The Racially Charged Debate Around Eyelid Surgery
Following Julie Chen’s disclosure that she had eyelid surgery 18 years ago, the Asian American community has entered into a lively debate: Are Asians who decide to undergo the eyelid surgery abandoning their heritage?
Cosmetic Eyelid Surgery: What’s Involved?
Julie Chen underwent blepharoplasty surgery with a goal of opening up her eyes, making them appear larger and less Asian. During the surgery, creases are made along the eyelid to make the eye appear larger and more Westernized. The surgery has been extremely popular in Asia and is surging within the Asian American demographic here in the U.S.
Julie Chen is an American television personality, news anchor, and producer for CBS. The major point of contention in this debate is the reason behind Julie’s decision to undergo eyelid surgery. When discussing the surgery in the media, Julie admitted she felt the surgery was necessary to further her career.
When Julie was a local news reporter in Dayton, Ohio nearly 20 years ago, her news director said she could never be an anchor due to her Asian eyes. After deciding to leave the station, several other people in the industry cited her eyes as something that was limiting her success. So Julie felt obliged to have the surgery in order to advance her career.
Unfortunately, she did not undergo the surgery because she wanted to. Rather she felt pressured into the procedure because of the racist views expressed by industry insiders at the time.
The Wider Debate
The San Francisco Gate recently ran an article covering the raging debate that many Asian Americans are currently having in the Bay area in the aftermath of the Julie’s revelation, in which a range of opinions were expressed.
On one end of the debate, many Asian Americans feel that undergoing an eyelid procedure is abandoning their Asian heritage and culture. By undergoing eyelid surgery, they are succumbing to the Western ideals of beauty and perpetuating that Asian Americans are not naturally beautiful and do not belong in Western society.
At the other end of the spectrum people think it is a personal, not a cultural decision. If an Asian American believes eyelid surgery will boost their confidence or improve their life and they have the means to pay for it, then the decision is for that individual to make alone.
More Subtle Surgical Techniques
Fortunately the field of cosmetic surgery (and society in general) has certainly moved forward significantly since Julie Chen underwent her procedure in the 1990s. Surgeons now seek to make cosmetic enhancements that work with, rather than eliminate, their patients’ ethnic facial features.
In fact, the San Francisco Gate article concludes with an observation from a Bay Area surgeon, who noted that many of his Asian patients that undergo eyelid surgery, want a more subtle outcome that “opens the eye” without creating Westernized creases.
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