In a quest for la nariz perfilada, the perfectly-formed (read: Anglo-looking) nose, there is an epidemic of rhinoplasties among black and multi-racial women in Venezuela, according to a study out of Dartmouth by assistant anthropology professor Lauren Gulbas. In examining the racial tensions and beauty regimes of women in Caracas, she chose 63 women of all races: 24 had already had nose jobs and another 39 hoped to in the future. The women who possessed "broad noses linked with African heritage" were seeking out a more European nose in order to boost their self-esteem, wrote Gulbas — but, of course, that's cart-before-the-horse logic.
Gulbas points this out in her paper "Embodying Racism: Race, Rhinoplasty, and Self-Esteem in Venezuela," which ran in the journal Qualitative Health Research:
"Rhinoplasty is offered by physicians and interpreted by patients as a resolution to body dissatisfaction and low self-esteem," Gulbas writes, but that thinking fails to acknowledge how perceptions of the self and body are strongly tied to racial marginalization.
Venezuelan culture defines racial categories by skin color and (surprise!) favors light skin and European features. Even the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez chastised the nation's plastic surgeons for performing rhinoplasties on women who could barely afford it.
"Patients' efforts to alter the nose reveal attempts to change not only how the body looks, but how it is lived. As a result, cosmetic surgery only acts as a stop-gap measure to heighten one's self-esteem and body image."
But we all know that whiteness has a high premium all over the damn place thanks to other depressing tales of women hurting themselves and undergoing painful procedures to look more Caucasian: Nigerian women slathering on skin bleach.
'Cosmetic surgery to look whiter fails to boost women's self-esteem' [EurekaAlert.org]
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