Looking into the mirror

This is my submission for this month’s Carnival of Aces topic: Physical Health and/or Our Bodies.

I grew up being frequently being criticized for my looks by my parents. Even now, they don’t let up on the constant scrutiny. According to their way of thinking, I will never be thin enough or attractive enough to be considered beautiful. It’s one of the many reasons why I moved away. I found their criticisms to be abusive and not constructive at all.

Their actions are largely based on Korean cultural beliefs on how women should look and behave. I believe that Korean beauty standards have been covered by the media, particularly on the high rates of plastic surgery in South Korea. The country has very strict standards on how thin you have to be, how pale your skin should be, etc. I’ve lived in the States since I was five years old but I’m still subject to this standard of beauty. Americans complain about how American beauty standards are crazy. But I personally think Korean beauty standards are worse.

My body image is screwed up by my upbringing. I don’t entirely trust myself to provide an objective opinion about how I look. I’ll never be model thin because I’m always 10 pounds over my ideal weight. I think I have normal looks but I’ll never be over-the-top beautiful. I try to conform as best I can. Like, I’m always presentable when I go out. You’ll never see me in pajamas or with wild hair even when I’m on an errand.

And yet I feel resentful to the degree of scrutiny that I’m subject to. And it’s not just me who has to deal with this. Koreans don’t have any qualms of saying “Oh, you’ve gained weight, huh?” to someone they know and they haven’t talked to in a while. I think part of my resentment is due to the fact that Korean society is highly patriarchal. Your value is judged by how you measure up against the feminine ideal. One of the consequences is that a woman’s body has to be visually pleasing to the men around her. This has little meaning to someone like me who’s asexual. And, even if I was sexual, it’s a horrible way to live.

I previously wrote a post about fashion and style. I’m not particularly interested in appearing sexy or attractive to anyone. I’m much more interested in projecting an image of power and social status. I would live in suits all the time if I could. I don’t know how much of my feelings of animosity towards a certain beauty standard is resistance to appearing weak or fragile.

I don’t want to look weak or fragile. For anyone.

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