The essential issue with a surgery that people get to eliminate or “westernize” the epicanthic fold in their eyelid isn’t dissimilar from too many other arguments about similar surgeries: do you get bigger breasts to fit in, to feel happier, to get ahead? Then what’s wrong with it? If a trans woman gets Facial Feminization Surgery again, so she can fit in, and not to “as trans” as she might otherwise, then what’s wrong with it?
Long ago I decided that unless I were in a similar situation, I couldn’t judge and won’t judge. People make what decisions they do for themselves.
The financial argument – the ‘how dare someone spend that kind of money on vanity?’ kind of critique – also strikes me as a moot point. Every single day people in the industrialized nations spend money on stuff when other people need malaria netting for their beds and clean water.
So where do you end up? I don’t know whether to focus this issue on the marginalization and orientalism that contribute to the kind of discrimination Leo experienced or on the aesthetics and our absurd beauty standards:
The truth is more complicated, if you ask Jiang: “There is a difference between looking more like a white person and looking less like your race,” he believes. “At the highest echelons of beauty, the categories all begin to look the same. We’re all trying to achieve racial transformation, but in a homogenized center ground. My personal view is that there is a white, idealized version of beauty associated more with Western beauty ideals. The argument is whether it’s coincidental or constructed.”
There are two major ways of thinking about it, for feminists: on the one hand, that no one who lives in a culture with all of these intersected oppressions can possibly make a choice out of their own free will (and that a feminist, in rejecting these oppressions, will reject any decision that compromises her ability to resist patriarchy/beauty standards/sexism/etc, OR, that every individual has to make choices based on personal agency and the ability to recognize systemic oppressions and choose to do something to circumvent or resist them.
So which is it? Is he grabbing the bull by the horns or being gored by it?
Personally, I find the epicanthic fold beautiful, and always have.