The  International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons has released new data on the incidence of invasive and non-invasive cosmetic procedures.  The U.S. leads in sheer numbers of procedures but, accounting for population, we fall into 4th place.  South Korea leads for the number of procedures per person, followed by Greece and Italy.


By far the most common kinds of surgical cosmetic procedures are lipoplasty and breast augmentation.  Along with fat, breasts seem to be a particular concern: breast lifts and breast reductions for both men and women are also in the top ten.  Abdominoplasty, nose jobs, eyelid surgeries, and facelifts are as well.


The incidence of these surgeries is strongly related to everything from the gender binary to global power dynamics.  In 2008 we reported that male breast reductions were the most common cosmetic surgery for 13-19 year olds (boys and girls combined). You would be shocked at what counts as excess breast tissue and how little the before and after photos look.  Boys and men getting breast reductions, alongside women getting augmentations, is obviously about our desire for men and women to be different, not naturally-occurring difference.  See The Story of My Man-Boobs for more.

Likewise, we’ve posted about surgeries that create an epithelial fold, a fold of skin in the eyelid more common in people with White than Asian ethnic backgrounds.  This surgery is a trend among Asians and Asian-Americans, as colonization has left us with an association between Whiteness, attractiveness, and power.

The Economist summarizes some other trends:

Breast augmentation, the second biggest surgical procedure, is most commonly performed in America and Brazil. Buttock implants are also a Brazilian specialty, as is vaginal rejuvenation. Asia is keen on nose jobs: China, Japan and South Korea are among the top five nations for rhinoplasty.

More on where and how many procedures are being performed, but nothing on why, at the ISAPS report.

Image at The Economist; via Global Sociology.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Katrin sent us a link to a image at GOOD that illustrates the geopolitics of first-person shooter video games. The image was created by a group at Complex to illustrate the way that the changing actual political landscape can be seen in the nationality of villains in video games. Peter Rubin, of Complex, explains, “Gone are the days of all FPSes being either World War II or sci-fi; in the new milennium, developers are on the hunt for enemies that are speculative but still plausible.”

They looked at 20 FPS games from the past decade (unfortunately, they give no details about how those 20 games were chosen

The selected titles:

Return to Castle Wolfenstein (2001): Germany
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Desert Siege (2002): Ethiopia
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Island Thunder (2003): Cuba
Delta Force: Black Hawk Down (2003): Somalia
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Jungle Storm (2004): Colombia
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon 2 (2004): North Korea
Joint Operations: Typhoon Rising (2004): Indonesia
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon 2: Summit Strike (2005): Afghanistan
Delta Force Xtreme (2005): Chad
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter (2006): Mexico
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007): Russia/Afghanistan
Army of Two (2008): Somalia/Afghanistan/China/Iraq
Frontlines: Fuel of War (2008): Russia/China
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009): Russia/Afghanistan/Brazil
Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising (2009): China/Russia
Singularity (2010): Russia
MAG (2010): Russia/China/India
Army of Two: The 40th Day (2010): China
Homefront (2011): Korea (They don’t specify if it’s North or South Korea)
Operation Flashpoint: Red River (2011): China

Anyway, it provides a nice little illustration of the way that global politics seeps into this element of pop culture, as well as a snapshot of nations currently perceived as rivals or even enemies of the U.S. — a mixture of old tensions (Russia, Germany), ongoing anxiety about China, and emerging focal points.

American school children learn all about the U.S. gold rush in the Western part of the country. Goldmining was a speculative, but potentially highly rewarding endeavor and attracted, almost exclusively, adult men. But the entrepreneurship of gold mining (though not mining as wage work) is long gone in the U.S.  Still, gold is in high demand:  “The price of gold, which stood at $271 an ounce on September 10, 2001, hit $1,023 in March 2008, and it may surpass that threshold again” (source).  Who are the gold entrepreneurs today?  Where?  Under what economic conditions do they work?  And with what environmental impact?

I found hints to answers in a recent slide show and a National Geographic article (thanks to Allison for her tip in the comments).  While there is still some gold mining in the U.S., there is gold mining, also, in developing countries and all kinds of people participate:

According to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), there are between 10 million and 15 million so-called artisanal miners around the world, from Mongolia to Brazil. Employing crude methods that have hardly changed in centuries, they produce about 25 percent of the world’s gold and support a total of 100 million people…

Environmentally, gold is especially destructive.  The ratio of gold to earth moved is larger than in any other mining endeavor.

