I am taking SOAN 100 this semester and we were assigned a reading that I thought related closely to what we are discussing as far as Asian American women and this undermining notion that everything has to be “American” or “Hollywood.”
The article was called "Opening Faces" and was about a Chinese American women in her forties who had her upper eyelids surgically cut and sewed by a plastic surgeon to get the "open appearance" look in her eyes. She wanted to look more American. Ellen did not like being classified as foreign or Oriental because she viewed herself as an American and wanted other to view her the same way. She was proud of the fact that she had her eyes changed from being "slanty" to "wide" and open. Not only did she want to be viewed as American, but also her family. She even asked her high school aged daughter to have the surgery done. The difference in the mother and the daughter was that the daughter liked her eyes. She did not mind that they were puffy or not as wide. Although Ellen nagged her daughter about having the operation performed, her daughter still decline to have it done. The daughter really did not understand the importance her mother saw in the operation.
I found this rather disturbing only because after reading the article and discussing it in class, we found that the mother was pushing her daughter to change her physical appearances not because she was ugly or have imperfections, but simply because of her natural features. The daughter thought herself to be American with or without the surgery. The mother was the one who was not happy with her looks. I find this interesting because in the books that we are reading, we see how people have this perception of what America is and should be. Hollywood has made it the norm to have plastic surgery and change what is not liked and enhance oneself to be better, but for Asians to now want to change their appear to comply with Hollywood seems like it has now been taken to the next level.
In Dogeater we see how the characters all want something from America: Hollywood, New York, Las Vegas. America has placed an illusion on them all and they want to achieve the American Dream, but in reality the American Dream is not for everyone to look alike and have the same eyes, ears, and noises, but to be individuals and succeed in our own ways.
I brought up this article because I mainly wanted to see what everyone else thought about it. Why would Asian Americans, any generations of America, want to change their features to look more Caucasian? I guess Hollywood has placed such an emphasis on being "perfect", skinny, and tan that now it has gone even further to having people of other nationalities change their appearance to look like something that does not really exist if America is a true melting pot.
*If anyone is interested in reading the article it is:
The Politics of Cosmetic Surgery and Asian American Women
Page 4 of:
Mapping the Social Landscape
Readings in Sociology
By, Susan J. Ferguson