Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Beauty is in the eye of the Beholder or Soceity?

I was chatting with my Korean co-teacher the other day about comments that some of the children had noted about me:

small face "ooh teacher face so small!" is what they actually say.

As I have said in the past, they always like to note the redness of my face. I LOVE that! Who doesn't like to be compared to Rudolf?

And my voice. But it hasn't just been children who have commented on my voice, but taxi drivers and other random adult Koreans.

Grace, my co-teacher, explained that they find my features attractive because that is what they find beautiful. Koreans typically have wider faces, but what they desire are thin faces. And rather than seeing high cheekbones as an attractive trait, when they have plastic surgery, one of the procedures they ask for is a shaving of those cheekbones. So when they see my tiny face, they find it pretty because it is small. They like my voice because it is girly and light. It is important to be feminine, even child-like (hence why they like the sound of my 12 year old like voice)

Korean women put a lot of stalk in beauty. I guess I shouldn't just say just women, Korean society puts a lot of stalk in beauty. So much so that they will wear next to nothing when the temperature outside is so cold it is likely to take off any skin it touches. Beauty is important, and if you don't have it, then you need to get it. One of our co-workers has mentioned that even when she goes to the grocery store, her mother will insist that she put make-up on or else she won't be seen with her.

Me: How many Korean women get plastic surgery do you think?

Grace: Of my friends, at least 50%. Most girls want to get their eyes done. (Koreans want round eyes so the most common plastic surgery is the double eye-lid procedure)

Me: What else do they want? What do they see as beautiful?

Grace: Koreans have flatter faces, they idolize the Western look so they want fuller noses, narrow chins and small faces. Probably nearly 100% of celebrities have plastic surgery.



" The researchers found that eight out of ten Korean women over the age of 18 feel they need cosmetic surgery, and that one out of two has undergone cosmetic surgery at least once. 69.9% of the respondents said that they suffered stress because of their appearance. In addition, 81.5 percent of women between 25 and 29 felt the need for cosmetic surgery and 61.5 percent of that group said they have already had it. Only 20.4% of respondents felt that surgery should be avoided if at all possible. Asked to identify which areas of their appearance they were most dissatisfied with, 17.1 percent said their lower body, followed by the abdomen (14.6 percent), body weight (12.5 percent), height (11.6 percent), skin (11.1 percent), face (9.6 percent), and upper body (9.5 percent). 55 percent of those surveyed agreed that “external factors, rather than internal factors, are more important in defining a person’s beauty.” http://twitchfilm.net/archives/009144.ht...

"At 18, Saeko Kimura was a shy, sleepy-eyed university student. Until she discovered a secret weapon: if she applied a strip of glue to her eyelids, her eyes became wider, rounder, prettier. "Men noticed me," she says. "I became outgoing. Suddenly, I had a life." Her new looks also landed her part-time work as a hostess in an upmarket bar, where she gets top dollar on a pay scale determined by beauty.

But Kimura lived in fear of discovery, rushing off to the bathroom several times a day to reapply the glue and never daring to visit the beach. And so, at 21, she finds herself in a doctor's office in a Tokyo high-rise, lying on an operating table with her fists nervously clenched. Plastic surgeon Katsuya Takasu breezes in wielding a cartoonishly enormous needle. "This will hurt a little," he says cheerfully. Once the anesthetic is administered, Takasu brandishes another, hooked needle and threads it through Kimura's upper eyelids, creating a permanent crease. He then injects a filler fluid called hyaluronic acid into her nose and chin and pinches them into shape. Takasu inspects his handiwork. "The swelling will go down in a few days," he says. "But even if you went out tonight in Roppongi, you'd be a hit." A nurse hands Kimura a mirror. Though red and puffy, she now has the face she's always dreamed of: big, round eyes, a tall nose, a defined chin. The entire procedure took less than 10 minutes. But Kimura collapses with an ice pack on her face and moans, "Oh, the pain."

