By: Francesca Tanmizi
“Don’t worry, once you grow up, you can get the surgery and fix your eyes!”
“It’s not fair! I don’t have tape or glue to fix her eyes! Give me someone with normal eyes!”
These were actual things people said to me, growing up with monolids. I grew up in Indonesia and Singapore, and the pressure to have “double eyelids” (eyelids with a crease) is high. I grew up believing that getting the “double eyelid surgery” to add a crease to my monolids is a normal rite of passage like graduating high school or making questionable fashion choices in your teenage years.
Even today, people still treat monolids as something that requires fixing. In Crazy Rich Asians, a movie that claims to be all about Asian empowerment, there’s even a problematic scene that shows how normalised the hatred for monolids are. In that scene, Rachel is getting help from her friends, to look gorgeous for the wedding. Her friend, Peik Lin started throwing out all the beauty treatments she needed, and that included “eyelid tape”. Another friend, Oliver agreed and insisted she needed everything.
People treat monolids as something that requires fixing
Eyelid tape basically forces your eyes to either fold into a crease, or a bigger crease. I think almost every girl with monolids have been told to use it to “fix” our eyes at least once.
Now, these are supposed to be “good” advice given to Rachel by her friends, who successfully transformed her into a glamorous fashionista who made a splash at the society event of the year. These were not the catty socialites who were attacking her by suggesting she get plastic surgery.
What I found even more upsetting about the entire scene is that there is no criticism of it online. While people got upset over the lack of Singaporean accents, the lack of local talent, the lack or racial diversity and more, no one mentioned this scene at all. That is how accepted the idea of monolids being something that requires “fixing” is.
Saying no to the surgery was definitely scary, because I kept wondering if I made a mistake. Everyone kept telling me I would look so much prettier with a crease, and make up would be so much easier. So many people questioned my decision to the point where I felt as if I had just elected to get extreme plastic surgery to look like a cat.
Saying no to the surgery was scary
I thought when I moved to the US in ’05, where people are supposedly more woke and liberal, I’d get less crap about my eyes, but to my surprise, some of the most painful comments I’ve received about my eyes were from Asian Americans.
While in Asia, people just treated me like a weirdo for saying I’m proud of my monolids and it’s a racial feature I don’t want to change, I’ve actually gotten anger and hostility for saying that from some Asian Americans. People have accused me of racism for saying that. Apparently, calling monolids a racial feature is racist, because Asians have creases too. Wanting to “fix” monolids isn’t problematic at all, because monolids are just universally ugly and in need of fixing. Questioning someone’s decision to get rid of their monolids is being part of the white supremacy, because only POC get questioned on their beauty choices.
Even today, these attitudes are still prevalent. When I tried bringing up the problematic Crazy Rich Asian scene in a reddit post at /r/muacjdiscussion, a beauty discussion subreddit that typically leans liberal, I got attacked big time. The post ended up removed. People got upset and defensive over eyelid tape and their decisions to get plastic surgery. Many people immediately jumped to the conclusion that I was accusing them of trying to look white even though I never said that.
People got upset and defensive over eyelid tape
Yes, Asians have naturally occurring creases too, but calling monolids a racial feature doesn’t mean I’m saying creases aren’t Asian. I’m saying monolids are NOT a deformity that needs to be “fixed”. It’s fine if you want to use eyelid tape or get the surgery, but please do not justify it by insisting that monolids are just universally ugly and shouldn’t be considered a “racial feature” that someone can be proud of.
Yes, eyelid tape is common in Asia, but just because something is common, doesn’t mean it’s something we can’t question –or worse, turn it into something uniquely Asian that we must be unquestioningly proud of. Foot binding was once a unique part of Chinese culture, but that doesn’t make it right or something we should embrace with pride. If no one questions problematic beauty standards, we won’t get amazing movements like #UnfairAndLovely.
We have to question problematic beauty standards
Another defense of eyelid tape I often get is that it’s just a fun part of makeup like falsies. As someone who enjoys makeup and experimenting, I totally get the fun in changing your features. But let’s be honest, a lot of times, eyelid tape is pushed as a “necessity” and that’s a problem because monolids DO NOT need fixing.