When People Say “You Are Pretty For An Asian”


I don’t think I have ever been told this exactly, but I was interested to write about it after I was sitting in a waiting room. There were voices chattering away – the kind you can’t not hear even when you’re staring off into space. The words wondered into my ears “Her eyes look so Asian though…She looks too Asian in the photo..” and you sort of get the idea.  The idea of saying things a long the lines of “You are pretty for a…” is quite offensive, even though most people who say it mean it as a compliment. This deeply implies racial hierarchy and the idea that Western cultures definition of beauty is what should be attained.

The only time I felt that I had the sentence “You are pretty for an Asian” implied towards me, is when someone may say “Your eyes aren’t as small as most Asians, you look like you are mixed or you seem a little taller than most Asians.”This, again implies that having small eyes, being fully Asian or being short is a bad thing. Which it clearly is not. The emphasis on physical appearances, makes it negative when societies standard of beauty comes into place. Standards of beauty are not realistic when everyone is different. The compliment itself “You are pretty” is fine when it’s well meant, but the comparison on race is not.

I remember over a year ago, I was reading Texan in Tokyo’s blog post which touched on the topic. It places too much value on appearances and it is disrespectful to our culture. Unfortunately, there are some people who do take it as a compliment. In Asia, there are many cases where looking mixed or not looking fully Asian is attractive. There is a desire (not all) for many girls to look more like the Western ideal of beauty. The idea of saying those sort of compliments, creates the thinking that Asian people are unattractive. Beauty should not be categorised into a race.

A compliment is a a polite expression of praise or admiration.

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