Plastic Surgery Phenomena: Case of the Arab World

The Middle East and North African region has always been a plastic surgery hub. As pop culture nowadays influences more and more society through its music videos, televisions, and social media, plastic surgery has become more and more normalized. 

By far cosmetic surgery can be perceived as a practice to fit western beauty standards but when we think from a cultural and historic point of view, it’s more than this. 

The phenomenon was popular way before the Kardashians, who for sure contributed to all of this homogeneity of beauty. To prove that western standards didn’t dominate the Arab cosmetic industry as much as we may think, we can read that when Arab women ask for surgery, they frequently ask their surgeon to maintain their cultural identity appearance. However, in the Arab region, women ask to change some of their cultural features by doing rhinoplasty, for example, being one of the top demanded surgeries. 

Plastic surgery was never really a taboo in this assumed-conservative society – with years it became more and more normalized for sure. 

It’s interesting to watch how some cosmetic clinics’ websites in countries that have been through war, promote themselves by encouraging clients into plastic surgery as a new way to renew and reborn. By doing so, they are forgetting the past, and projecting themselves into a so-called better future. Other clinics tell you how easier it is to succeed in work interviews just by getting surgery. 

In some countries such as Lebanon where cosmetic surgery was the norm – even before the civil war which took place from the seventies (1975-1990), the First National Bank allows loans up to $5,000 to get plastic surgery. 

In some countries where marriage is still sacralized, plastic surgery in the past was also a way to have higher chances at getting married. 

Today, as society starts to understand that women can be independent and love themselves in their own way, it’s important to highlight that every single woman can get plastic surgery not to please others, but as an act of self-love and boost their confidence evermore. In the same way, some women prefer to appreciate themselves without having cosmetic surgery. Whether women choose to get cosmetic surgery or not, there’s a definite pressure coming from society in both ways, a woman who gets plastic surgery will be perceived as “too much” and on the other hand, the one that decides not to do it will be perceived as “too plain.” 

Self-acceptance and self-love are the possible outcomes of a long journey. In order to achieve the final destination, be fully confident and appreciative about ourselves, it’s important to first understand that the first step is to detach yourself from societal norms. Then, a second step would be doing whatever makes you feel confident, and whatever it’s to resort to plastic surgery or not.

Society should accept that as women, as humans, as individuals we feel as such from the moment we start making our own choices. However, cosmetic surgery doesn’t touch only women, for example in Saudi Arabia 30% of the beneficiaries are men. 

Although, by constructing beauty standards, society tends to make us believe that beauty is homogenous when in reality it is universal, infinitive, and magnificent in its own imperfect way. Why do we feel like we’re less represented even if we already know that each of us is unique? What if cosmetic surgery helps us feel more represented and comfortable by making us look similar to someone else? What if it’s the opposite if today’s cosmetic surgery techniques contribute to the homogeneity of beauty? Will tomorrow’s cosmetic field realize this and will start to represent universal beauty by multiple and not just only one standard? 

We can also ask ourselves if COVID-19 had an impact in rethinking cosmetic surgery, and mostly in the plastic surgery tourism business. 


About the author: 

Yasmin Tariq is an 18 years old Law Student in Aix-en Provence.  Daughter to Moroccan parents, she was born in Milan, Italy and then moved at the age of 13 to Nice, France. She first got involved, in the humanitarian and social field as an activist as her concerns were mainly: education, health and gender equality; and then she got involved into the institutional field by being elected as the French youth Spokesperson in the Higher Council of Education in the French Ministry of Education and Youth. In the meantime, she got into youth party movements. As she joined university, she discovered her passion for entrepreneurship and tech and how this passion could be mixed with social and political change. 

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