Veiled Beauty: Saudi Arabia and Plastic Surgery
As Westerners, it is difficult for us to imagine a situation where women are regarded as the mysterious “Other” more than in Saudi Arabia, where wearing the hijab is required and what we consider basic rights, such as full employment and driving privileges, are not universal. There, Simone de Beauvoir’s concept of a gendered hierarchy is unusually present. Thus, it might seem strange to learn that plastic surgery procedures in that country are on the rise for women. In the West, and in many Asian countries, the reasons for getting plastic surgery are clearer, if not always positive. But if the results are not going to be visible in public, why spend large sums of money to achieve them? Additionally, Islamic law forbids doctors from altering God’s creation, unless there are substantial reasons to do so, such as deformity or injury, but many plastic surgeons are beginning to bend the rules a little to do breast augmentations and nose jobs.
As Sociologists, we are forced to ask: is this a positive or negative trend? On one hand, women are asserting their human right to control their own lives. On the other, Saudi women are becoming more influenced by Western notions of beauty. As with most other effects of Globalization, the results are unexpected and mixed.