I stumbled across this—what I considered to be—a truly bizarre video, but by the end of it I realized, here is just another example of how women are continually told that what we look like trumps all other concerns in every single culture.
I am familiar with the traditional Japanese drawings of women with their white faces and tiny bow mouth, and have seen Asian women covering their mouths politely when they laugh, but I didn’t know that full lips or an open mouth are regarded as course and obscene.
Let me say that again; in Japan, a woman’s open mouth is considered obscene.
Equally ridiculous things are frowned upon right here in the good old US of A; the slightest hint of aging or an un-skinny body to name the two most insidious.
But this video drove home to me once again just how ridiculous and dehumanizing beauty standards are. It’s so much easier to see what’s absurd if it’s not you that you’re looking at.
As I watched the girls in this video, I wanted to rip away their paper masks aka “liberation wrappers” (as if hiding behind a greasy hamburger wrapper while you gag back your food is liberating) and see them tear into a big juicy burger like their lives depended on it—and like their boyfriend did.
Of course, you know me, I’d hope it was a veggie burger—but that’s a whole other can of worms—or lentils as the case may be.
Fascinated by the oppressive “ochobo”, I began to take a look at other things Japanese women subject themselves to in the name of beauty. A quick Google search unearthed a whole Tumblr culture of women documenting their double eyelid surgery, a procedure they undergo in order to have more “western” looking eyes.
I found blog after blog of gruesome details involving already beautiful women surgically tearing open their eyes and sewing them back together in a new configuration. I’d already seen this practice in elephant’s article about the Chinese husband who wanted to sue his ex-wife for bearing ugly children, but somehow seeing all these young, anonymous faces of people who looked like kids my own kids might hang out with was even more disturbing.
A little more digging and I turned up this, something with which I was totally un-aquainted; the practice of Japanese women purposefully making themselves pigeon toed to appear more “cute” or attractive. In the pictures I saw, this uncomfortable and unnatural stance seemed reminiscent of foot binding (and also high heel wearing in general) in that it deliberately hobbles women to make them less powerful.
All these trends are deeply personal to me, as a woman who has also, in the name of beauty, hidden myself, hobbled myself, and even gone under the knife. The beauty monster owned me in my twenties—and I still battle it today.
Convinced I was ugly and unworthy, I sought praise anywhere I could find it and ended up working at a strip club and then using the money that I made there to rip open my chest and have it sewn back together in a new (more “beautiful”) configuration.
I’m no different from these Japanese women. When I see them hide their faces, and change their eyes, and get sued by their husbands for having ugly children, and limp around on their pigeon toes I feel so sad.
Sad for them, sad for me, sad for all the girls in all the world who believe that they are ugly.
Want 15 free additional reads weekly, just our best?
Ed: Bryonie Wise