(De)colonizing the image of female beauty and (de)commodifying women

the industry of plastic surgery in Brazil and Texas


  • Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner




   Plastic is capital. We readily think of the plastic of credit cards and debit cards for the financial power they give us. At this time, there is a burgeoning industry of plastic surgery in North and South America. This type of Plástica introduces an economy of appearances in which physical beauty is the valued product. In my area of Dallas, Texas, women’s social gatherings can include Botox parties in the place of bridge (card) parties or garden clubs. Using a study of beauty and plastic surgery among Siliconadas in Brazil and comparing it with research on cosmetic or aesthetic plastic surgery in Texas, I will draw some findings of interest to us as practical and pastoral theologians. Specifically, this research looks at self-esteem of women opting for augmentation or alteration of their physical self and at how colonialism, post-colonialism, and de-colonialism has addressed and impacted this issue. The paper explores asymmetries of power that impact individual and group social identity. For those whose history has been shaped ontologically, theologically, and psychologically by colonial forces, detaching from the lure of the “colonial gaze” as defined by the powerful, the elite, the slave holders, the media, capitalism, film, and conquerors, requires both resistance and resilience. How do we as pastoral and practical theologians in our work facilitate freedom from the images and the industry “of beauty”? This is an issue for practical theology in both research and action as we seek to liberate Hope and Self-Esteem.