In plastic surgery we trust

2011-06-25 16:43

Americans pay for 85% of cosmetic procedures (surgery, laser and injections) by borrowing. And there is no minimum down payment, as is required in most other countries.

Cosmetic surgery was once only available to the wealthy, but has become a large industry, producing “a much more widespread standardisation of Americans’ faces and bodies”, says Laurie Essig, author of American Plastic: Boob Jobs, Credit Cards and Our Quest for Perfection. A practitioner was quoted as saying cosmetic surgery now attracts “everyone from hairdressers to Walmart executives’ wives”.

Patients are 90% female and 80% white, and between 2000 and last year, spent $12.5?billion (R85.5?billion) annually.

Sector growth, at 465% over the past decade, has kept up with the widening of the gap between the rich and poor.

The cosmetic industry did not suffer much from the global financial crisis. In fact, people became more determined to change their appearance, even if that meant a second mortgage on their home.

What about the cosmetic surgery practitioners?

Most began by wanting to do something else, something better, especially reconstructive or reparative surgery. However, they ended up doing breast implants and liposuction because they had loans (often for medical education) to repay. Some claim that their work is pro-feminist, as it allows women to “gain more self-esteem”.

However, Essig points out that cosmetic surgery has always been an attempt at normalisation that is as much racial as sexual. It aimed to erase marks of “non-whiteness”, and deliver patients from their inferior bodies. It was also meant to accentuate the difference between the sexes.

In the early days, “Jewish or Irish noses” were corrected. Now an Iranian surgeon says: “Disney made the Persian nose a problem.”

© Le Monde diplomatique

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