The Solution to Bullying: Plastic Surgery?

by August 11, 2012
filed under Life
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Nadia Isle is now one of the only girls who can say that they have had plastic surgery at the age of fourteen. The Georgia teen underwent otoplasty—that is a surgery where the ears are pinned back—a nose job and a reshaping of her chin at a New York facility. That’s a lot of work for someone who hasn’t even graduated high school. So, what prompted this drastic measure?

In a word: Bullying. Nadia has been taunted about her ears for years, having been called “dumbo” and worse by her tormentors. Since she was 10 years old, Nadia has been asking her mom for a surgery to change her ears. After a bit of research, Nadia’s mom found the New York based, not for profit, Little Baby Face Foundation.

The foundation specializes in “transform[ing] the lives of children born with facial deformities through corrective surgery.” Some of the medical conditions that the foundation treats include microtia, hearing restoration, cleft palate, facial palsy and hemifacial microsomia. Since 2002, Little Baby Face Foundation has been providing children with their medical expertise—in addition to transportation and accomodations— free of charge. Surgeries that would usually run into the tens of thousands of dollars cost families nothing.

To Nadia, it sounded perfect. Late July, she and her mother were flown to New York for a consultation with organization founder Thomas Romo III.

Nadia’s original intake form asked only for surgery on her ears, but Romo recommended that she get surgery on her chin and nose as well, even though that had never been an area of concern before. When asked about, this Dr. Romo said, “She did not [mention that] because she didn’t recognize that.” He also added, “I love thin chins, but I don’t want it as pointy as that chin.”

Way to promote good body image, doc.

Asked how she felt about her appearance post surgery, Nadia said, “I look beautiful. This is exactly what I wanted. I love it.”

Her mother told CNN that Nadia will soon begin therapy to tackle the emotional scars of bullying. I was a little to confused to hear this. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to provide counseling before a dramatic, invasive surgery? Talk, as the saying goes, is cheap. Plastic surgery, not so much. Little Baby Face does provide “Education regarding corrective surgery and treatment alternatives;” Yet, there’s no mention of addressing any psychological trauma that may have contributed to Nadia’s choice to go under the knife.

What about the bullies at Nadia’s school? Will they change? Nadia remains optimistic. “I think they’ll realize what they’ve done and they’ll stop,” she said.

I can’t help but be sceptical, however. For one, a lot of media outlets have picked up this story, putting plenty of scrutiny on Nadia at the moment. Some of her future classmates will no doubt notice and remember the story of the girl who had plastic surgery—something that bullies may use for further cruelty.

That’s not my biggest issue with using plastic surgery to prevent bullying, though. My main gripe is that this sends the wrong message. It tells the victim that it’s their fault they suffered, there was something wrong with them and if they want to move forward they must change.

We should be teaching the opposite. It is never the victim’s fault, there was nothing wrong with Nadia — or any other target of harassment— and they do not need to change. It is the bully who must change.

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