top of page

Beauty, a knife

A collection of feelings about the blade.

Written by Yoko Zhu

Edited by Morgan Jenkins

The knife behind beauty is both literal and metaphorical. It manifests in the form of cosmetic surgeries and in the long line to the hair salon. Beauty’s a compliment. It’s a masterpiece of art, heavy with the weight of expectations, and in some cases, the justification for destruction. Beauty is the shackle and the key; the world imbued and stripped of meaning.

In my dorm sits my perfume collection, jewelry, makeup, nail polish–components of an illusion. Sometimes, I think about chucking them out of my window. But I love them. I love my French perfumes. I love my dangly earrings. I love the way they make me feel: like an elevated version of myself. All these accessories are fused within me, and if I was to separate myself from them, I would lose part of myself. That in itself compels me to chuck them out the window even more. I’ve always disliked how I’m kinder to myself when my skin is more clear, when my outfit is more put-together, when I fit this idealized mold of what I could look like every day.

Why am I so attached to the concept of beauty? Perhaps, it’s because pretty things are worshiped. They make you feel something powerful–the closest to divinity man can ever get. There’s something charming about a sunset reflected in the water. I almost cried when I saw Monet’s artwork up-close in Paris. My favorite songs are carved into my heart. Simply put, beauty evokes emotions. It makes you feel something. Therefore, it feels like a personal failure when I’m not beautiful. Maybe, I’m not trying enough. I should wake up earlier in the morning to do my makeup. If I save up, I could afford eyelash extensions. This is a very female-centric feeling: this desperation to mash into a box to be revered as a work of art, to be loved, and to be socially accepted. There’s power and privilege in appearances.

It’s an oppressive construct, demanding and born out of white supremacy. In order to be respected, there’s stipulations: women have to look a certain way. It’s the key to being treated with dignity. Beauty’s a roadmap to basic human decency.

And to be frank, I feel hopeless that our beauty standards will ever be dismantled. The Greeks thought small penises in men were charming. The Victorians liked high foreheads. We are on a see-saw of beauty trends: gone is the BBL era. Heroin-chic has re-emerged, alongside the coquette-Lana-Del-Rey-Bella-Hadid-Virgin-Suicides-Gone-Girl aesthetic. We want our women skinny! We want our women with ass and tits! We want our men to be cigarette-smoking Tim Burton characters! And I imagine the cycle will only change faces (with variations). And I imagine Aphrodite will never die, she will only be reincarnated.

bottom of page