Several studies regarding body image and beauty perceptions among the minority women have been carried out, for instance, African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans. Nevertheless, limited studies have been conducted on beauty standards and perceptions among women of the Asian American population. The aim of the present paper is to determine the beauty standard of the Asian Americans women, racial features, and the impact of cosmetic surgery. For an effective understanding of the topic, we shall focus on the definition of beauty in accordance different cultures. standard is established and the perceptions of physical beauty ideals. The United States is labelled as the melting pot of different cultures and societies. There are several definitions of beauty emanating from different groups of people and cultures. Nonetheless, the definition of beauty is slowly changing as the nation accepts a single model of beauty, that is, tall, thin, blonde hair, blue eyes, and large breasts. Many young women in the United States and across the globe try to attain such standard of beauty through all means. However, they end up failing because at times it is an impractical and unachievable aspiration. Conversely, such western ideal of beauty is not only emulated by White women, but also turning out to be a preferred beauty standard among several marginal women. Originating from several subcultures in the U.S., many minority women, particularly Asian women, aspire to create an image that is symbolic to what they see in the conventional culture; hence, they adopt the American beauty concept through acculturation, which creates an assortment of traditional and modern values
A model that is applied in explaining the idea of body displeasure among women is the social comparison theory. According to the theory, every person has the ability to assess his/her skills and aptitudes in comparison to others who are similar to them. Furthermore, the theory elucidates that humans are motivated to improve by associating themselves with individuals considered as better than they are (Wood 233). Therefore, the social comparison theory has been significantly applied in explaining the minority women as well as their acceptance of mainstream beauty ideals in the United States.
The Asian American Women’s aspiration of adapting fanciful western features is triggered by several factors. One of the reason attributed to such conformity is the acculturation into the mainstream culture and racial mocking. Acculturation into the conventional culture has a negative impact on Asian American women’s bodies since each culture acknowledges beauty and body ideals from different perspectives. Therefore, a substantial change of one culture’s beauty epitomes to another may be damaging. According to Perez et al. (443), if the transformation of the normal body image and allure takes place in a manner that the normal body image turns out to be unrealistically thin, acculturating could be affected by eating disorder symptoms.
Acculturation refers to the process of taking on the physical characteristics of the prevailing culture into one’s minority traditional culture. The process of acculturation has become a great contributing influence of the recognition ofbeauty standards despite several studies being conducted to ascertain if there is a direct relationship between the two factors. One element that has enhanced the process of acculturation is racial teasing. According to Iyer and Haslam (143), when an individual is teased severally about his/her physical ethnic characteristics, it can result in one accepting the standards of the dominant culture over traditional ones. For instance, the racial physical appearances of many Asians include a broad nose and an epicanthic eye fold, which are different from the unrealistic images of a narrow nose and large eyes. Therefore, the idealization of these imageries has influenced several American Asian women to go for plastic surgery, such as, double eye-lid surgery and nasal implants.
The conventional beauty standards in the United States have absolutely influenced the way Asian American women view beauty. By the initial acceptance of such conventional beauty standard, they are adopting several ways aimed at making them to fit into it. Despite the fact that several women have embraced parts of the dominant culture into their normal lives, some women still uphold numerous traditional practices. Most of the Asian American women have endeavored to integrate themselves into the US conventional culture, at the same time preserving their distinctive cultural heritage. Even though there are several accomplishment stories of assimilation, the harmful negative implications also exist. Traditional, Asian American women’s beauty ideals, for instance, the Hmong entail full, rounded women. Nonetheless, such standards have started changing, particularly for the younger generation. It is apparent through body modifications, which have become popular among Asian subgroups, for instance, hair bleaching to make it lighter, putting on colored contact lenses, making their hair shorter, and application of makeup to enlarge eyes (Lee et al. 213). Several Asian American women have gone to an extend of internalizing such model to attain a super thin figure.
The Fantasy of American Beauty and Asian American Beauty
Generally, Beauty is an undefined standard that differs among several communities and cultures across the world. With an average population of 300 million people in the United States, a clear definition of beauty varies among different subgroups and individuals. Nonetheless, the definition is being streamlined because of the general acceptance among the populations that is aligning to the western ideal. The acceptable images of beauty in the United States have enhanced a prolonged one-sided dominant cultural image of beauty, which is unachievable to many other minority women in nations, such as the Asian Americans and blacks.
According to Evans and McConnel (154), many people using the social comparison philosophy desire to look like those they consider to be better than them. In this case, countless personalities have the desire to evaluate and compare themselves to other individuals to ascertain their skills and performance. Despite the fact that several people are likely to associate and compare themselves with an internal group as well as others who are equal to them, there are several other ways that individuals may equate themselves to others. Upward association entails the self-comparison to other people in a better position or those considered to have a higher status. Nonetheless, such form of comparison is damaging since it can trigger wariness, negative competitiveness, and undesirable feelings towards oneself. On the other hand, downward comparison embroils gauging oneself to others in a low status (Poran 67).