It makes me rethink whether I really want to buy gold (because, you know, I do that constantly, darling, constantly).  In fact, jewelry accounts for two-thirds of the demand.  In the comments, HP reminds me:

Gold (along with even more problematic metals) is found in pretty much all consumer electronics. It’s in your computer, your cellphone, your .mp3 player, your TV/stereo, etc. You’re buying gold all the time already, whether you know it or not.

Below are images of gold prospecting around the world.

Near Lodwar, Kenyan children mine for gold to help support their families:

In Colombia, about 8,000 prospectors seek gold illegally on the Dagau river:

Miners in Abangares, Costa Rica, scrape tiny amounts of gold out of abandoned mines; the work is dangerous and potentially toxic:

An illegal gold mine in a national park, Paral, Brazil:

This woman, in Indonesia, is collecting mud to sift for gold:

Also in Indonesia, this illegal mine is opposed by villagers who argue that the waste is polluting:

Mining in Myanmar:

UPDATE! A reader, Heather Leila, linked to a picture she took of gold prospecting in Suriname (at her own blog).  She writes:

The gold mines aren’t what you are thinking. They aren’t underground, you don’t carry a pick axe and a helmet. The garimpos are where the miners have dammed a creek and created large mud pits. The mud is pumped through a long pipe lined with mercury. The mercury attaches itself to the specks of gold and gets filtered out as the mud is poured into a different pit. The mercury is then burned off, while the gold remains. This is how it was explained to me. From the plane, they are exposed patches of yellow earth dotting the endless forest.

See also our posts on post-oil boom life and gorgeous photos of resource extraction by Edward Burtynsky.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

After reading Lisa’s post on politicizing kids, Z of It’s the Thought that Counts sent in this screenshot of political birth announcements found on the sidebar at, accouncing kids as “Our Littlest Democrat” or “Our Littlest Republican”:

Z points out the company “only offers Republican and Democrat announcements — no Libertarians, or Greens, or anything else.”

I went to the website where you can buy these announcements, and I noticed that they had a section for adoption announcements, so I clicked on it. Here is one of the three options:

The other two also showed infants, and one of them also included text about the child being born in China.

I’m a volunteer court advocate for children in foster care in Las Vegas, so my immediate reaction was annoyance that the announcements all focused on the adoption of infants, without a single image of an older child, which sort of normalizes one type of adoption (of newborns) while ignoring the other. But I also realized there were only three of them, so whatever. But then I googled “adoption announcements” and looked around. And there are adoption announcement websites that show older kids and sibling groups.

In my search I came across this website, where you can buy customized announcements that have images representing the country your internationally-adopted child is from, with your child’s photo next to it and the announcement text on the back. Here is the image for Brazil:



One of the images available for Russia:


This really creeped me out–it’s like you’re sending a 1970s-era postcard that romanticizes the “traditional culture” of a country, and also,  “Look what we got while we were here–a kid! Just like these!”

I think the idea is probably to celebrate or acknowledge an adopted child’s origins, but it comes off as a weird exoticization–linking your adopted child to people working in rice paddies or a dancing Russian doll. There is also the issue of how all these images depict the country as preciously pre-modern and rural (the girl carrying fruit on her head, the wagon pulled by oxen). On the one hand, none of the pictures have any clearly negative portrayals of these countries (the images all depict the home countries as very cute, really), but the message is also, implicitly, that these children, since they’ve been adopted by Americans, are being saved from lives in these cute but undeveloped nations, where they might end up working in rice paddies.

I have a couple of distant relations who have adopted children from other countries, and I’ve noticed that other family members often talk about this in terms of them “saving” these children from a presumably dismal life in those countries. So it’s not just about adopting a child you will love; it’s also about the White American as savior, giving a child not just a loving family but a modern American lifestyle. I’ve specifically heard this attached to ideas about how girls are supposedly treated in China (from family members who, to my knowledge, know nothing about China except what the average person can pick up on the news, and also don’t show much concern about gender inequality more broadly)–that if the little girl hadn’t been adopted, she’d have suffered a horrible life in China because they “treat girls like dirt” there, etc. And though cutesy, I think these images sort of play into this same discourse about other countries as backward (or, to use a more positive word, “traditional”) in comparison to our modern culture.

Anyway, thanks to Z. for pointing to one form of labeling of children (politically) that led me to another form–labeling kids as exotic and inherently “ethnic.”

UPDATE: In a comment, Elena brought my attention to one I didn’t post. This is one of the images available for India:

If you look closely, this appears to be a picture of colonial-era India, where a dark-skinned Indian is rowing a boat while two White men gaze at the people on shore. What a great sentiment to use to announce you’ve adopted a child from India!

Thanks, Elena!