Whitewashed dolls

By littlesweetfish No comments

Like the sisters in The Bluest Eye, I once destroyed a doll. It had chestnut hair and soft, large eyes. Her racial ambiguity with a Japanese name confused me, and I felt resentment when I looked at her. So I slapped her, drained her underwater, and cut her hair.

Even after that, my family and relatives bombarded me with the gifts of dolls. One had brown hair because her father was French and mother Japanese. The other had blond hair because she was a model from Los Angeles. Adults must have thought I wanted them because I enjoyed playing with a paper-made dress-up kit. But my focus was on the numerous styles of clothing, not the paper humans. Despite initial indifference, I was fascinated by the miniature shops and houses made for the dolls. Adults mistook it as my love for the dolls. The persistent message of “girls love dolls” eventually got to me, and I started to react with enthusiasm whenever I received another doll as a gift.

The beauty standard in Japan at the time valued a hint of “whiteness” in facial features. Fair skin, brown hair, double-eyelids, high nose bridge, thin nostrils, pointy jaw, small face, and long limbs. Many of the popular actresses and singers were mixed-race or the least Japanese-looking. The girl from Bulgaria once saw a Japanese fashion magazine I had and said of the actress on the cover, “why does she look like a white girl while Japanese facial features are beautiful?”

Lucy Liu was and still is unquestionably, stunningly beautiful. For Maya, it was her Asian-ness – shiny jet-black hair, almond-shaped eyes, high cheekbones, that disgusted her. It was a distorted perception of beauty and an internalized racism, but was she to blame? Wasn’t it only natural that Maya, who had grown up criticized by her mother for her appearance, came to hate her own racial features?

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