Wednesday, May 25, 2011

On being 'healthy', cont.

"My school English teacher is so kind and pretty and talented teacher... she like a snow white. But I am ugly. I'm sad. I want a laura teacher face."

I found this in my student's English diary today. She is an advanced student and has a special agreement with me where she writes journal entries and I correct them. She knew I would see this. And it breaks my heart.

This is not just a case of pre-teen self-consciousness. This student's sentiments are not a lone voice in South Korea. In fact, idolization of the 'Western image' has been creeping its way into Asia at an alarming rate for some years now, and having a scary effect on our world's children. Watch the following CNN video, broadcasted just last week, and you'll see what I mean.

I understand that the media has a massive effect on the way we view ourselves, but when it becomes so viral and downright vile that it threatens to wash away the uniqueness of other cultures and turn us into a singular, cloned version of Barbie, isn't it time we take another approach? I know it's easier said than done, but aren't the differences the very things we should be embracing about ourselves? And shouldn't cultures be proud of this, instead of trying to erase them?

At the end of the day, I'm still not sure what to write as a response in my student's diary, with exception of three words:

you are beautiful.

I can only hope that has some effect.
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  1. A sad state of affairs indeed, but the U.S. is equally guilty of perpetuating beauty ideals. Idolization of the "Western" image exists in some countries because for centuries, the West has led us to believe that Whiteness is the standard of beauty.

  2. Kate said...

    Please read "Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture" by Peggy Orenstein, I can't stop thinking about you while I read it!