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Medicalization of Racial Features: Asian American Women and Cosmetic Surgery

Eugenia Kaw
Medical Anthropology Quarterly
New Series, Vol. 7, No. 1 (Mar., 1993), pp. 74-89
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Anthropological Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/649247
Page Count: 16
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Medicalization of Racial Features: Asian American Women and Cosmetic Surgery
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Abstract

This article presents findings of ethnographic research in the San Francisco Bay Area, exploring the recent phenomenon of Asian American women undergoing cosmetic surgery to have their eyelids restructured, their nose bridges heightened, and the tips of their noses altered. This research suggests that Asian American women who undergo these types of surgery have internalized not only a gender ideology that validates their monetary and time investment in the alteration of their bodies, but also a racial ideology that associates their natural features with dullness, passivity, and lack of emotion. With the authority of scientific rationality, medicine effectively promotes these racial and gender stereotypes and thereby bolsters the consumer-oriented society, of which it is a part and from which it benefits. Data are drawn from structured interviews with plastic surgeons and patients, medical literature and newspaper articles, and basic medical statistics.

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