Featured Image: Cosmopolitan
A recent trend on Tik Tok known as the “fox eye challenge” has gotten people to shave their eyebrows and share makeup tricks to achieve upturned almond-shaped eyes. Some have even turned to brow lifts or thread lifts, to have the sutures temporary pull their eyes up into shape. This phenomenon is consistent with the new popularization (especially online) of slanted eyes, which seems to be mainly inspired by American models Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid.
The cat-eye was internationally brought into vogue in the 1950s, and is just as well-liked today. However, a substantial difference lies in how it is being presented nowadays. When I search up #cateyelook on social media, I feel impressed with some users’ talent but also taken aback by the way some of them are shown boldly pulling their eyes up. While the pose isn’t meant to be offensive in this particular context, it holds undertones that rub me the wrong way.
It doesn’t take much contemplation to recognize that this new eye-pulling gesture in the name of beauty corresponds to the mockery many East Asians have experienced in their lifetimes… and still do. Sin-Paulus Campus College Waregem, a Dutch secondary school in Belgium, sparked outrage just this March for posting a photo of some of its students posing in stereotypical Chinese costumes and brandishing a ‘Corona Time’ sign. One of them is seen pulling up the corner of her eyes. It just goes to show that prejudice against East Asians, even in educational circles, is unfortunately still very much recurrent.
And that’s why I feel uncomfortable when I witness the same gesture used to jeer at an entire ethnic group being simultaneously taken advantage of to market make-up brands/looks. It is a charged pose, and although some will say I am being prickly, I can’t wrap my head around how others didn’t even seem to think twice before opting for it.
This topic is still so fuzzy and novel that many haven’t even considered holding a conversation about it yet. Where exactly do we draw the line? This question inevitably leads to subjective answers. Nonetheless, what strikes to me as crystal-clear limits — like the notion of “don’t slant your eyes up with both of your hands the same way racists do to mock East Asians” — doesn’t seem to cross the mind of those who have the privilege to turn a blind eye to them.
This newfound western idealization of ‘fox eyes’ does feel a bit weird to me; a feature that has for the longest time made so many feel inferior to eurocentric beauty standards is starting to be commodified into western culture. While Instagram did ban ‘cosmetic surgery’ filters last year, and supposedly removed “effects that make people look like they have had lip injections, fillers or a facelift”, it appears that filters that give you slanted-eyes were exempt from that rule. As of now, the same Instagram filters that help some of my peers accentuate their features often make me look extraterrestrial: take this Animal Crossing-themed filter that could’ve looked pretty cute if it weren’t for the way it unnecessarily slits my eyes.