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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