The social comparison philosophy is important in understanding Evans’ comparative analysis and acceptance of the conventional model of beauty among the Asian Americans, Black, and White women. According to the model, many women in the US are likely to compare themselves to the flawless standards of beauty since ideal provides that many people tend to liken themselves to others when they are not sure about their personal level of attractiveness. According to Evans and McConnell (153), it is apparent that out of the three main minority groups in the United States, Black women appeared least influenced by White beauty standards. Such notion is hypothesized to be a consequence of robust support from the Black culture and appreciation of fuller figures. Several members of the affected minor groups might embrace some stratagems for self-protection under threatening occurrences (Evans and McConnell 154). In some instances, the stratagem that may be applied is comparing themselves to individuals who are similar to them instead of likening themselves to the idealized beauty standard. When the minority sub- cultures are rated on how much they would aspire to look, that is, Asian, Black, or White through yearbook photos, Black women perceived other women separate from their in-group as undesirable in terms of beauty. Nonetheless, it was different from other subgroups like the Asian and White women who compare their own level of beauty to only members of their in-group. As a consequent of appreciating culture of thinness, Black women have decided to guard themselves from conventional body pressures by recognizing only in-group fellows as significant comparisons. Furthermore, black women seem not to be influenced much by idealized western principles and have even exhibited increased levels of self-esteem and body gratification as compared as White women.
Conversely, Asian women, unlike Black women, perceive the conventional standard of beauty as desired. Generally, Asian American women and white women have similar thoughts in their aspiration to take on conventional standards of beauty. It is one of the main elements supporting the desire for conformity. According to Evans and McConnell (163), the Asian American sub-group consider conformity to the dominant beauty norms significant. The scale applied by the researchers demonstrated that Asian American women scored high as compared to other groups in their desire to conform to cultural standards, “Asians may believe in an interdependence between the self and the dominant culture. Thus, they should attempt to conform to the standards prescribed by mainstream culture” (Evans & McConnell 163). However, such aspiration of following the conventional standard of beauty can have negative implications to the Asian American women since their physical racial appearance is significantly different as compared to that of the white standard. Therefore, the adoption of this standard of beauty for the Asian American could be the reason behind the high rates of cosmetic surgeries among the sub- groups.
The Changing Beauty Ideal of Asian American Women
Having a clear picture of the Asian or Asian-American experience in the United States is almost difficult because of different ethnic groups in the American society. The ethnic groups are not similar and are differentiated by specific elements, such as culture, language, history, religion, and traditions. Because of such cultural differences, each ethnic clutch acculturates inversely at different rates. Despite the fact that each Asian group is distinctive and different, there are comparable characteristics between them that explicate an incorporation of western beauty ideals.
According to Kawamura (243), there are several resemblances in terms of customary cultural values, physical appearance, and position as an ethnic minority group among the Asian communities. The collective traditional standards, for instance, collectivism, have a direct impact on people’s body images. There are several differences between collectivistic and an individualistic culture, which depends on how people associate with others in a given setting (Chung and Mallery 2). Collectivistic cultures enhance the larger group’s cultural practices before an individual, hence could have a direct implication on the perceptions of body image. In relation to the social comparison model and the self-esteem in individualistic and collectivistic cultures, it is definite that collectivistic persons tend to assume comparisons with an aspiration of developing themselves for the sake of their cultural group. Consequently, it can be conceived that persons in collectivistic ethnic Asian American groups may aspire to uphold a suitable physical appearance since they are symbols of their group. Nonetheless, the efforts to fit into the popular culture are triggered by what is seen as beauty standard, which has several negative implications to Asian American women who reach for a standard body image. It results in body modifications, dieting and low self-esteem (Eating Disorders).
Furthermore, several Asian American women romanticize the western features as seen in the popular media and the effort to look western is what triggers the increased high rates of plastic surgery. The application of plastic surgery to change one’s looks is a prevalent idea for numerous Asian Americans. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons reports, many Asian Americans were expected to undergo cosmetic surgery as compared to any other ethnic group (Chan 1). Despite the fact that plastic surgery entails a personal choice, several white women undergo the operation to enlarge their breasts and liposuction while many Asian women are expected to have cosmetic surgery to alter their physical Asian features (Chan 1). Moreover, it is not surprising for an Asian woman to undergo double eyelid surgery to create an eye-fold and have nasal inserts aimed at creating a narrower nose. It is a clear representation and symbolism of the western beauty of double eyelids or commonly defined as sculpted nose.
Plastic surgery among the Asian American populations considerably transform the facial features that are explicit to many Asians, for instance, slanted epicanthic eye fold and a flat nose. The inspiration behind transforming the Asian American individual racially-distinct physical features to more westernized features is to decrease the humiliation of being a minority. Therefore, the Asian American ethnic cosmetic surgery is not only perceived as a beautification technique, but also as an effort to go beyond racial attain to achieve power (Chan 13).
