Do Whites Have the Perfect Nose? These Women Think So
In a recent study announced by a researcher from Dartmouth College, many black and racially mixed women in Venezuela in search of the perfect nose are going to their cosmetic surgeons asking for a white woman’s nose, which in spite of their own cultural heritage they believe is the gold standard of beauty.
The study published in the journal Qualitative Health Research bearing the title "Embodying Racism: Race, Rhinoplasty, and Self-Esteem in Venezuela," is researched and written by Lauren Gulbas an assistant professor of anthropology at Dartmouth College who specializes in a cultural and medical anthropology with a focus on how race, class, and gender inequalities shape cultural meanings.
In a news release about the study, cosmetic surgery has reached levels considered to be obsessive in South American countries like Venezuela where an inordinate percentage of women actively seek to alter their natural appearance by undergoing multiple surgeries such as face lifts, liposuction, breast and buttock implants and numerous other surgical cosmetic procedures.
One of the problems with this obsession for achieving what they consider to be an aesthetic ideal is that in spite of the high costs of having cosmetic surgery, many women are putting themselves even deeper in dire financial straits while increasing their risk of health complications from unnecessary surgeries.
In the study, Ms. Gulbas focused on one of the most common cosmetic surgical procedures—rhinoplasty a.k.a. a “nose job” by following 63 white, black or racially mixed women of which 24 had undergone rhinoplasty and 39 were seeking getting a nose job.
What she found was that all of the black and racially mixed women who were born with broad, flat noses typical of their African roots were seeking what they call “la nariz perfilda”―a "well-formed nose" characterized as being tall, slender and associated with Caucasian races.
The irony of the study’s findings is that in spite of a racially rich culture where racial mixing of European, Indian and African ancestries referred to as “mestizaje” would be expected to lead to cultural and social equality, in actual practice the author of the study found that Venezuelan national heritage holds light skin and European physical features as the preferred ideal.
In the study Gulbas writes:
"Rhinoplasty is offered by physicians and interpreted by patients as a resolution to body dissatisfaction and low self-esteem…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."
Gulbas notes that her findings reveal that the “…clinical ethos of objectivity established by cosmetic surgeons fails to acknowledge how perceptions of the self and body are strongly tied to racial marginalization.”
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Reference: “Embodying Racism: Race, Rhinoplasty, and Self-Esteem in Venezuela” Qual. Health Res. March 2013 vol. 23, No. 3 pp. 326-335; Lauren E. Gulbas.