The Bluest Eye

[Trigger warning for racism; colorism.]

still image from news footage of brown eye being turned blue by laser procedure
[Image from KTLA news segment; post title from Toni Morrison's novel of the same name.]

Because in this age of Impossible Beauty, no one can ever be beautiful enough, Dr. Gregg Homer of Stroma Medical in California is developing a laser procedure that will turn brown eyes blue:
[Homer] announced on KTLA-TV that he had come up with a laser procedure that removes the brown pigment, known as melanin, in the iris. Once removed, the blue color underneath is revealed, giving the person blue eyes. Homer said the procedure takes about 20 seconds.

"We use a laser that's tuned to a specific frequency to remove the pigment from the surface of the iris," he told KTLA.

The change is irreversible because, once removed, the melanin cannot grow back.

Sound scary? Homer says he's been working on the science for 10 years. He told the news channel that he and his team had 15 ranges of "sophisticated" tests to make sure there is no eye tissue damage during or after the procedure.
Despite Homer's assurances about the safety of the procedure, which may be available within two years, Dr. Robert Cykiert, associate professor of ophthalmology at NYU Langone Medical Center, told ABC News that the laser treatment is "risky" and "very likely to cause a high pressure in the eye, known as glaucoma," which could be temporary or permanent, and can cause permanent vision loss.

Taking extreme risks to one's health in pursuit of beauty is not new, of course; there have been several high-profile deaths from plastic surgery procedures in recent years. And, like other procedures developed to facilitate conformance to a kyriarchtypal beauty standard, the bluing of eyes reinforces privilege. Homer is unabashed in his privileging of blue eyes:
"The eyes are the windows to the soul; [there's] this idea that people can actually see into it—a blue eye is not opaque. You can see deeply into it, and a brown eye is very opaque, and I think that there is something meaningful about this idea of having open windows to the soul," Homer told KTLA.
Silly narratives about blue eyes being more "readable" are nothing more than codswallop used to justify the privileging of blue eyes, which are associated with whiteness, though not every person with blue eyes is white.

In both some white communities and some communities of color, there is a privileging of lighter eyes—blue, green, hazel, light brown—over dark brown or near-black eyes. It's a variation on colorism, which privileges light skin over dark, and has its own legacy of bleaching and lightening and lasering similar to the one Dr. Homer is trying to build for eye color. Light eyes, pale skin, hair that is light and fine and straight—these are all privileged to create a kyriarchetype that treats everything else as "exotic." As other. As less than.

Suffice it to say, I find Homer's "revolutionary" new procedure to be deeply problematic on multiple levels. Discuss.

[Commenting Guidelines: There are lots of women and men who like to play around with eye color using contact lenses, and, should that become part of the discussion, I would ask commenters to bear in mind what I said here: "Quite evidently, we each have a responsibility to think critically about our individual decisions, and not pretend they happen in a void even when we make choices for no one's pleasure or security but our own. Just because one is doing something for hirself doesn't magically turn it into a choice without cultural implications. But it's eminently possible to critique the culture in which individual choices are made, and the cultural narratives that may affect our decision-making processes, without condemning those individual choices. Or the people making them."]

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