Tuesday 29 of November, 2022
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Off to Turkey for a Nose Job: The Arab Obsession with Looking White

There’s no greater tension than that between an Arab girl and a flight to Turkey. So much awaits upon landing, baklava, Kebap, nose jobs.

Farida El Shafie

“Babe, you look sad? Wanna hop on a plane and get another rhinoplasty?” 

“Worst comes to worst, I’ll fly off to Lebanon and get it fixed.”

Casually slurp the remnants of your Acai bowls and pin another picture of the perfect upturned nose to your Pinterest board, it is but another Sunday afternoon pastime in the world of the affluent girlies. Amongst diving in Bali and building upon their equestrian repertoire in Italy, hot Arab girls never shy away from serving monetary power. With minds saturated in foreign images and wallpapered with alien soundscapes, Arab girls have placed Western beauty standards at the top of their lifetime bucket lists. A stampede of hyper-bosom-y social media visuals have imprinted themselves on the frontal lobes of brown women and consequently laced their self-perception. It is no longer the Persian nose in all its protrusion and culturally-codified significance, rather, it is the button nose of the Madeleine Peltz’s of Instagram.  

It’s the overt flashing of flesh, the commercialization of straight noses and privileged quintets, and the excessive push for the medicinal needle and thread - the remedy for all things ethnic - that has defined brown women’s existence for centuries past. The infamous rhinoplasty, the means by which one can shapeshift into the Western canon of beauty with the aid of a knife and stitches seems like the ultimate remedy for ostracized Arab girls everywhere. 

It reeks of the white man’s prerogative but what does the procedure actually harbor? 

A false pleasure and a malicious sense of hope, that’s what the quote unquote nose job harbors. 

A distorted portal into the world of the accepted, and a cog in the wheel of racial assimilation. It represents refuge. Armor for the ethnically clock-able and a shield in the face of racially-charged ridicule. 

Renowned scholar Judith Butler briefly touched on this concept in her essay Gender is Burning. The context differs but the sentiment still rings true. A lot was discussed on the concept of articulation, particularly, the desire to re-articulate an accepted narrative when your own has been tarnished and ripped to shreds at the hands of violence, “Where the uniformity of the subject is expected, where the behavioral conformity of the subject is commanded, there might be produced the refusal of the law in the form of the parodic inhabiting of conformity that subtly calls into question the legitimacy of the command, a repetition of the law into hyperbole, a re-articulation of the law against the authority of the one who delivers it.” (Butler, Bodies that Matter, 122) 

In much more accessible terms; to fully allow yourself to be sucked into the vortex of exterior markers of beauty, is to facilitate the entirety of your personhood to be overtaken by the same narrative. What might start as an innocent desire, a pleasurable partaking into the world of canonical beauty, ultimately ends with a personal denouncement and, in turn, it is the passivity by which we let these precise white markers define us that has led to ethnic features slowly falling into obsoleteness.   

There is no denying the peace which girls find at the hands of plastic surgery. So much can be remedied through conformity. When society has conditioned you to believe that you can circumvent a lonesome future through conformity, you swallow that pill like it's an allergy med and you abide. You chew through the hate-ridden commentary and wash down the resentment with a cup-full of submission. In a world overrun with advertising that screams for our visual and auditory focus, accosts us in the ostensible privacy of our homes on our televisions, and assaults us in public areas as we commute to work, there can be no refuge. As women navigating the ashes of the post-colonial fires, we are constantly searching for a pseudo-diverse home to shelter us from the dust and grime of the colonial aftermath. And in our deluded daydream, we transpose the responsibility of exorcizing the caucasian ghosts that loom over our shoulder onto 0.5ml of filler and sanitized scalpel. 

We’re denatured. Falling at the seams and at the knees of the white man's corduroys. We’re dispassionately looking for a semblance of racial ambiguity to shelter us from years of violent indoctrination. Noses are mere scapegoats. They provide temporary escapes and junctures in times where the pain felt is slightly obscured. They are akin to freeze-spraying a cut made by the glass as you await stitches. But just like that open wound, these feelings ingrain themselves and leave scars. They scar our ancestors and they scar our offspring. They tend to nothing but the men who sit atop ivory towers and spend their rancid days debating more ways of sowing the seeds of doubt into women. 

What we’re left with is an antidote-less issue. An issue that goes beyond the microscopic lift of the tip of the nose and one that extends itself to encompass a wider - and by default - culturally-hegemonic narrative. Because the reality is as such: there is no escaping the orientalist divide that permanently situates itself in the center of our faces. There is only deconstruction. There is learning where the line needs to be drawn. There is learning that one does not need to be defined by a violent counterpart in order to live a dignified life. There is introspection. There is a consistent re-acquaintance with ethnicity and race and deliberate dispossession of the violent.