A while ago (February 18th, to be exact) I came across this interesting article in the New York Times called “Ethnic Differences Emerge in Plastic Surgery.” The article basically interviews plastic surgeons with clinics located in different ethnic parts of NYC, and comes to show the dominant procedures that each ethnic group prefers. For example in a surgery clinic in Upper Manhattan (where most of the customers are Dominican) the most popular procedure is an operation to lift women’s buttocks, as opposed to a surgery clinic in the suburbs of Long Island where women are trying to get the fat taken out of their buttocks. In Flushing, Queens, Chinese patients request for their upturned noses to be flipped down or request for double eye-lid surgeries. In Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, Russian women are getting their breasts enlarged while in other parts of New York City, Egyptians are getting face lifts, Italians are reshaping their knees and many Iranians are getting nose jobs. Now to me out of all the operations, the double eye-lid surgery was the most astounding and the one that struck me the most.

     I was raised and still live in Jackson Heights, a very mixed environment, where the most plastic surgery I am exposed to aside from TV is breast, lips, buttocks enhancement and liposuction. These procedures around my neighborhood are mostly seen done on Colombian and Latin woman, but not exclusively as an anesthesiologist once told me in my local clinic. So when I came across the double-eyelid procedure I don’t know if the surgery surprised me more because I had no idea it was performed(In other words my ignorance), or for the matter that the people getting it, are in fact changing a key stereotype in their ethnic background. Unlike many Latin women who want to retain that silhouette figure because they believe it defines them or Italian women who feel the need to keep their knees looking young, because they like to wear mini skirts; many Asians are instead neglecting the way they look and one can say assimilating a more Westernized appearance. As stated by Hunter Professor, Margaret M. Chin in the article,

“You want to be part of the acceptable culture and the acceptable ethnicity, so you want to look more Westernized,” said Margaret M. Chin, a professor of sociology at Hunter College who specializes in Asian immigrant culture. “I feel sad that they feel like they have to do this.”

 This procedure reminds of the anime shows I watched and manga I read or have read. In where most, if not all of the characters, have big round eyes even though most of the creators are Asian or of Asian decent. Can it be that popular Asian culture has found big round eyes to be more beautiful than slanted eyes? Not only Asians living in the Western Hemisphere but also in Asia?

     Now even though no real statistics were taken by doctors (Except that of memory and reflection on patterns in their records,where they assumed ethnic backgrounds according to last name) it is interesting how based on ascription (racial stereotyping) of what ethnic background they assume one belongs too; surgeons “know” what the person is most likely to want to alter or change. They are very careful not to use the word race in this article, even though I would find it more appropriate; since the surgery discussed is physical. Yes we have agreed in class that race is nothing but a meer social construction, and we also know that it is a strong social construction, that many think to be innate. So yes, a part of the surgeries can be attributed to ethnicity and/or the culture the person follows, but there is also the altering or eliminating of stereotypical racial features. Proving that racism is still a big ordeal and that ethnic divisions strongly exist, in the most  ethnically mixed city in the world, New York.

I urge you to read the article for yourself and watch the short video too, here is the link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/19/nyregion/19plastic.html?pagewanted=1&sq=nyc%20plastic%20surgeons&st=cse&scp=1

Enjoy.

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5 responses

  1. nasrinahmed says:

    This was a great article. I was just as surprised as you were about the double eyelid one, I had no idea what a double eyelid was until recently. At work a few months ago, one of my colleagues who didn’t have eyelids that were as noticeable as mine, told me she wished she had double eyelids like me. She told me it would make putting on eyeshadow so much easier. I thought this was such an odd thing to want, but now I see where she was coming from.
    I definitely agree with you that in reference to the eyelids, it’s a matter of changing stereotypical racial features. But in terms of the women who get butt lifts and their knees done, it is a matter of preserving their features. I wonder what makes people choose one or the other.

  2. What I find the most interesting about this article is that all the ethnic groups are buying into the American idea. The clearest, as mentioned, is the double-eyelid surgery, which makes Asian Americans look more white. However, Dominicans are also buying into the idea of an overly sexualized being, hence the butt lifts and breast enhancements. So even though they aren’t trying to reshape their bodies into looking like the dominant culture, being pushed into a category of what a Hispanic woman looks like is equally damaging.

    What doesnt follow this trend are Iranian women getting nose jobs, which occurs in Iran and most of the Middle East.

  3. Cindy Lu says:

    I know plenty of instances where Asian’s get double eyelid surgery since I am Asian myself. I’m not sure whether they were because they wanted to look more westernized though. I believe that they got it like any other person would want to get plastic surgery. Maybe they just believed it looked nice or they looked better with it. They might have not gotten the surgery to mimic White people’s perception of beauty, but got it because of their own perception of what made them look better.

    There was an episode on the Tyra Banks show that discussed double eyelid surgery that I thought was a bit offensive because she kept insisting that the guest on the show was trying to mimic the Caucasian race. Here’s the link to the Tyra video

  4. ZhuoHe says:

    I found your post to be very interesting and quite relatable. As a person of Asian descent myself, I’ve had friends and even family members comment on the fact that I am a person with single eyelids. I never really understood why it was such a big deal to have double-eyelids until my mother explained that in Asian culture, it signified beauty. I didn’t know whether or not to be offended but she went on to explain that many popular Asian celebrities, who are seen as beautiful people, mostly have double-eyelids. It made them more “attractive” in the eyes of many people in Asia. Because of that, the concept of having double-eyelids became something that equated to desirability. With that being said, I don’t necessarily believe, though I might be completely wrong, that it has anything to do with trying to fit into the Western culture.

    Aside from that, I too live in Jackson Heights and I’ve never really noticed many of the Latino women having procedures done. After reading this post, I think the next time I go out, I might try to focus in on some of the people I see.

  5. C.Wu says:

    I’ve actually heard of double eyelid surgery a while back but there is a cheaper alternative. There is a cosmetic “tool” out there called eyelid tape and eyelid glue. I believe this originated in Japan and then spread out to other Asian countries. You put this glue or tiny tape onto your eyelid and it’s supposed to make your eyelids fold into double eyelids. There are actually videos of girls doing this on YouTube and it is scary how different they look afterwards!