Tongue in cheek
Mirror, mirror on the wall:
After years of consuming anxiety-inducing ads that alert me of my
‘flaws’ (my brownness, my shortness, etc.), I’ve begun to realize the
alarming ways in which I, at times, view myself. I admit that, during
one of my most vulnerable moments, I’ve asked Google, “What is
inherently ugly about being short?” I went deeper and deeper into this
wide Web, stumbling on blogs that offered various answers including:
“Clothes look best on a proportioned, lengthened body.” I looked down at
my short torso and my somewhat bloated stomach and despised what I
viewed as mistakes.
While I lurked online, I noticed what was being touted as the
solution: an ad for leg-lengthening surgery. I could hear the male,
authoritative advertising voice attempting to sell the surgery to me.
“Do you desire to be taken seriously?” he’d say.
“Would you like to be the envy of all your friends? Well, what if I
told you the secret to attracting a tall, chiselled, well-dressed man is
having long, beautiful legs?” And for the final blow, in which the
voiceover preys on one of my insecurities: “Remember, you’re an Asian
I perused articles on leg-lengthening surgery, already feeling
inadequate enough to consider undergoing the procedure. I learned that
there are various and extremely painful options. For example, in one
procedure, a surgeon would purposefully break my shin bones and would
slowly separate the broken bones until my body attempted to heal itself
by growing another bone within the fracture. This would be repeated
until the desired length is produced. The surgery itself can take months
to be completed.
Afterwards, I’d spend the painful, months-long recovery period in a
wheelchair. And there would be the possibility that I’d never walk
again. I presented this information to my mother and she, rightfully,
contemplated never letting me go on the Internet for my cosmetic needs
again. She held my head in her hand, narrowed her eyes at me and asked
if I was okay. In response, I asked her if my health insurance would
cover the shin-shattering surgery.
Fortunately, the moment of desperation passed. The risks that the
surgery posed were not and are not worth the possibility of me fitting
into one, limited construct of beauty. Unlike other components of my
cosmetic improvement wish-list, lengthening my legs is not easily
achievable. But, in light of realizing how warped my self-image can
become, I’ve reflected on the rest of this wish-list, which is as
*Straight, manageable hair: I remember getting my first perm, which
chemically straightened my hair, at 13. Prior, I viewed many messages,
including advertisements, that seemed to communicate, “coarse hair is a
defect. Straight hair is not only beautiful, it is professional.”
*Shapely eyebrows: I started waxing my bushy, brown and black
girl-staple eyebrows, now deemed beautiful in the modelling industry.
*Plump lips: Since my lips are big, I didn’t wear lipstick or
coloured lip gloss for several years. I didn’t want to draw attention to
my lips when they are viewed as ugly and animalistic when attached to a
brown body, but trendy when attached to a white one. See: Kylie Jenner.
Also, see: advertisements that mostly use models with European
features because of the white beauty ideal.
*Fair skin: According to Dove, Olay and other cosmetic companies,
fair skin is perfection. While I never lightened my skin, I can’t help
but wonder about the privileges I could enjoy if my skin was lighter.
The use of self-deprecation, insecurities and the highlighting of
what advertisements would have you believe are flaws is known as the
intrinsic defect method. And like others, I’ve fallen victim to it
because of the power that sexist and racist images yield when compounded
with social inequalities.
But, during the moments when I’m vulnerable, I try to remember that I
have no obligation to meet anyone else’s standard or construct of
I don’t have to succumb to the pressure placed upon women to be
beautiful because my worth, and the respect that I deserve, should not
be contingent upon my beauty as others perceive it.
-Not so funny women