The documentary “Drinking Gold: Normalization of Cosmetic Surgery Among Latter-day Saint Women” by Dr. Joylin Namie, associate professor of anthropology, was used to discuss the popularity of elective surgery, on Tuesday, Jan. 28.
Nearly 50 students discussed the “nip and tuck” culture in conjunction with the LDS culture prevalent in Utah, debating whether or not the desire for physical perfection is at odds with LDS doctrine and culture or incubated by it.
While at the documentary showing, students were asked to fill out a questionnaire on their personal religiosity and opinions of plastic surgery.
“I really had to thinking about what I believe,” said Nelle Hurd, freshman. “I had never thought much about plastic surgery. One of the questions asked if I saw a tie between the Mormon standard of not disfiguring your body with tattoos or piercings and plastic surgery. I’d never thought of it that way. I guess I don’t know.”
Statistics showing the monetary difference between what women in Salt Lake City pay for beautifying products were shown in comparison to those in Oklahoma City, which has a relative population. It is estimated that more than $2 million are spent on makeup in Salt Lake City each year, while approximately $400,000 are spent in Oklahoma City. Many said it shows a self-worth issues while others claimed self-esteem has little to do with beauty products and regimens.
“While I do buy expensive hair products and makeup,” said Danielle West, UVU alumna and Salt Lake City resident, “it’s more a hobby than an [issue] of self-confidence.”
Scrutinizing what is unique about Utah culture that leads to cosmetic procedures became the main topic of the evening, whittling down to two main points: young marriage and young mothers.
“There are high stakes, the competition for a mate is intense,” Namie said. “In a society where academic, athletic and societal achievements are undervalued by the culture, women feel that they have to improve their looks to get a mate.”
Many of the women who admitted to having or wanting “tummy tucks” or liposuction said it was primarily because of how their bodies looked after having children young.
“We have lots of babies; that does things to a woman’s body,” Baxter said. “And yes, while everyone would love to have perfect confidence in how they look after, we don’t. Most moms in Utah start having babies fairly young, so when they look at other people their age, it’s hard to live up to.”
In the spirit of an anthropological study, Namie finds this dichotomy in Utah culture fascinating.
Namie said in her documentary, the “structural factors in Utah, including a larger concentration of plastic surgeons per capita, lower prices for cosmetic procedures … with the impetus to marry and have children at younger ages, set the stage. A group of women admonished to be in the world but not of the world becomes very worldly indeed.”
Nicole Shepard @NicoleEShepard