Where Do Our Notions of Beauty Come From?

As an Asian American man, I’m a little vexed when Asian American women are exoticized by non-Asians – “Me love you long time” sort of comments and notions of “war brides” make my skin crawl.

But what brings me pain is when Asian American women don’t see themselves as beautiful. And with technology and cosmetic surgery being more available, I found it problematic to hear of Asian American women flocking to get eyelid surgery. This is different than breast augmentation or a simple nip and tuck. Or is it?

Where do our notions of beauty come from? It’s not just a matter of wanting to look White. Obviously, even White women wrestle with notions of beauty…

This is where I wonder if imperialism by consumerism/materialism no longer needs a driver. A Frankenstein, a monster that now operates with no respect to its creator. Beauty then is one of those things that becomes encoded into the operating system of consumerism. And then many people (not just individuals, although there are certainly men who gladly influence and parade notions of what beauty is, but by themselves, they can’t account for the mass influence) begin to contribute to that definition of beauty and its pursuit — it is the democratization of oppression, so to speak.

But the decoding happens when we separate the notion of what is beautiful, an abstract, and wonder why in this particular case (and many particular cases), this particular woman finds her “eyes” unattractive. She herself doesn’t know why. But the pathology becomes apparent — there’s nothing wrong with your eyes. The reality begins to prove the abstract concept false.

In this sense, reconciliation is a very realistic process. It takes the abstract notion of love and peace into very real terms by decoding them into reality. Which is why when the Apostle Paul writes, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

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About David Park

Christian 2nd-generation Korean American; Atlanta Georgia; more details to come. View all posts by David Park

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