The death of an Iraqi woman in a private hospital owned by a famous Lebanese cosmetic surgeon has shocked the Lebanese public. She died during a liposuction procedure. It turned out the hospital did not have a recovery room, as required by medical rules, which led to medical complications that could have been avoided had such a room been available.
An investigation has been launched into popular cosmetic surgeries in Lebanon and the whole cosmetic industry, especially since the surgeon appeared with a semi-naked young woman in a video just a few days before, explaining what women seeking to be attractive should do.
The video shocked the Lebanese public because it presented an imperfect understanding of the role of women solely as objects of beauty. This “beauty” appeared in a vulgar and banal way in the leaked video.
The surgeon, who has closed his hospital and is under investigation, is an icon of Lebanon’s cosmetic industry, which attracts people from inside the country and abroad. Lebanon is 24th in the world in terms of cosmetic surgeries per capita, according to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
Despite successes and good reputations in Lebanon, there are many professional violations. Last year, then-Health Minister Wael Abu Faour ordered the closure of some 80 cosmetic centers due to violations of required standards and conditions.
It is true that commodification is an international problem, but in the West it occurs in parallel with laws that empower women. In Lebanon, there are attempts to convince us that modernity is equal to commodification.
Observers of those seeking beauty in Lebanon realize there is social acceptance of a plastic appearance among women. This is not the case in any other society that has given freedom and equality to women. What is happening is akin to commodification, turning women into mere objects. This approach holds a woman’s body hostage to one function: Sexual desire, as if the body has no significance without it.
In Lebanon we were occupied by the leaked video. The unfortunate story made us understand that women suffer from disregard to their bodies and lives. It is unfair to say Lebanon is the only country fond of cosmetic surgery, but there is something particular to our society we need to consider. This surgeon would not have achieved success without the public desire for a perfect body designed to satisfy desires.
It is true that commodification is an international problem, but in the West it occurs in parallel with laws that empower women. In Lebanon, and in the East in general, there are attempts to convince us that modernity is equal to commodification.
• Diana Moukalled is a veteran journalist with extensive experience in both traditional and new media. She is also a columnist and freelance documentary producer. She can be reached on Twitter @dianamoukalled.