Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Bullying, Beauty, And Plastic Surgery You Don't Need

Nadia Ilse, a 14-year-old girl, received $40,000 in free plastic surgery to get her ears pinned back and her nose and chin modified. Why? Well the simplest answer is because kids in school bullied her, but I think it goes much deeper than that.

Here and here are some links about this story.

There are so many problems I have with this; where do I start?

First of all, it would be the wrong response to read this story, look at the "before" photo, say "ah come on, there's nothing wrong with her, she looks fine" and conclude that she was wrong to get the surgery.

It's TRUE that there was nothing wrong with her. But if you go tell her some cliche about being beautiful, why should she believe you? Why should she believe you when bullies make her ashamed to walk around in public with her ears sticking out? Why should she believe you when the media is full of images of women with a certain body type, implying that those images are the ideal, and that a woman's worth is based on her appearance?

You can't solve this by giving girls some cliches about self-esteem or inner beauty or whatever. (See also: We CANNOT say "everyone is beautiful.") You need to address the culture that perpetuates these stupid sexist ideas about what women are "supposed" to look like.

So maybe in her situation, getting the surgery did make sense. I don't know. I don't know what level of bullying she was dealing with. But even if it was "the right decision", it's not supposed to be this way. People are not supposed to bully other people. Women are not supposed to hate their bodies. High-school kids are not supposed to be getting plastic surgery.

I don't know; maybe it was the right decision in her situation. But it shows something is terribly, terribly wrong with society.

Also: Does anyone actually think this a guaranteed solution to her bullying problem? Do you really think bullies operate on logic? And the reason she was bullied was simply "her ears are big" and now that that's not the case anymore, there will be no more bullying?


Perhaps the most disturbing is the idea that you should solve your problems by changing yourself to fit a stereotype, to fit what other people say you should be. Apparently the bullies were right- her ears WERE too big, and something needed to be done. And now that she's changed herself, things are much better. This is not okay.

This is not okay. And I hope Nadia can get away from that environment of bullying. I hope she can love her body. I hope she will learn to be strong and fight against all the illogical criticism of women's bodies. I hope she can follow her dreams without being held back by any of this garbage.


  1. It's hard to know what to say in a situation like this. You can tell a girl beauty doesn't matter till you're blue in the face-- but she won't believe you, because all the rest of the world is telling her how much it does matter. There are successful school programs that do work to stop a lot of bullying, but stopping the bullying won't make the pervasive societal message go away.

    So I guess I see two problems: the bullying, and the beauty-is-everything message. Fixing just one won't solve the other.

    1. But really, all that comment does is reiterate what you just said. I guess what I'm really saying is that I agree with you!