down 10 businesses in the city’s Neveh Sha’anan neighborhood, confiscating their equipment and welding the doors shut. The equipment was then loaded onto vans by other African migrants who had been hired as contract workers.
Many diners saw the inspector pouring bleach on the food, and one, asylum-seeker Aladin Abaker from Sudan’s Darfur region, posted photos of the incident on his Facebook page. He also described his feelings of humiliation.
“Everyone − except the destroyers − was in tears from the humiliation,” he wrote. “The waitress told us, ‘I’ve seen very harsh things in my life, like torture in Sinai, but this humiliated me more than what happened to me in Sinai.”
Abaker accused the inspector of “insensitivity to people and their culture, which sees food as a sacred thing that must be respected,” and said the raid was aimed at “embittering our lives so we’ll return to Africa ‘voluntarily.’”
Altogether, he said, more than 200 kilograms of meat, chicken and fish and over 500 prepared meals were destroyed.
The inspectors said they didn’t know where the meat came from and therefore feared for the diners’ health, Abaker wrote. “We told them: But this is the only place we’ve eaten all our meals for four years now, and none of us ever had stomach problems. Even whites eat here.”
The Health Ministry responded that inspectors had discovered “deplorable sanitary conditions, food stored under unsuitable conditions and temperatures, and food from unknown sources. In order to preserve the public’s health and that of the diners themselves, it was decided to destroy the food immediately. As part of the process of destroying the food, chemicals suitable to this purpose are used. It should be noted that this was a routine process of food destruction that is no different from other destructions of food/meat.”
Tel Aviv’s deputy city manager, Ruby Zelof, said the raids were carried out “to eradicate the undesirable phenomenon of businesses operating illegally, with sanitation and safety problems and illegal connections to electricity and water, and sales of alcoholic beverages without permits.”
Haaretz | Photo credit: Aladin Abaker
Knesset Member Miri Regev — a member of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud Party — called the refugees “a cancer in our body” and Danny Danon — also a Likud Knesset Member — wrote on his Facebook page referring to the Africans as “infiltrators”. Interior Minister Eli Yishai said the African asylum seekers threaten “the Zionist dream,” adding, “Jobs will root them here.”
- Why is the birth rate in Israel’s Ethiopian community declining? Ethiopian women who immigrated to Israel were coaxed into agreeing to injections of long-acting birth control drugs, or told they would not be allowed into the country
- Israeli woman has her photo taken with Africans, titles the Facebook album: “Late night tour of the Tel Aviv Safari”, captions the photo: “There are no signs forbidding taking pictures with the animals. There were no signs that forbid feeding, but we passed on that.”
seriously. My heart hurts reading this. That picture is awful.
The 16-year-old high school student who was arrested after causing a small explosion on school grounds will not be charged with a crime.GOOD.
Assata Shakur, Honey Magazine debut issue (1998)
My friend shared this quote with me today and I instantly remembered another great quote from Assata Shakur that I feel is crucial to be absorbed when reading the quote above “No one is going to give you the education you need to overthrow them. Nobody is going to teach you your true history, teach you your true heroes, if they know that that knowledge will help set you free”.
White Supremacy and Racism Is Alive and Well in America: National Policy Institute, A White Supremacy Think-Tank, Releases Video Stating “We’re Here, We’re White, Get Used to It”
The National Policy Institute is a white supremacy think tank whose aim is to protect and promote white, Christians of European ancestry — you know, people just like our Founding Fathers…
They call themselves “an independent research and educational foundation,” and they’re headquartered in Whitefish, Montana (no, really, even the town they’re in has the word “white” in it.)
“Have you ever wondered, ‘why isn’t there an organization that works for us?,’” their new video asks:
From African-Americans to illegal immigrants—from lesbians to left-handers—every ethnic and interest group has its own lobby or cultural foundation.
The exception is White Americans—our country’s historic majority and founding population—the people that bears [sic] the unique heritage of Europe, Christianity, cultural excellence, and the scientific awakening.
And there are our peculiar folkways—holidays, traditions, and customs—that make us both uniquely European and uniquely American.
Only we are who we are.
So why isn’t there an organization that has our interests at heart? Or maybe the question should be, Why isn’t there an organization that has our children’s interest at heart—as well as those of our grandchildren and generations yet to be born.
Don’t they deserve to live in a country akin to that of their ancestors’?
The National Policy Institute is the 21st century version of the KKK. They’ve just exchanged the white robes and white sheets for plaid shirts, the burning crosses for fear-mongering YouTube videos, and the violence for a pseudo think tank.
This is not a joke. This is real. And it’s disgusting.
Last night Rachel Maddow exposed the National Policy Institute and their ties to one of the authors of Jim DeMint‘s Heritage Foundation‘s faux immigration report that falsely states immigration reform will cost America $6.3 trillion dollars. (More on this shortly.)
White Supremacy is no laughing matter. Hate and fear-mongering are real. Christians and white people aren’t minorities — they have ruled America literally since before America was America. And now that they feel their power waining, they’re willing to do just about anything to hold onto it.
The sound you hear in this audio is fear-mongering, but really, what it is, is their own fear for their own future, which scares them to death.
so the other day in my modern asia class, we were talking about UNESCO world heritage sites for this project we’re doing. UNESCO world heritage sites are basically “culturally or naturally significant” landmarks chosen by a panel working in the UN.
these are the UNESCO sites in all of asia
and these are the UNESCO sites in europe
notice the difference?
yeah there are probably more ‘world heritage’ sites in the middle of the fucking mediterranean than in all of southeast asia. and what really bothered me about the discussion we had was that everyone just sort of dismissed it. like, one girl in my class just explained it off as europe having a higher population density than asia. which…europe and china are about the same size (europe is about 200 thousand square miles larger). china has a population of 1.3 billion and europe has a population of 0.74 billion so if we’re going by population density, china alone should have more UNESCO sites than europe? let alone the entirety of asia. and literally no one else commented on the fact that europe seems to have more ‘world heritage’ than all the other continents. it just made me so irrationally angry for the last ten minutes of class. i mean, my modern asia class is like 4 white people and 16 asian-americans. did no one else notice that these sites were clearly chosen by a couple of old white dudes?
(also, one of the ~6 sites in south india, which is the region i was assigned for this project, is a railway built by the british during colonial rule…………..-_-)
Oh wow. This is so bananas. I’m gonna go ahead and buy me some MSG.
Zuky, I’m glad you posted this. The other night I was getting takeout and the spot has a huge “ABSOLUTELY NO MSG” sign in the window and I was really confused because I never see anyone else advertising their food that way. Now I know why.
Exactly, only Chinese restaurants are forced to put up those humiliating “NO MSG” signs, in response to the widespread racist perception of, precisely, Chinese Restaurant Syndrome. They might as well also put up a sign saying “NO CAT OR DOG OR RAT MEAT SERVED HERE, ALSO NO OPIUM DEN OR DRAGON LADY PROSTITUTE.”
Italian restaurants? French? Japanese? No disclaimers required. There’s MSG in both the dashi broth and miso paste in miso soup but you rarely hear people complaining of miso soup headaches. In fact the “NO MSG” signs are kind of bullshit anyway because there’s naturally occurring MSG in soy sauce and I doubt they’ve stopped using soy sauce. As I mentioned earlier, there’s MSG in human breast milk, so frankly it’s pretty hard to avoid.