Breast in the West

Professor studies the popularity of plastic surgery in Utah

Ever wonder why Utah has the highest ratio of plastic surgeons per capita? So did Dr. Joylin Namie, who wanted to find out why so many Utahns were getting on the surgeon’s table. Courtesy of Stock.xchng

February 14. The day of roses, chocolate and love. The day spent in a significant other’s arms or wishing there was a significant other to wrap arms around.

Some girls spend months getting ready for this day by dressing up, flirting more and trying to compete for the attention of guys to make sure they have a date on Valentine’s Day. Although this behavior is common, it can go beyond the average flirtation.

In 2007, Forbes magazine released an article entitled “America’s Vainest Cities.” In the article, the author focused on pride, one of the seven deadly sins, and revealed the cities around the country that were most worried about their looks. The city that came in number one was a shock to almost everyone: Salt Lake City.

To rank the cities, Forbes looked at the number of plastic surgeons in relationship to the population of a city. Salt Lake had the highest ratio.

This high ratio makes the cost of plastic surgery less expensive here than in other parts of the country. Although this does draw in some people from out of state, the majority of those getting these surgeries are from Utah.

This article made Dr. Joylin Namie, associate professor of Anthropology, curious about the reasons behind this rising trend.

“I would have expected a completely opposite reaction to all this worldly, looking-like-Pamela Anderson stuff,” Namie said.

Namie began to look into the cultural and economic factors that contributed to people going in for these procedures. She interviewed people from around the LDS community who had chosen to get some sort of plastic surgery done, as well as those who had chosen not to.

For a culture that does not believe in getting tattoos because it would permanently modify their body, the idea of plastic surgery would seem like just another thing that would fall into that list.

While conducting interviews, however, Namie found that those who had chosen to have this done did not think about the procedures in this way. They thought of it more along the lines of getting braces to fix what was already there.

“Locally, these surgeries aren’t thought of with any negative connotation. It seems to be thought of as a fairly positive thing,” Namie said.

Namie believes that one of the main factors contributing to the higher rate of surgeries that we have in Utah relates directly to where women get their self-esteem. For many women, this self-esteem comes from education and a career.

This, however, is not always the case in Utah culture. Here there is a higher value placed on getting married and being a mom.

“Not that you shouldn’t have status for being a mom, it’s a really hard job. But I don’t think as a culture we give women enough credit for that,” Namie said. “But we do give them credit for being beautiful and they get attention and they get positive reinforcement if they are beautiful.”

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