In our ‘dardishi about‘ series, we chat about topics that are close to our hearts. This week, we dardish about beauty ideals, plastic surgery and how we learnt to love our noses.
Samar: Look at our noses! We’re such beauties!!!
Annabel: Legit just thinking same thing.
Samara: Samar, our noses are similar!!
Samar: I know! Nose and name twins!
Bayan: Mine is freckly!
Annabel: Now we NOSE we all got excellent schnozes, should we begin?
Samar: Ha ha, yeah! So, growing up my nose was the thing that I was most self-conscious about, closely followed by my body and head hair. What about you guys?
Samara: My nose was also the thing I was most self-conscious about, literally also followed by body and head hair. I used to lie down on my notebook sideways and draw the shape of my nose, because I was so dissatisfied.
Annabel: My nose was definitely the thing I was most self-conscious about.
Bayan: I was always fine with my nose straight on, but I remember so clearly the day I discovered my profile. I held up a handheld mirror and saw it from the side and was mortified.
Samar: Yes, I would stand in front of a mirror and push at the tip with my index finger hoping it would shrink up.
Annabel: Same, I wanted a little button nose!
Samara: Ahh I would do that too Samar!
Samar: Like a little pixie one that turns up at the end?
Bayan: Yes, me too!!!!
Samar: THE ANGST.
Bayan: Hold on I think I have a diary where I wrote that’s what I wanted. Ah, here it is. It’s super lame.
Annabel: I’d love to see!
Bayan: I must have been eleven or twelve years old. It’s titled ‘The Way I’d Like To Look’. “Dirty blonde hair, green/grey lite (haha) eyes, thin eyebrows, thin straight hair, cute small snub nose.”
Samara: Oh my God, that breaks my heart, Bayan.
Samar: Awww, I’m so sad for baby Bayan right now. I wanted thin straight hair too Bayan, and coloured eyes.
Annabel: I one hundred percent wanted blue eyes.
Samara: SAME with the coloured eyes. Some members of the Turkish side of my family have green eyes and that was another thing that made me feel kinda disconnected from them.
Bayan: Ha ha ha! Poor old me. It’s all good guys I don’t feel that way anymore. Maybe just the coloured eyes.
Annabel: I can’t remember what white celeb it was, but it was definitely because of a white celeb that I hated my nose.
Samar: I don’t think it was even a celebrity – just girls at school and in my classes with little noses happened to be the ‘pretty’ ones. I think Barbies and dolls and cartoons were really harmful in that portrayal for me too though, actually.
Samara: Did you guys have family members with more ‘Western’ noses than you, and how did it make you feel?
Annabel: Not really, Samara, I think my family’s nose gene is quite unforgiving. But I think my MAIN irk was that it was the most distinctly Arab part of my face, and that if it was just a little bit less so I could pass as being a white girl SO MUCH EASIER.
Samara: Yup, I was convinced I could never be seen as pretty with the nose I had.
Samar: Yasmine, my sister, has a very petite nose. It’s small and it has a straight profile with no ridges or bumps. She broke it when she was very young, and it still looks perfect. I’m really upset and ashamed to say, but as a young teenager I really resented her for it.
Samara: Yeah I know that feel. It also frustrated me that lots of white girls, not that your sister is a white girl, complained about their button noses at school and I was like: …
Annabel: Has anyone in your family had surgery?
Bayan: Yes a few people in my family have had surgery.
Samara: No one in my gene pool has a Western nose either, and my mum had a nose job when she was around my age, which made me feel massive pressure to get one when I was older.
Annabel: One of my cousins did to get rid of her bump, and then after that she starting getting modeling jobs and relatives were a lot more complementary of her.
Samar: Yeah, I definitely know women around me who either had nose jobs or were contemplating it. I remember thinking as a teen: as soon as I’m an ‘Independent Lady’ with money to spare, I’m getting one too.
Annabel: What has been the general response to people’s surgery? As I said, my cousin’s was received TOO WELL.
Samar: It’s not really talked about. I didn’t even realize one of them had a nose job – I thought it was just her nose!
Samara: When did you stop feeling like you wanted surgery Samar, or do you still?
Annabel: I stopped wanting surgery maybe when I was at university.
Samar: It’s hard to tell. In sixth form definitely, maybe at sixteen or seventeen years old? I really struggled with it at about fourteen. There was nothing more that I wanted than a tattoo and a nose job!
Annabel: Ha ha, same!
Bayan: I’ve contemplated it in the past, but I can gladly say that it was always met with: “hell no Bayan, don’t do it”.
Samar: Yes, I was very lucky to be surrounded by feminist women growing up, who were quite against it.