Moreover, some Asian American women have desisted from taking the risk of plastic surgery through extreme efforts to change their facial features. Many Asian women are forced to focus on their weight since it is something that they comfortably control. Several studies have been conducted on Asian women and eating disorders. The results of the studies have shown contradicting elements about weight issues, body displeasure, and eating disorders of Asian American women. According to Ogden and Elder, Asian American female spawns had lesser levels of calorie concerns and greater body satisfaction. This attributes to the fact that the Asian daughters do not identify with the white models in the media. On the other hand, research by Mintz and Kashubeck (786) involving Asian American and Caucasian college students’ body image and several disordered eating variables established that Asian American women have less dieting and indulging comportments as compared to Caucasian women. Furthermore, the study also ascertained that American women are more likely to be discontented with body parts that they could not simply alter through dieting, for instance, their face, eyes, breasts, arms, and height.
Because several Asian women incline to have smaller body frames and body-mass indexes, they are frequently labelled as being certainly small and thin. Therefore, such stereotypes can lead to conventions that Asian women do not have eating disorders, which can spread their aspiration of preserving a thin body size that is idealized in conventional beauty standards. Women and girls from diverse ethnic populations and backgrounds are equally susceptible to eating disorders and weight issues. Nonetheless, the main problem is that this facet is often not reported. Several researches carried out classically do not embrace ethnically diverse populaces; therefore, cases of eating disorders among cultural ethnic groups, such as Asian Americans, are often underreported (Eating Disorders).
Furthermore, as a result of the ethnic standards and traditional assessments concerning mental health problems, Asian American women are not expected to look for any sort of assistance if they have body image concerns (Lau et aI. 263). By tradition, many Asian cultures perceived curved or even stout body shapes as more beautiful since they signified good health and affluence. Although the shift in approaches from traditional beauty standards to American held notions attribute to the change of beauty standards, research has indicated that acculturation and racial features teasing are the two main contributing factors (Perez et al. 445).
There are several implications of the feature issue of teasing and racism among the Asian American populations. Because of the stronger relationship between racial issue, teasing, and an adherence to conventional standards, the Asian American population has made several efforts to attain change in their appearance. Through racial issue teasing, the Asian Americans’ unique physical and racial features are mocked. According to Iyer and Haslam’s (143), because of drawing spiteful focus to their ethnically distinct features, racial teasing causes marginal women, in this case Asian American, to embrace the beauty norms of the dominant culture, misidentify with their conventional culture. Consequently, the end result makes the women to go through identity issues, suffering and self-disparagement, thereby encouraging plastic surgery, eating and body image disturbances. The consequence is increased cases of plastic surgery that make the Asian American women to adapt a western look and feel acceptable in the society. The characteristics of Asians and Asian Americans are so different when compared to those of the conventional culture, hence, many White Americans continue to look at them as foreigners or non-America despite the fact that some of them were born and raised in the nation. Therefore, as a result of being viewed as outsiders, many young Asian Americans ladies are clashed about the concept of their uniqueness. A proposition is that the impact of such mocking among other experiences that are racist in nature could manifest itself as internalized racism, that is, the self-antipathy of one’s own racial features. On the other hand, the white or conventional features are associated with admiration, acceptance, and self-esteem (Kawamura 246). Moreover, several years of racial features teasing can also result in the Asian American women being discontented with their physical features. Generally, all such implications lead to increased levels of plastic cosmetic surgery among other effects that make the Asian America women to feel comfortable in their dominant cultures.
Cosmetic surgery is often perceived as an avenue to enhancing social relationships among the Asian Americans in the United States. In most instances, cosmetic surgery patients undergo the process so that they can be accepted in the American society. Many Asian American minority women trigger negative comments from the conventional population as a result of their appearance, making them to opt for cosmetic surgery, particularly for persons who are delicate to social rejection. Some women also undergo cosmetic surgery to fulfill other people’s expectations and seek attention or admiration. Nonetheless, whether cosmetic surgery patients can attain the mentioned goals relies on how positively they are, the cosmetic surgery is socially appraised. The acceptance of the body image is determined by the considerations of other cultural elements. This is because even if the women undergo the surgeries but still uphold the minority negative attitudes, they can still be affected by the same experiences from the conventional groups. Several attitudes towards cosmetic surgery have emerged, for instance, older women, individuals with lower self-esteem and those women with stronger look concern showfirm support of cosmetic surgery. Nevertheless, up to now, attitudes toward women’s cosmetic surgery in America have fundamentally been unexplored. Studies undertaken by Tam (460), show by that female undergraduate participants in the United States supposed that cosmetic surgery patients are estranged or unhealthy and ascribed some undesirable character personalities to them.
In conclusion, it is evident that beauty standards depend on the specific culture of individuals. Despite several changes that have taken shape, the United States and Asia traditionally accentuate different components of physical appearance in order to determine the standard of beauty. The implication of not being compatible to the standards of one’s beauty, for instance, the Asian American is often as a result of body dissatisfaction from racial features criticism of the conventional white culture. The social comparison model provides explanations of how women, particularly the Asian Americans, develop body discontent. Conferring to these models, women make several efforts to attain acceptable and desirable features through conformity to standards created by conventional agents, for instance, the media, which result in processes such as plastic and cosmetic surgery. The American conventional culture is largely responsible for the adoption of the American beauty concept by the Asian Americas through acculturation, hence creating an assortment of traditional and modern values.
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