My story starts with a makeup tutorial on Youtube.
A doll-faced girl on the screen gingerly dabs at her face with an assortment of brushes and powders. She smiles alluringly at me, holds up an eyeshadow palette, and proceeds to demonstrate which colour goes where. A nude base for the lid, champagne for the crease, rich mocha for the outer crease edges, and a pop of white for the inner corner. A few strokes of a brush to blend it all out, then top it off with eyeliner and copious amounts of mascara. The Youtube girl chirps that this look will ‘really open up your eyes’, and ‘accentuate how wide and big they are’.
I press my fingers to my eyelids, and sigh.
Some Chinese (and other East Asian) people are gifted with what’s called a ‘double eyelid’, which is when the crease is clearly visible on the eyelid and resembles the shape of a Caucasian eye. This particular eye shape complies with most standards of beauty around the world. On the other hand, those who don’t have a double eyelid are burdened with a ‘monolid’, which is when your entire eyelid is smooth, with no visible crease line. This eye shape is known to make your eyes appear smaller and narrower, and therefore is not desirable.
Worst of all, there is a considerably smaller amount of makeup tutorials tailored for monolid eyes.
(Ok, that’s not actually the worst thing.)
Ever since I can remember, I have wished for my eyes to look different. It’s a shallow, small part of who I am, and I should be proud of this emblem of my ethnic heritage, I know. But when you’re surrounded by family, friends, and media who all claim that double eyelids are the way to go, it’s hard not to wish to be able to go with the flow.
My eyes fall into the monolid category. Apart from that, they’re usually puffy and embellished with monstrous dark bags from staying up late reading or on the internet. Most East Asian people have finer, less dense hair growth than other ethnicities, and my eyelashes have not escaped this. I think I have about seven eyelashes in total.
My parents like to remind me of how much more delightful I used to be as a child, looks included. They often say things like, “It’s such a waste. When you were born, you had such nice double eyelids. Your eyes were so big. Oh, where did the double lids go?”
To this, I usually toss them an irritated, aloof look, and pretend that I’m fine with my monolid eyes. Even if they don’t meet the beauty standards of most of the world. Even if I’ve been conditioned to think that they are inferior. And most of the time, I am fine with it.
But then my friends come along. Since I go to a school whose student body is composed primarily of children of Asian immigrants, they are acutely aware of the difference between the types of eyes. Those who have double lids quietly (and sometimes not quietly) pride themselves on it, and tease others who have smaller, monolid eyes. They say things like, “Come here, let’s compare eyes. Do you have a double lid or a monolid? A monolid? Wow, that sucks”, and if they realize that perhaps they’re being a bit offensive, they’ll add on, “But hey, at least your eyes aren’t super tiny, like so-and-so’s. Now those are some small, Asian eyes.”
People with smaller, monolid eyes either shrug off the teasing or join in on it. Who doesn’t love some good old self deprecation? Who doesn’t love someone who’s not afraid to take teasing? Most importantly, who wouldn’t rather put themselves down than face accusations of ‘being too sensitive’? I would personally rather join in on the fun by saying, “Yeah, I have, like, no eyelashes and no crease. It’s sooo sad”, than make a big deal by saying, “What’s wrong with it though? You do realize that holding a double lid and bigger eyes as a standard is perpetuating Western beauty as the norm and eliminating and invalidating different types of ethnic beauty?”
If I said that, I might as well just say, “I’m butthurt.”
Finally, the media. I’ve read enough self-love, body-positivity articles to know that the media is mostly evil and manipulative. They make you think that you need to look a certain way, because they want to sell you things. They utilize professional models, strategic lighting, and heavy Photoshop to market dreams of impossible ‘beauty’. In conclusion, you shouldn’t uphold the media’s standards. Yet, it’s hard to change my ways when everywhere, there are advertisements for products that sound like this:
‘Make Your Eyes Bigger!!’
‘And Now, Something You’ve Never Heard of or Seen Before: BIGGER EYES!!’
‘Monolid People, Buy this Eyelid Tape, or Get Eyelid Surgery!!’
‘If You Want Your Eyes to Be the Size of Your Whole Damn Head, Buy This!!!!’
Maybe, I’m a tad bit over-sensitive about this. But this is just my viewpoint on what it’s like to have monolids in a world where huge, double-lidded eyes are the ideal image. (Eye-deal image. Haha. Sorry.) If you don’t agree what I think, that’s alright. You’re entitled your own opinions as I am to mine.
In the meantime, I will leave this issue by touching on the social media trend known as #Chink, #ChinkEyes, or #ChinkyEyes. While the word chink is officially defined as ‘a narrow opening or crack, typically one that admits light’, it has been popularized a derogatory slang phrase against people of Chinese or other Asian descent.
The hashtag is used in pictures where someone thinks their eyes look small, and therefore, resembling those of a ‘Chink’. I’ll let you find out more yourself; here is a Refinery29 article, the Twitter results for the hashtag ChinkEyes, and a Buzzfeed article on the issue.
If you’re someone who thinks #chink is funny or trendy, it’s really not. It says something about your intelligence if you have to defer to racial slurs in order to appear funny. Also, you have a crap sense of humour.
If you’re someone who regards double eyelids as the epitome of beauty, it may be time to open your eyes to non-Western beauty. Who got to dictate that a certain eye shape is the most beautiful? Try examining beauty standards from all over the world, admiring and respecting both similarities and differences between them. At the end of it all, if you still think double-lids are better, that’s fine. Once again, it’s your personal preference. Just don’t go shoving your opinions and standards into others’ faces.
If you’re someone who is insecure about your monolid eyes, don’t be. Your eyes look different from some other people’s, so what? That’s the only thing that is different. Don’t let anybody devalue what they stand for: your ethnic heritage, a large and important part of your identity of which you have every right to be proud of.