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Cosmetic Surgery

2009 February 1
by Mista Jay

Along with the article I chose to read “The Face-Value of Dreams: Gender, Race, Class and the Politics of Cosmetic Surgery.” From what I read in the two pieces, I believe they contain an underlying theme of “illusions.” I think it was this idea that got me so frustrated with the women undergoing the two respective surgeries in both articles.

The first article spoke about Muslim women’s desire for the illusion of their former virginity. David Sordella stated: “These women can live in Italy, adopt our mentality and wear jeans, but in the moments that matter, they don’t always have the strength to go against their culture.” However, I disagree with this. I feel that it’s not that these women don’t have the strength to go against their culture–for once they’ve lost their virginity, they’ve already done that. I think it’s that they do not (or believe they do not) have the strength to face their culture’s consequences for their actions. Of course, I realize that those consequences, especially when they could very well involve death, are extremely serious which means that for Muslim women the act of losing one’s virginity before marriage really should require serious, serious thought. I don’t think that it frustrates me that Muslim women (and men) are expected to save their virginity until marriage due to their religion or the fact that some do uphold this practice—one should be free to practice whatever religion they chose. I just think hiding behind an illusion of virginity is repressive (and dishonest to both the family and to the woman) to the point that makes a woman’s virginity more important than the woman herself!

In the second reading, the women too, hide under an illusion, that of “conformity”. Now going into this article, I was never comfortable with the idea of cosmetic surgery, and by the end of the article, I was even more uncomfortable with it. While I agree there are two sides to every coin, and these women in Peru could very well use the economic boost that cosmetic surgery can offer them, I cannot bring myself to believe that conforming to a western ideology of beauty, hiding oneself and moreover (just as the previous article) lying to oneself, is the way to go.  Once again, it frustrates me that a woman’s ability is completely glazed over, and that she is only defined by her body. Also, in an earlier post, Mawra said that these women do not want a “Caucasian” look, but more so an “exotic” look, because people always want what they can’t have. A part of me agrees with that statement, because maybe these women don’t exactly want to have a Caucasian look. What these women want is not necessarily the LOOK, but what the look brings them. As Bañales says with use value and exchange value, having a straighter nose rather than a curved nose has no real use value because both allow for breathing, but these women believe that the straighter nose can score them that job that they very much want, and in most cases, need. If instead, a large more curved nose was the look that got them the job, I believe the women would suddenly take great pride in their noses. Yet I think I disagree with the with the whole exotic aspect since I find it a bit strange that there seems to be only one kind of “exotic” for these women. Besides, what I find interesting is that if so many women want to become “exotic” and give into the reality of their “exotic” look, which is conformity…then really, they are not becoming exotic at all. If everyone has the same look, then no one is really exotic at all.

While reading these two pieces, I remembered back when I was in sixth grade, a friend of mine who was Asian tried to explain to me what “double-eyelid” surgery was. Now, my twelve year old self was mainly thinking about how strange and honestly, silly, that sounded. I mean, eye-lids were, eye-lids, right? I couldn’t understand why my friend was so proud to be born with creases in her eyelids, after all, before that conversation, i didn’t even realize that people did (or didn’t) have creases in their eye-lids. However, as we grew older the topic kept coming back in our conversations, about how so many Asian women feel the need to have this pricey surgery done to have “bigger-eyes” because they were considered more beautiful. So, after I read the two articles for class, I searched online and found this article  to bring to class on the practice, and different opinions on the practice itself.

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