What we won't do for beauty. Around Asia, women—and increasingly, men—are nipping and tucking, sucking and suturing, injecting and implanting, all in the quest for better looks. In the past, Asia had lagged behind the West in catching the plastic surgery wave, held back by cultural hang-ups, arrested medical skills and a poorer consumer base. But cosmetic surgery is now booming throughout Asia like never before. In Taiwan, a million procedures were performed last year, double the number from five years ago. In Korea, surgeons estimate that at least one in 10 adults have received some form of surgical upgrade and even tots have their eyelids done. The government of Thailand has taken to hawking plastic surgery tours. In Japan, noninvasive procedures dubbed "petite surgery" have set off such a rage that top clinics are raking in $100 million a year....

The culturally loaded issue today is the number of Asians looking to remake themselves to look more Caucasian. It's a charge many deny, although few would argue that under the relentless bombardment of Hollywood, satellite TV, and Madison Avenue, Asia's aesthetic ideal has changed drastically. "Beauty, after all, is evolutionary," says Harvard psychology professor Nancy Etcoff, who is the author of Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty—not coincidentally a best seller in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and China. Asians are increasingly asking their surgeons for wider eyes, longer noses and fuller breasts—features not typical of the race."- Time Magazine

"South Korea is even more competitive than it is conservative. And with so many young people having themselves remade, parents are afraid their children will fall behind, not just academically but aesthetically. "Parents make their kids get plastic surgery," says Dr. Shim Hyung Bo, a plastic surgeon practicing in Seoul, "just like they make them study. They realize looks are important for success." Which means that in today's Korea, getting your eyes done can be easier than getting the keys to dad's car." (Time Magazine)

One thing I learned in my communication classes is that one thing in common with almost all "beautiful" people is the symmetry of their face is far more accurate than us "common folk." I am not sure if this ideal spilled into other cultures or if it only covered western culture. But regardless it seems that Western influence is continuing to touch all facets of life all over the world. Whether this is a negative or a positive, I do not know. What is your opinion on this matter?


Anonymous said...

I love reading your posts and this one in particular!! Thanks :)

a reader in Amsterdam

Kimberlina!! said...

"and even tots have their eyelids done."

Oh man, that got me. I'd like to start taking a survey here to ask about that. But I've definitely seen the tape in stores.

I have a friend that has really good teeth, and apparently she gets asked if she's actually Japanese by other Japanese people, quite often. I also get the small face treatment here, even though my face is so much bigger than many of theirs!

Anonymous said...

So interesting. . . but its too bad so many of them think they need plastic surgery. Diversity is what makes life interesting.

Anonymous said...

What a fascinating post! The more I read, the more sad I became, especially the part about parents making their kids get plastic surgery. It seems to go against the whole "inner beauty" philosophy here in the states.

Thanks for sharing!

absolute said...

Thats shocking! I thought plastic surgery was only common(ish) in America/Eurpoe!... Hmmm, I think all 'types' of people are beautiful in their own right, but its sad that 'beauty' seems to be such a big issue.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

This is fascinating! It's so hard to imagine a 21 year old girl having an "eye job". Forget about children. Even American pageant moms don't take it *that* far (or at least as far as we know...)

BPOTW said...

A.maze.ing. It seems like the Koreans do a lot of things in extremes. Sexism, physical aesthetics, academics(?). That is so sad that they are forcing their kids to have surgery.

SandySmile said...

I never really thought about this. Thanks for enlightening me. I found it very fascinating about the plastic surgery with the double eyelid. (BPOTW)

bettyl said...

I had heard a bit about this, but I didn't know it was so rampant. There is some comfort in being 'more mature' [read: older] and more secure in myself to know that the looks will fade [or the plastic bits will look good with wrinkly skin all around it *shudder*] and it really is who you are that's important.

kenziekylanmom said...

I am so sad by your post...it was a great post but just extremely sad. My children are both adopted from S. Korea and I just think that they are gorgeous and can't imagine them wanting to change the beauty of their eyes or faces. I get stopped in the grocery store all the time by people telling me what beautiful children I have. I hope they never have to go through this.