Skip to content

Hymenoplasty and Cosmetic Surgery

2009 January 31
by Marwa

The New York Times article about the debate over Islam and virginity brought up an interesting question – has the prejudice about the importance of woman’s virginity that was supposed to buried years ago returned? While the article talked about some of the different scenarios that had occurred in France, I feel like we got a very European and Western look at the issue. How do the people who actually got the hymenoplasty procedure done feel about this kind of technology?

I was born in Saudi Arabia and lived there for 7 years and then lived in Bangladesh for 11 years. Saudi Arabia has a 100% Muslim population, and Bangladesh has 88% Muslims. Growing up with Islam around me, I saw the importance of virginity before marriage in Islamic cultures. It is important for both men and women (It just so happens that men don’t have a hymen to tear…) Whether hymenoplasty exists or not, the families of the person who has lost virginity will be put to shame in very Islamic societies. The surgery doesn’t change that fact. In fact, the surgery helps restore peace within families in which someone has lost her virginity before marriage. There isn’t a way of finding out if a man has lost his virginity – now a woman has the ability to hide it too. My initial reaction when I had first heard of hymenoplasty was, “Whew, so many people can get back their respect now in Islamic cultures. You don’t know about a man’s virginity for sure, now you can’t be sure about a woman’s either.” While in European societies, this is seen as prejudice towards women since they don’t want the importance of virginity to be there, in Islamic societies, I feel like this might help women, since the importance of virginity will always be part of the culture.

Out of the other two readings, I did “The Face value of Dreams: Gender, Race, and the Politics of Cosmetic Surgery.” It talks about how cosmetic surgery advertisements focus on the gain but rarely on the complications that can occur, or the painful stage that precedes the final effect of the surgery. It also focuses on how cosmetic surgery reinforces the idea of what is beautiful and what isn’t, where the Caucasian look is considered “beautiful and superior.” While I understand the author’s point of view, I feel that often people just want what they don’t have. Those with curly hair want it straight, and those with straight hair want it curly. Or they want what isn’t common in their nation/area/race – they want an “exotic” look, not necessarily Caucasian.

I thought this news piece would be interesting for this discussion: Do pretty people earn more? “The ugly truth, according to economics professors Daniel Hamermesh of the University of Texas and Jeff Biddle of Michigan State University, is that plain people earn 5 percent to 10 percent less than people of average looks, who in turn earn 3 percent to 8 percent less than those deemed good-looking.”

3 Responses
  1. Shikha permalink
    February 2, 2009

    That’s interesting. I never thought of hymenoplasty as liberating. To me, it’s society placing an undue amount of emphasis on something that isn’t THAT important. To be willing to get hymenoplasties is surrendering to this repressive attitude. It is agreeing that being sexually active and not being accepted in society is okay. It is agreeing that a person isn’t their personality, it’s whether they have an intact hymen or not. It’s agreeing that woman are biologically inferior to men.

    Instead of praising hymnoplasty, I think we should be fighting for our fundamental right to live a life free of sexual discrimination. Especially because having a broken hymen doesn’t necessarily signify loss of virginity anyway. And restoring it is like lying, which isn’t exactly a virtue.

  2. Marwa permalink
    February 2, 2009

    Like we discussed today in class, I feel like this can allow those people to live the way they want but at the same time be able to keep their relation with their families who might not have similar points of view. It isn’t stopping them from being who they want to be – it is helping them keep their ties with their parents or grandparents who would be dishonored if they find out the children in their families are not virgins. It might be a short term solution – but who knows, in the long term it might help too. If the people getting the surgery are doing it for their families but don’t agree with that importance on virginity, then when they are parents themselves, they won’t place that emphasis on their own children, knowing what they had to go through themselves.

  3. Shikha permalink
    February 4, 2009

    point taken. hopefully you are right about societies evolving.

    the last line in the article struck me: “Even if the woman was no longer a virgin, he had no right to expose her honor. This is not what Islam teaches. It teaches forgiveness.”

Comments are closed.