The issues at stake are loaded: ethnic identity, standards of beauty, the politics of diversity, what constitutes race, and whether exercises of vanity can reshape it.
From 2005 to 2013, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons estimates that the number of cosmetic procedures performed on Asian-Americans increased by 125 percent, Hispanics by 85 percent, and African-Americans by 56 percent. (Procedures on Caucasians increased just 35 percent.) This is, in part, simply a mark of rising purchasing power: Plastic surgery is nothing if not a sign that one has money to burn and status anxiety to spare.
White liberals want to look less white to assuage their guilt. Or it’s the Jewish Nose Problem being counted as Caucasian, see: Angelina Jolie, Scarlet Johannson, Natalie Portman (way too small for her face, come on!) We might count weeaboo omegas.
One trend in common: looking more European.
And doctors comfortable advertising their expertise in ethnic plastic surgery are growing wealthy creasing Asian eyelids, pushing sloped foreheads forward, and pulling prominent mouths back. These are procedures outsiders generally view as deracinating processes, sharpening the stereotypically flat noses of Asians, blacks, and Latinos while flattening the stereotypically sharp noses of Arabs and Jews. Some are refinements of formerly rare procedures like the ones that deformed a generation of Jackson-family noses, while others arrived Stateside from the bone-breaking, muscle-shrinking, multi-procedure extremes of Korean and Japanese plastic surgery. And, in fact, many procedures under the “ethnic” umbrella have no Caucasian model at all, as the Asian women asking surgeons to reduce their cheekbones can attest.
I have prominent cheekbones and I’m as white Northern European as they come, perhaps they’re referring to lengthening the face by de-emphasizing the width of the cheekbones and making it less rounded?
A tour of the cosmetic-medicine clinics shaping those bodies and faces paints a more complicated portrait of beauty, too–one that includes “white” ideals like thin noses and arched eyes, yes, but also alternative archetypes like childlike chins and exaggerated butts. The patients display an equally wide array of motivations.
They do know these things are genetic signals right? Geneticists can now map someone’s face by their DNA. Thin noses, more feminine, full (not large) lips too. Men have a more prominent forehead ridge and jawline thanks to testosterone.
And some guy in Korea (I think Korea?) sued his wife for producing ugly children because he married her under the false pretenses of her surgical beauty. He won. It’s considered fraud in Asia. Let’s wait and see how that law expands out.
Because, as we all know, race is hugely more complicated than a handful of traits on a face. And many of these new procedures come with horror-show backstories, stretching from the ugly days of phrenology and eugenics to contemporary cultural flash points like hair-straightening and skin-lightening. Practitioners have long defended those treatments, too, as personal beauty choices and not deracination. But the stakes for ethnic plastic surgery are higher than those for a hairdo–most are alterations to the identity-giving part of the body, the face, and often permanent. Still, even as phrases like nice Caucasian features sneak into their language, the practitioners and recipients insist that ethnic plastic surgery isn’t about looking white. To them, this new expanse of procedures is not a sign of ethnic self-loathing but proof that the loud-and-proud club of American narcissists has admitted a new set of members–and with them new ideas of what qualifies as beautiful. The people I interviewed differed in their aesthetics, politics, and medical preferences. But they passionately agreed on one thing: No matter what white people say, this isn’t about them.Plastic surgery doesn’t have to be a sign of deference to some master race, they told me. In fact, it could be the opposite.
When’s the law passing stopping black women from dying their hair blonde and white women from getting arse implants?
If we ban skin lightening creams (which remove age spots) we must remove fake tan too (which hides blemishes).