Why My ‘Fox Eyes’ Shouldn’t Be Your Next Beauty Trend

As the ‘fox eye’ trend receives viral success on Instagram and Tik Tok thanks to supermodel supporters, Tatyana Rutherson explains the sinister history behind the make-up hack and how it perpetuates a narrative of racism against Asian communities.

WORDS Tatyana Rutherson

If you spend long enough aimlessly scrolling through the endless feeds of content that have consumed a somewhat shameful portion of my time in quarantine, you can start to witness the inception of fashion trends. Usually, this follows the typical pattern, starting with our insatiable hunger for celebrity culture – a celeb sports a certain ‘look’ that trickles down through a network of influencers before eventually making it into the mainstream. The internet then provides the means to replicate these looks through platforms such as Instagram, Youtube and Tiktok. You know the drill by now. You’ve seen it with faux freckles, glossy lids and face-framing blonde streaks. 

The newest craze, donned by the likes of Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner, is the ‘fox eyes’. There are a multitude of tutorials but the following steps seem to be consistent. Extend the brow-line on a diagonal and apply liner to the inner and outer edges of the eye upwards to elongate it. Once complete, the model will pose, lifting the temples with a ‘candid’ hand to accentuate the drawn-out eye shape. This same hand gesture has been used to tease and torment the Asian community for decades. So why has it now become acceptable, even encouraged, in the name of getting that #snatched Hadid look? 

It must be stated that elongated eyes are not exclusive to the Asian community: they also appear in other ethnicities from the Middle East and Africa. And many celebrities like Hadid have even undergone surgery in order to achieve this look, so it is not make-up alone that helps create the illusion. Eye-liner has also had a long-standing history dating back to Cleopatra’s famous cat-liner, through to Bollywood’s bold lines and Grace Jones’ iconic beat. But the problem is rooted in the hand gesture. A single action that, for many Asians, can trigger memories of ridicule. 

As someone who is Japanese and has lived in Tokyo, I can confidently say that the admiration of caucasion features there is the legacy of white aesthetic superiority, but I know the same can be said for many other Asian countries. In Japan, it has led to a growth in beauty products that aim to make the consumer look more Western. Double eyelid tapes and glue, big coloured contact lenses and whitening products all endorse the notion that Japanese faces are not beautiful in their natural state and must be changed. It is therefore unsurprising that Japan’s most popular model, Kiko Mizuhara, is half American. 

The problem is rooted in the hand gesture – a single action that, for many Asians, can trigger memories of ridicule. 

The 2019 International Survey on Aesthetic/Cosmetic Procedures Performed in 2018 states that in Japan 141,596 eye-lid surgeries were undertaken. The next highest figure for single operations on the face is rhinoplasty at 28,644 patients. If surgery is too daunting, one only needs to walk into the nearest convenient store to find pre-cut double eyelid tape for no more than £1. 

In 2013 the American television personality, Julie Chen, admitted to having had surgery on her eyelids. Chen disclosed she felt pressured by her boss who insinuated she would not find success in her career because her ‘Asian eyes’ made her look ‘bored’.

This aesthetic hegemony that safeguards white superiority is just another form of discrimination designed to keep minorities out of prevalent positions in society.

In a world that continues to internationally integrate, it is unacceptable that non-White folk are still made to feel stifled in their industry due to the way they look; diversity should be celebrated. This aesthetic hegemony that safeguards white superiority is just another form of discrimination designed to keep minorities out of prevalent positions in society.

This can be seen most obviously in Hollywood. From the highly offensive, caricature-like neighbour played by Mickey Rooney in ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ (1961), to Scarlett Johannson’s casting as Major Motoko Kusanagi in ‘Ghost in the Shell’ (2017), the casting of white actors as Asian characters is equally dehumanising. It implies that Asians are not even allowed to represent themselves and their narratives. The fox eyes trend is a continuation of white people appropriating Asian identity.

Some may say that the trend is harmless, paying tribute to the beauty of elongated eyes. On the surface level, yes – this makeup trend was not created as a malicious act of racism. However, it is undeniably problematic when contextualised in a history of bullying into racial conformity. There is, therefore, irrefutable privilege when white people have the choice to take on these aesthetic looks. Chen’s ‘Asian eyes’ not being ‘appropriate’ for American TV; the prevalence of Eurocentric beauty ideals in Asia; the history of white actors playing Asian roles; and elongated eyes only being attractive when done by white people, are all so clearly part of the same narrative. They must be seen as such. 

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Matt Bernstein on Queer Politics and Beauty
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