The (Bluest) Eyes Have It

By Tami Winfrey Harris

“Adults, older girls, shops, magazines, newspapers, window sign – all the world had agreed that a blue-eyed, yellow-haired, pink-skinned doll was what every girl child treasured. ‘Here,’ they said, ‘this is beautiful, and if you are on this day “worthy” you may have it.'” – Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye

Is achieving idealized beauty worth a laser to the eye? For some, the answer is yes, based on comments to articles about an LA doctor’s new procedure that turns brown eyes blue. The Orlando Sentinel reported:

If you’ve always wanted blue eyes, but have brown instead, there might be something you can do to change that. A doctor in Laguna Beach called Stroma Medical says it can use laser technology to change brown eyes to blue — permanently — without damaging vision.

When it comes to body image, we live in “don’t like it, then change it” times. Suffering from thin hair, laugh lines or a flat ass? That’s nothing hair extensions, Botox and booty surgery cannot “fix.” But in the age of the dramatic makeover, we shouldn’t stop analyzing why certain looks have more social currency than others.

I’ve always found genuflecting to light-colored eyes particularly icky. It stinks of concession to Aryan supremacy. If brown eyes are boring, ugly and inferior and blue eyes dazzling and beautiful, does that mean that all groups of people for whom blue or green or gray eyes are extremely rare are physically boring, ugly and inferior? And is it a coincidence that many people of color fall into the “less desirable” category of brown-eyed and brown-haired?

While I’m ranting, I should add how much I hate it when members of the dominant culture assume that I desire the same physical features they prize–features more common to their race than my own. Count me fed up with magazine articles, blog comments and casual conversations that include some version of Ugh! My eyes are plain old brown–so boring! Every girl wants to be a blonde just once, amirite? 

No. You are not right about what every girl wants, particularly this Black girl.

Blue eyes can be beautiful, but they are neither automatically nor supremely beautiful. And brown eyes are beautiful, too. Just look at the soulful eyes on the woman to the right. It is their deep brownness that makes them so compelling.

Look, I’m afraid to get Lasik on my poor, nearsighted peepers. The chance of me subjecting my eyes to a laser for some cosmetic frippery is not likely. But I’ve no beef with someone who desires cosmetic surgery for themselves. I do question the tacit idea that blue eyes are better. (Can you imagine someone hawking a surgery to turn blue eyes brown? Yeah. Me neither.) It’s a side effect of a beauty hierarchy that marginalizes the majority of the world, including women like me.

Originally published at What Tami Said on November 2, 2011. Cross-posted with permission.

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6 thoughts on “The (Bluest) Eyes Have It

  1. I am half Mexican-Indian and Finnish. I look just like my dark skinned father but I have lighter skin and was born
    With blue eyes. Being shy and deeply protective of my Mexican ancestry has made having blue eyes a source of
    Pain and self-hatred. I would say, “If only I had brown eyes that would make me more Mexican.”
    I still wear brown contacts, although not as often…it definitely made me feel less “authentically”
    Mexican…my sisters have brown eyes and are never asked “what are you?”
    If I say Mexican….they say,”…..and…what else?” Ten years ago I would’ve gotten that eye surgery blue-brown!

    Being half is never enough!

  2. I was born with the “ideal looks”. Pale, scandinavian with bright blue eyes and blonde hair. My hair quickly turned brown and my eyes became bright green. Having a “rare” eye colour has made me aware of the incredibly stupid beauty hierarchy that you describe where the media seems to think everyone wants to look scandinavian. I often get complimented on my eyes once getting the “compliment” “wow, your eyes kinda look fake!”

    I certainly don’t think everyone in the world wants to look like me, neither should they. That’d be incredibly boring.

  3. To comment on Kourtney L.’s post, blue eyes aren’t a fad. Its been the prominent beauty feature when men sing about lovers, and the chief eye color of today’s heroes. Comic book or otherwise. I don’t think they’ll ever go out of ‘style’ because it represents racial superiority, intentional or not.

  4. One thing I have learned is that our culture is a plethora of fads, “In today and out tomorrow.” Pale skin use to be the ultimate goal in society and now every young girl is racing to the tanning booth to look tan for the prom.

    Eye color is just another fad. I wouldn’t be so concerned about having the wrong eye color, I would be more concerned about creating your own fads and showing your own natural beauty.

    Thanks for the post.

  5. Thank you for posting this- I’ve always loved blue eyes and wished I could have been born with them. Classic boring-brown-eyes syndrome right here. But after reading this, it hit me- how could I have been so blind to not see how racist this boring-brown-eyes opinion is! There is no way that it is a coincidence that blue-eyed-ness is a trait of whiteness. Thinking that brown eyes are boring or unattractive is just as bad as thinking that darker skin is unappealing. Just another form of whitewashing. There’s nothing wrong with appreciating beauty in blue eyes, but there is something very wrong about the devaluing of brown eyes, and the subsequent devaluing of those who are brown-eyed. Brown-eyes are beautiful too!!!! From now on, I’m gunna embrace my super-awesome-and-interesting-brown eyes 😀

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