Getting Plastic Surgery to Stop Bullying

Fourteen-year-old Nadia Ilse got plastic surgery on her ears, nose and chin so kids would stop bullying her. She told Good Morning America:

I felt horrible. I felt like I was like dirt. They said that I have the biggest ears that they’ve ever seen. They called me ‘Dumbo,’ ‘elephant ears.’

Over time the bullying escalated. School became a nightmare, and she got so she couldn’t bear to look at herself in a mirror as she began to believe the slurs.

All this raises questions.

Like how the world seems to think that beauty – a plastic, superficial part of us — means something real. Like how moving a few millimeters of skin, bone and cartilage here and there makes all the difference. A few tweaks and kids go from bullying to accepting. And Nadia goes from crying herself to sleep and having suicidal thoughts to just going about her day.

Why do so many of us see the world in such superficialities?

I would like to ask the bullies if they would judge a person unworthy on such flimsy grounds if they were the ones whose ears were a bit large.

What if there is a God who purposefully creates people who go against beauty norms? What are we supposed to get out of that? Are we to develop empathy and compassion? Are we supposed to move away from the surface and superficial to see what really matters? Should we learn about what is real and what is ridiculous?

And should we really care what ridiculous people think?

Gore Vidal once said:

Don’t care about what others think of you. What matters is what you think of them.

Popular Posts on BroadBlogs
You Are “Less Than”?
Best Not To Be Popular In High School
Boys on the Bus Grasping at Fake Power

About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on August 10, 2012, in body image, feminism, psychology, women and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. I saw that interview and my reaction as a mother was what happens when she goes back to school and they still don’t like her? What if they tease her about getting plastic surgery? What if a couple years down the road, someone mocks her for the size of her breasts? There is always going to be somebody that criticizes us for one thing or another and learning how to deal with that and not run away from it builds character. When I went to an all-white college in the late 60’s, I was ridiculed simply for the color of my skin, but I couldn’t change that aspect of me even if I had wanted to. I learned that “what people call you doesn’t matter, it is what you answer to that does.”

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment on my blog. It was a pleasure to read a couple of your posts, as well. Cheers!

  2. I understand how she feels. I was teased relentlessly when I was her age for my big ears, flat chest, and the amount of body hair that i had. Today i am grateful for a mother who didn’t care that i was being bullied for such superficial things and did not allow me to make permenant changes to my body to escape bullying. Eventually i grew into my body and in the mean time while it was painful i found people who didn’t give a shit about those things, and now most days i feel completely comfortable in my body and my own unique beauty

  3. themindofsisterstorm

    A lot people have been bullied during school age for various reasons myself included, but I never dreamed of changing myself so other people would accept me. Especially when I would have been changing myself just to gain the approval of the people who had teased me and ultimately did not care about the damage they were doing to me when calling me names and singling me out.
    Sure this girl (who was a really cute girl beforehand) is happy and more confident now but what happens in the future if someone calls her fat or a boyfriend a few years down the line doesn’t like the way she dresses, will she have to change herself once again to meet their ideals of how she should look??

  4. I was sitting on the couch the other night vegging out and feeling unmotivated to do the long list of things that I had on my list. As I flipped through the stations, I came across Toddlers and Tiaras. I had heard of the show, but never watched it before. There was 25 minutes left, so I thought okay, I will watch to see why it is so popular.

    Within a few minutes, I was sitting up on the edge of my couch. My mouth was actually gaping open in horror. I was sickened as I watched the little girls with drag queen levels of make up, prance around for their parents and the judges. The mothers seemed to be clinging desperately to their daughters’ success and beauty as if to fill some void in their own lives. They were pressuring their daughters to perform while wearing “flippers” which are denture-like caps for their front teeth and little spangly outfits that one sees on dancers in a Las Vegas revue. The show pops in clips of the judges making comments about the girls that are usually quite negative. They critique their hairstyles, their eyes, make up, etc. I was disgusted. It is like 4-H at the county fair but for toddlers and young girls.

    I felt badly for the girls who were being judged. They had to carry the burdon to perform for strangers in the audience and a judging panel and also to please their squealing, squawking mothers in the audience. I tried to feel badly for the mothers who seem to want to live out some sort of beauty fantasy through their daughters’ success, but I just couldn’t. I felt nothing but anger towards the mothers. Instead of being protective mothers, they had become managers and agents instead. They had commodified their own daughters.

