Plastic surgery challenges gender equality

By Wu Jin
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, September 22, 2017
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A documentary reflecting the prevalence of plastic surgery among women around the world has aroused public awareness on how women have been misguided by commercial hype.

Li Dan, the curator of China Women's Film Festival, speaks at the Netherlands Embassy in Beijing on Sept. 19, 2017. [Photo by Wu Jin /]

People couldn't agree more that the centuries-long foot binding custom among Chinese women was a brutal practice which was repudiated in 1911, as good looks can never be an excuse for women to deform themselves.

However, nowadays, as women are growing more and more obsessed with their looks and body shape, commonly gauged by big breasts, slim waistlines and fleshy hips, they become credulous in falling for the commercial gimmicks inducing them to undergo plastic surgery.

To explore the lucrative plastic surgery market and its far-reaching effects on women's psyche, Sunny Bergman, a Dutch filmmaker, released her documentary "Over the Hill" at the Netherlands Embassy in Beijing, on Sept. 19.

Despite the fact it was made 10 years ago, the film, submitted as one of the feminist-oriented movies to the China Women's Film Festival being hosted in Beijing Sept. 16-24, has aroused immense awareness of the cause and ramifications of women's distorted and obsessive conception of beauty, encouraged by stereotyped advertising and media hype.

In her documentary, Bergman gets to know an American girl who was only 15-years-old when she chose to undergo a vaginal operation, even though there was nothing wrong with that part of the body. The girl, with a tongue stud in her mouth, decided to undergo the surgery simply because she thought she would be much prettier with a reshaped organ.

The girl's mother witnessed the whole process without blinking an eye.

Ten years on, Bergman is also a mother.

While commenting on the documentary, she believed that the parents should shoulder a duty to help their children become immune to stereotyped commercial images considered detrimental to a sense of gender equality.

"I think it is very important to raise our children to be critical to power and be critical to social normality," she said.

"I think it is very, very worrying that from an ever-younger age, like my own children, they have their own phones, so we have to control the video content from a much earlier age. My children deserve being raised by active feminist as parents just like the way to rebel the sexist jokes."

She also said the gender gap can be spotted more often in the media that tends to highlight very sexiest males and females.

Li Dan, the curator of this film festival, said: "We bring in these short videos to ensure domestic advertisers become aware of the obsolete and stereotyped female images and roles, and, instead, review them in the milieu of a modern society, showing their characters with the merits of women's modernity and independence, which may make the advertisements even better.

"We also hope that, through our endeavor, gender equality can be achieved progressively."

In Tuesday's symposium after the release of the movie, Bergman said she was shocked to realize that, in order to increase their job potential, South Korean women have started to seek plastic surgery at a very young age, when they are ready to enter university.

By offering her solution and boosting confidence among women who are beautiful in one way or another without undergoing surgery, Bergman said, "What we can do individually is, of course, not to buy into those products and that's the power we have as consumers."

To better highlight the issue, Bergman shot the film with herself as the protagonist: "I started thinking about this topic quite young when I studied politics and philosophy in a European university.

"I really want to do this subject. So, when I first made documentaries I realized you can highlight injustice in the world, but it's often done in a very distant manner…So that's why I make a film in personal way, because I believe the audience could identify with me as the protagonist. It's a way to become close to the audience."

The China Women's Film Festival was highly recommended by Everardus Kronenburg, the Dutch Ambassador to Beijing.

"It is all about rational matters, and shows what we have to do in all these areas in regard to gender equality," he said. "It is still very much an issue and therefore we are very pleased with this initiative with the organization of the China Women's Film Festival. I'd like to compliment the organizer once again for this important event with so many movies."

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