Plastic surgery participates in processes that define collective ideals about beauty, gender, and racial identity. In many cases, the ‘beautification’ of the body through plastic surgery results in a homogeneous body politic that excludes non-white bodies. This produces, in turn, an aesthetic hierarchy in which white bodies and facial characteristics become the norm, and racialized bodies are considered to be eternally pursuing white beauty standards. However, plastic surgery can also offer a space to destabilize normative ideas about beauty: By recognizing that the body is not a simple recipient of modifications and can react in its own lively ways, or through practices such as ‘Gangnam-style’ plastic surgery in South Korea, plastic surgery can become a vehicle to react against the imposition of white beauty standards.

Woman receiving plastic surgery consultation on eyes.

Photo by cottonbro, 2021.