Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 12 July 2015





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

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 woman.”

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 follows:

*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 beauty.

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


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