Having read many people’s posts and listening to our class discussion on Monday, I feel somewhat more settled (but on no uncertain terms am firmly rooted) on the idea that plastic surgery is a form of passing and should be viewed as a negotiation of identity, even in regards to ethnic plastic surgery. As Kathy Davis began and ended her article discussing the uneasiness of the topic, I still feel that even as I type. But a few more thoughts.
When we discuss people who are contemplating or have had plastic surgery for whatever choice, I think it is important to recognize what drives them toward such a decision. The motivations we had talked about in class – whether the beauty ideal or internalized racism – need to be recognized as very powerful forces since they can influence people to the point of plastic surgery. I think these roots of the problem of plastic surgery is where we need to focus our attention and work on eliminating their pernicious effects. If we can destroy the category known as “other,” then we can create a society equally accepting of people and the difference among them. To me, the problem with passing isn’t that people engage in it, because I can see why, but that people feel compelled to engage in passing (either because it will make them feel better, as in the case of plastic surgery, or that they gain social capital somehow.)
I like the idea of creating a society where people’s appearance does not restrict their freedom. But I can’t say that I know exactly how to do that. One might start with those who act to conform to the beauty standard or a version of internalized racism, but that doesn’t seem like the origin of the problem. Another person could say it starts with dialogue or education or the role of media. The formlessness of this type of oppression makes it increasingly harder to deal with. Because there is no formal institution that acts as the source of these injustices, it makes our task a harder one, but one that is worthy of our time because of the potential it has.