Samara: I’m sorry to hear that guys. It was also when I got to uni that I stopped wanting it, but I still think about it from time to time to be honest. I don’t think I would ever do it, but a part of me still wishes I had a Western nose!
Samar: Yes Samara, even though I don’t ever want a nose job, when I’m feeling sad or self conscious my nose-hate is the first thing to reappear.
Annabel: It’s interesting that I’ve never met an Arab male self-conscious about their nose.
Samar: Mmmm, I do know Arab men who have had nose jobs too, but I feel that society allows men to still be attractive and have big crooked noses. With men there seems to be an unspoken rule about charisma or intellegence being able to pervade looks – or that their looks are much less important than a woman’s looks.
Samara: It’s so bad that nose jobs are usually encouraged within Arab families. Although I have not talked to my male cousins about this, it seems to be much less important for them. I wonder how we can lift this pressure from ourselves slightly.
Annabel: I found looking at my nose very good. It sounds so obvious, but it’s just about working out your ~angles~.
Samar: Yes, I do that too Annabel!
Annabel: I love my nostrils? They are my favourite part of my face. And the dip in my philtrum.
Samara: To be honest, it’s not too obvious – I usually AVOID looking at my nose ha ha! It’s good advice.
Samar: Personally, I love watching interviews and looking at pictures of badass women who have noses that look like mine!
Samara: I felt better as I felt more comfortable with other parts of my appearance, like when I stopped straightening my hair and my self confidence grew due to other reasons, then my nose decreased in importance.
Bayan: SO great to hear that you’ve all grown out of hating your nose, at least for most of the time! How I’m feeling about my nose really depends on the day. I still catch myself Google-ing Jennifer Aniston pre/post nose job and trying to find out how she did it so subtly.
Annabel: I feel like the root of so many problems young Arabs face today, is having to adapt to Western beauty standards. Also, when young Arabs have to move to the Western world with their families, they usually end up internalising their parents’ self-hatred – which they picked up when they moved, if that makes any sense.
Samara: That does make sense Annabel – definitely in the case of my family with young Arabs living in the West.
Samar: I feel that white beauty ideals have transgressed many generations – hugely though the media, as well as in film, photography and art.
Annabel: Has Nancy had a nose job? Do we think yes or no?
Samar: Oh yeah, definitely.
Annabel: Let me Google it.
Bayan: Ha ha ha ha!
Annabel: She had four nose jobs.
Samar: She’s had a lot done. That brings something else up though! I only know about Nancy’s surgeries, because I’ve heard so many other Arab women slag her off about it when an ad or one of her videos comes up on TV or at the cinema. So we are considered ugly with big noses, but then when we have surgery to ‘fix it’, that is also stigmatised.
Annabel: You can literally NOT WIN. If she kept her natural nose, men would say horrible things about her and she probably would not have become “Nancy”.
Samar: I feel so conflicted about this. Women should NOT be made to feel bad for choices that they make with their bodies – but I also feel that getting a nose job isn’t really a choice? We’re not brought up in a neutral environment when it comes to our noses – we are pushed into surgery most of the time. I would never attack another woman for doing it of course, because of those reasons, but also I can’t agree that it’s just a choice like any another.
Samara: I agree with you one hundred percent, Samar. I think when we frame things as a “choice”, when they are clearly influenced by the patriarchy and white supremacy, it can be dangerous. Especially because it ignores what has influenced that choice, and the fact that that choice doesn’t equal happiness or freedom.
Annabel: Yes, as people of the nose struggle, I feel like it’s definitely more complex than that.
Samar: It’s really upsetting to me that our nose stories are so similar, but it’s also really comforting to know I’ve not been alone.
Illustration by Annabel Amin.
Annabel Amin is a student currently living in Paris who likes hip-hop, pop culture, selfies, and wants all the girls in the world to be friends. Her favourite album of 2015 was Carly Rae Jepsen’s EM•OT•ION. You can follow her on instagram or read her dardishi articles here.
Bayan Dahdah is a Palestinian architect turned filmmaker, with some photographs in between, and based in Doha, Qatar. With either her head in the clouds or her body at the ocean floor, she’s always got a camera in hand. She is also currently working on her first short film, but you can follow her semi-adventures on twitter, instagram, and her website, or you can read her articles here.
Samara Jundi is a British-born Lebanese, Palestinian and Turkish student who is committed to the liberation of women, not laughing at men’s jokes and a better ending for Rory Gilmore. You can follow her on twitter and tumblr, or read her articles here.
Samar Ziadat is a postgraduate student in modern and contemporary art history at the University of Edinburgh. When she’s not ranting about intersectional feminism, she’s either curled up with a book or her cat. You can follow her on instagram and twitter, or read her articles here.nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn