I remember being in high school and watching SuChin Pak's documentary on MTV, which followed a young Asian American woman through the eyelid procedure, and even share her own discomforts of insecurity and wanting to look more "beautiful," if that meant having doublelids. I thought this was pretty big and heroic, even for an MTV v-j. I found comfort in that documentary, and as one with monolids, I felt supported and happy with them.
I'm from the LA area, and this is going to sound weird, perhaps not, and very typical--but I feel very self-conscious when I'm back home. And this summer I felt more insecure than ever. And this is coming from a woman who's proud of being AA and a woman, has taken GWS and AsAm courses and participated in the Vagina Monologues and such. But I kept thinking about my eyes and feeling more insecure. I knew I wasn't going to get the surgery, but I needed to convince myself why, and so I remember one night in the computer lab at Princeton, I googled words like "Asian American women," "plastic surgery," "double eyelids." I found articles from Asian Nation, SF Weekly, E-Women's News, YourAsianGirlfriend, and came across clips from CNN, the Tyra show and Oprah. And then I youtubed, and was disgusted by some of the ads I saw for such surgery. Reading and watching all of this reaffirmed my beliefs.
I'm in my senior year at Cal, and the idea of completing a thesis around this issue is tempting. And I got permission from my department chair to make a documentary for my thesis. The thing is, I don't want to produce something that just shows eyelid surgery is being done, and that it's a bad thing. I think that's the type of material that is perhaps, overdone. As a blooming scholar and activist, I want to do something more than that. And that's what I'm still trying to figure out. What concerns me is that I, and many other women and men still feel this insecurity, and that makes me worry. I worry for my sisters, my friends and my peers, and the AA community. I don't have big plans to sell this film. It's more for me--to explore filmmaking, for me to do something scholarly and creative, for me to reach out to my family and friends. Frankly, I'm tired of writing papers for a grade.
The question I have is, how do I portray this in a way that doesn't show surgery is wrong and that it's happening? I'm thinking that one route is to research the responses people have to the surgery. I'm curious to find out more about why and how people develop their opinions about eyelid surgery, and also how this surgery is one of many across communities of color.
I think there's more to be said about cosmetic plastic surgery than manipulating one's physical features. There's the underlying assumptions of beauty, identity and security. This makes me wonder. Do those who oppose surgery feel more self-confident, beautiful and secure than those who don't? And, do those who undergo surgery feel more confident and beautiful after doing so?
There's so much, and I'm excited and I'm not gonna lie, but a little overwhelmed, but mostly excited because, WOW, this is something I'm personally connected to and I get to make something, hopefully positive, of it.
*this post was inspired by a discussion with my friends at 8asians.com