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"Perceived physical flaws"



Meet Dr. Edmund Kwan. He has a degree from Georgetown University Medical School, is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS), and belongs to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). Dr. Kwan's "expertise focuses on, but is not limited to, facial shaping and recontouring, breast augmentation, hand surgery, forehead shaping, nose surgery, double eyelid fold surgery and brow lifts."



The caption next to this happy, post-surgery woman reads: "The concept of beauty varies in different ethnic groups or communities. What Dr. Kwan and other plastic surgeons are doing is to help their patients erase perceived physical flaws while maintaining their ethnic identity."
- Dr. James Wells, President of ASPS.


Admittedly, plastic surgery is a useful option for people who go through serious accidents and don't want to remain looking like Tom Cruise in Vanilla Sky. I doubt, however, that Wells had the same intentions in saying "perceived physical flaws".

Reading the testimonials (which are marked by ethnic branding), I can only guess that Wells and Kwan's idea of a perceived physical flaw has something to do with a --gasp!-- ethnic look.

Here are some surgery testimonials:

“Thank you, Dr. Kwan, for always being there to respond to my surgeries with such care, respect and generosity. I hope you know how much I appreciate all that you’ve done for me over the years and more recently, and how fortunate I feel to have been blessed with such a great doctor.” - Korean female, age 35 - Eyelid Surgery

“Dr. Kwan is not only a skilled surgeon, but he has an artist’s eye when it comes to proportion and balance which gave me an absolutely natural result. Nobody commented on my eyes looking any different. They just noticed that I looked “great,” more youthful, brighter and rested, which is exactly the kind of subtle result I had hoped for.” - Korean female, age 48 – Brow Lift


Handled with care, respect, generosity, and "an artist's eye". I'm not sure what this means, but it definitely makes a woman's face sound more like a canvas than like a person's face which marks his/her identity. The praises showered on Dr. Kwan prove that he's skilled at what he does; but whereas an artist gets blank canvases that don't choose their fate, a surgeon gets patients who voluntarily make the decision to go under the knife, sometimes under false pretenses.

It concerns me more than Kwan's seeming inability to question his patients' motives that these women are finding "perceived physical flaws" in their appearance and tying it to their ethnic identities. When did there become ethnic beauty standards for features like eyelids? Is there a single perception of beauty set within an ethnicity? If these women are living (and getting operated on) in the U.S., which cultural lens do they look through to examine themselves? Most importantly, why aren't they satisfied with what they look like already?

4 comments:

  1. Joshua Franklin said...

    It's their business, not yours. You shouldn't meddle in people's private affairs, which this is. No injustice has been done to you or yours. Move on, and remember that you do cannot claim to represent an entire ethnicity. People are individuals.  

  2. Marilla said...

    Point taken, Joshua Franklin, and thanks for your feedback. I most certainly do Not stake a claim for an entire ethnicity (also considering that many people do not really consider it a component of their identity) and thus cannot assume what some of these people's motives are.

    However, the reason for pointing out a website like the said one is to question whether or not some of these women's motives for plastic surgery May be problematic. If they have turned over every alternative solution to their ethnicity-tied problems and found that what Dr. Kwan offers is it, that's cool. But what if there is no problem? What if there are more alternatives to be made -- like, say, changing a state of mind?

    In a sense, I'm not asking people who are considering plastic surgery to forsake the option at all, but rather I wonder if there is a cheaper, less risky, and more psychologically healing method of going about it. Plastic surgery in general becomes a different issue when not framed around Asian American identity, but I suppose that's a topic for a different blog.  

  3. Marilla said...

    As for the "people are individuals" thing... I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to agree with you.

    In Utopia.

    Where racism doesn't exist.

    But I can't help thinking that Somewhere in this website that there exists a trace of some self-hating issue which needs to be pointed out in a non-crazy-Angry-Asian-Person way. If the entry came off as intrusive - that was not the intent. Rather, it was meant to be a grain of salt for Asian Americans who have considered plastic surgery based on their physical "ethnic" appearance.

    (btw, I'm wondering if this possibly could be you: http://www.columbiaspectator.com/?q=node/25850)  

  4. Joshua Frankin said...

    I understand what you're getting at, but still, people really don't like it when you say, or even imply, that they're traitors to their ethnicity. It reminds me of that episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm where a random Jewish guy freaks out when he hears Larry David, who is also Jewish, whistling a Wagner tune (Wagner was a vehement anti-Semite). He calls Larry a self-hating Jew, but Larry really isn't: he just likes the music. The guy didn't think that there may have been something he didn't know; he just assumed that he could act as a representative for the "Jewish identity," and scold Larry for this. I think this kind of thing is ridiculous though, and quite rude.

    And yes, I did write a few articles for Spec last year.  


 

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