What few Penn students know is that Gangnam is also Asia’s plastic surgery capital, where Asian faces are carved to resemble Michelangelo’s stone white sculptures. Here, Asians bleed for double eyelids and Pinocchian noses.
It’s no better across the Pacific. Just take a look at the racial composition at the creme de la creme of Greek organizations at Penn.
At parties, I’ve overheard girls whisper “Asian” to each other before walking away from my friend. With her hand, the sorority sister air-beheaded herself like Marie Antoinette.
In 2010, Time published an article on interracial dating that cited a study which examined 1,558 Yahoo! Personals profiles. Asians won the prize for having the least attractive men — fewer than 10 percent of those surveyed expressed an interest in them. After a similar study of 1 million users, OkCupid.com concluded in a blog that “racism is alive and well.”
How did Asian males become the least sexy species in America? While there may be evolutionary underpinnings to why we find symmetrical faces and certain body types attractive, racial preferences are socially constructed. The number of condoms we use today also suggests we have long passed our evolutionary stage.
According to Dr. Lee’s equation, average beauty (B) is a function of two variables — racial depictions in the ethereal realm of high art (A) and the media (M). It looks like —
B = A * M.
Although Asian Americans are supposedly good at equations, this simple algebra makes things really hard for us. How many beautiful Asian-American athletes, actors and artists can you name? Can you picture any great works of art portraying a beautiful Asian man? Zero times zero makes zilch.
While the media has come up with more diverse and nuanced ways to depict Asian-American males, we’re still boxed in the roles of geeks, Kung Fu masters, villains, servants, awkward sidekicks and factory workers who make your iPhones.
In movies, Asian men never land the roles of heroes who save spoiled princesses. Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee may be badass, but are they beautiful? They can only fight so many battles for Asian masculinity.
Many would agree that the heart of masculinity pulsates beneath our pants like any other. Michelangelo showed that the rules of attraction are culturally relative when he denounced big penises as ungraceful (hence the size of David’s reproductive organ).
Since we live in a post-Freudian world, however, would Asians be diagnosed with “penis envy”? I don’t know. You’ll have to have pillow talk with an Asian guy to find out.
What I do know is that Yao Ming was the tallest player in the NBA until he recently retired. The honor of the most fertile man in history probably goes to Genghis Kahn, since roughly 8 percent of Asian men descended from his seeds.
In the realm of American civilization, what have Asian Americans contributed other than sushi and kimchi? For serious aesthetes, architect I.M. Pei and video artist Nam June Paik may come to mind. Their avant-garde art, however, does not necessarily translate into quotidian beauty.
In the search for our aesthetics, black brothers can serve as a lighthouse to FOBs like myself acclimating to American terroir.
In the early 20th century, W.E.B. DuBois made a clarion cry for the birth of black aesthetics. He received an enthusiastic response in the form of the Harlem Renaissance as well as the rise of jazz and hip-hop.
In this century of Asia, Asian Americans should embark on our own cultural renaissance, as well as politico-aesthetic activism like environmentalists’ “small is beautiful” campaign and the black power’s “black is beautiful” campaign.
So to all Asian Americans at Penn: we are already wealthier than the average American, so stop obsessing over biology and business and turn to the arts. The rise of China will make Asians more beautiful, as art follows finance like Belle followed the Beast.
If we want to become beautiful against the backdrop of American cultural inertia, we cannot keep waiting for an Asian prophet.
JY Lee is a College and Wharton senior from Gangnam, South Korea. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. “Wandering Curious Lee” appears every other Tuesday. Follow him @junyoubius.