    When did we become a society where children are judged like animals at the county fair? When did it become okay to televise this not only in one show, but two shows? There is a spin-off called Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. It is not a porno title, I swear. That is the nickname of one of the more popular girls on the show. Her real name is Alana.

    I am not against beauty, but I am against beauty being a hobby and money-making venture for young girls who are not old enough to make up their minds. Yes, I know some say that the little girls want to do this, but I suspect that is nonsense. Young girls want to impress their parents and friends. These pageants are not teaching them anything that will help them as they grow into adults. They are not learning grace and poise (a common argument made in support of these events); they are learning to judge themselves and others based on looks, and how they prance in an almost stripper-like fashion on the stage to please an audience . If you see the behind the scenes portions of the show you will see that many of these girls are anything but graceful and poised. The girls, some even as young as three and four years old, are treating others very badly. They are divas on an operatic level.

    These two shows are dehumanizing to not only the toddlers in their tiaras, but to the audience of the show. It is no wonder that we have little girls wanting to get plastic surgery at 14. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are many others getting surgery at that age and younger.

    • Well, this is the other side of the coin isn’t it?

      Both are empty and inappropriate.

      And yes, beauty’s not the problem, but how it’s used: judging some people better than others, based on it, for instance. Or beauty being everything.

      Thank you.

  5. This is a tough one. As adults, we can easily see that we shouldn’t care what the small minded trolls think, but at 14, it’s much easier said than done. As one who was on the receiving end of bullying in school, though for different reasons, I know how this girl felt.

    Looking at the “before” picture, I don’t really see anything wrong with her appearance, except that she looks so woefully unhappy. Her ears stick out, yes, but the right ear n the “after” picture looks as if it’s still sticking out a bit. I don’t see why they felt they needed to do her nose and chin as well, though.

    What I find a bit more disturbing is that the changes seem to be aimed more at “feminizing” her appearance than anything else. Her chin was strong — so they felt it needed to be diminished to be more “feminine” (less than). Same with her nose apparently

    In the “after” picture, her hair has been styled, eyebrows shaped, and a little bit of makeup applied. All of that could have been done without surgery, that is, if Nadia had been genuinely interested in such gender props in the first place.

    Such minor changes might make the other students more accepting of her, but the question that will no doubt lurk in the back of her mind — is the acceptance of such people to whom such superficial differences make such a difference be worth having? In neither case are they seeing the real girl inside.

  6. I just watched the CNN video on this and I think she l looked great before the surgery. The still pic of her was cute and the video images of her wearing the glasses were beautiful. The after image makes her look more mainstream, that very narrow band of what is considered acceptable. She’s also wearing make up which gives her that same-as-everyone-else look. I do hope she finds what she’s looking for and goes on to have a great life. Maybe this will give her the confidence she needs to do so. I know that being bullied about one’s looks can be devastating, having endured it myself in elementary school.

    I did finally let my then 12 year old daughter shave her legs because she says she was being teased at school. (This from a mom who last shaved her legs somewhere back in the 70’s.) But I stopped short at having her undergo oral surgery to “fix” the gap in her front teeth. Even the dentist said he thought it was a bad idea. (Her father was pushing for it.) It’s very sad that looks get in the way of seeing ourselves and others as the worthy, worthwhile beings we are.

    I used to have a pretty narrow definition of beauty also, until at age 15 I started drawing the faces of the people I saw around me, often on the city bus on the way home from school. That is when I began to see a new world of beauty everywhere I looked. Hopefully some of those bullies will too someday.

  7. I think this kind of experiences could make you grow up. I suffered bullying when I was a kid, and I discovered that people who do this kind of things usually are trying to move attention from them; they usually have self-steem problems. A very interesting post, thank you!

  8. How sad. I can’t even imagine how merciless the bullying must have been to compel a young woman to submit to surgery. I hope she feels better about herself now, but I suspect that surgery isn’t going to fix the insecurity and other emotional scars that bullying leaves behind.

    • Yes. She’ll be getting counseling, too.

      From the interview I saw she seems remarkably mature for her age. Perhaps her difficult life so far has contributed to that. I hope the strength she has gathered will aid her progress.

  1. Pingback: How bullying shapes a person… « fromthemindofsisterstorm

Thoughts? (Comments will appear after moderation)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: