India’s limb-lengthening industry

This article on India’s limb-lengthening industry is fascinating—people are getting dodgy procedures done to make themselves taller in a desperate attempt to be treated better in a society that values height. The parallels between this and transgenderism are striking.

From the Guardian:

‘I have to be taller’: the unregulated world of India’s limb-lengthening industry

“Young Indians are paying for complex, painful procedures despite the absence of medical oversight in the race to improve career and marriage prospects”

“Komal never told her friends where she really went for six months last year. The 24-year-old, from the town of Kota, in western India, went to see Dr Amar Sarin, an orthopaedic surgeon in Delhi, who made her eight centimetres (3in) taller, a procedure which involved breaking the bones in her legs and wearing a brace until she could walk again. Her parents had to sell the family’s ancestral lands so she could get the surgery, but for Komal, the extra height is worth it. “I have so much confidence now,” she says. “I was just 4’ 6” [137cm]. People used to make fun of me and I couldn’t get a job. Now my younger sister is doing it, too.” In a country where height is considered attractive, Komal is one of a growing number of young Indians using their increasing prosperity to improve their marriage and career prospects, and fuelling a cosmetic surgery boom.”

Doesn’t this sound familiar? Height is valued, so people feel they need to be taller, so they go to great lengths to get surgery to make themselves taller. It’s all about changing the body to fit other people’s expectations.

“Dr Sarin says: “This is one of the most difficult cosmetic surgeries to perform, and people are doing it after just one or two months’ fellowship, following a doctor who is probably experimenting himself. There are no colleges, no proper training, nothing.”

That sounds familiar too. Performing risky operations on people without knowing what the health consequences will be because they really, really want to change their bodies to conform to other people’s expectations.

“Last month, an ethics committee in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh summoned orthopaedic surgeons who had operated on a 23-year-old man, after doctors raised concerns about why “unusual, experimental surgery” was performed. The surgery divides orthopaedic specialists in India, many of whom contend that the surgery is extremely difficult to perform and can cripple people for life.

The surgery should be used only as a last resort, he adds. “We often turn people away,” he says, explaining many of his patients have suffered acute psychological disorders. “We try counselling first, but we’ve had patients who even threaten to commit suicide if I refuse to do the surgery. Twice I’ve had to call the police in emergency situations like that.”

Hmm, the surgery is risky and might cripple people for life, but they threaten to commit suicide if they don’t get the surgery, so doctors are performing it anyway. That sounds familiar too!

“Though he has performed the surgery successfully on hundreds of people, Sarin admits: “It’s madness to do it.”

Still, he feels successful limb lengthening can transform a person’s life: “You can barely recognise them. It’s worth it when you see how much their self esteem grows.”

It’s completely mad to risk being crippled for life by lengthening your limbs, but it’s worth the risk because their self esteem improves? Unfortunately, that sounds familiar too.

Dysphoria means anxiety, depression, unease, restlessness, dissatisfaction. It’s no surprise that people get body dysphoria because we live in a society that judges people based on their physical characteristics. We make assumptions about people based on their height, their age, their sex, their abilities, their skin colour, their hair colour, their clothing, and the list goes on and on. We also have a multi-billion dollar advertising industry whose entire purpose is to make people feel bad about their bodies so they will buy stuff to fix them. Of course people feel anxiety, discomfort, and unease about their bodies in a world where bodies are constantly judged, where people are treated badly because of perceived problems with their bodies, and where some bodies are regarded as less than human. This dysphoria is inevitable as long as we have this culture. The solution is not for a few individuals to have radical surgery. The solution is to change the culture. Stop giving people anxiety and unease about their bodies by teaching people that all bodies are good bodies and that all people deserve respect.

There are all sorts of forms of body hatred and body modification. It’s not just transgenderism. There’s also anorexia and bulimia, there’s also limb-lengthening, there’s also weird extreme surgery like this guy who looks like a dragon, the woman who looks like Jessica Rabbit, the guy who looks like a Ken doll, and the list goes on. Some people get the idea in their heads that they have to look a certain way and will go to great lengths to look that way. This isn’t about being their “authentic selves.” It’s about them feeling really uncomfortable with their authentic selves.

If you ask me, acceptance and respect for all bodies and for people’s natural differences is a much better plan than radical body modification.


17 thoughts on “India’s limb-lengthening industry

  1. Gosh, your links make the lizard man look tame by comparison (thelizardman dot com)

    Good analogy. I saw this story in passing, thanks for working it up. I’m still wondering how in hell that works, but I guess if I really wanted to know I’d look it up. And read about all the horrible complications and side effects.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m short myself (a bit over five feet and one-half inch in bare feet, 5’2 in sneakers), and it’s not always easy or fun being short. I often used to wish I were taller. However, that limb-lengthening surgery horrifies me. It’s like a modern form of footbinding, undergoing excruciating pain just to meet an arbitrary standard of beauty set by the dominant society.

    Being short ended up saving my life when I was run over by a car in 2003. Thanks to my (predominantly) Southern Italian body type, I had less distance to fall, and more flesh to cushion the impact. A taller, thinner person might’ve been thrown or crushed. I’m only one-eighth (12.5%) Italian, but that blood was strong enough to give me the body that was instrumental in saving my life and protecting me from much worse injuries.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Reblogged this on things I've read or intend to and commented:
    I can’t blame the people who are making these desperate choices but I sure as hell blame the doctors who are medically experimenting on mentally distressed and in some cases, mentally ill people for profit and cheap thrills. Those doctors are sociopaths.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah that’s what I keep saying, all this stuff constitutes medical ethics violations. When it gets sold as a cure especially, because that puts it outside the elective surgery box and then becomes a right, being experimented on becomes a civil right. Medicine doesn’t get much crazier than this, and they have to take the lead in walking it back. People *trust* their doctors, it just breaks my heart.

      Liked by 2 people

      • A neighbor of mine who was a paranoid schizophrenic, on disability and such, decided he was trans and was encourage by stupid community mental health workers to adopt a trans identity and was put on HRT. Not surprisingly, HRT didn’t help his paranoia one bit and developing breasts and cross dressing (badly) brought him all sorts of stares and comments, he got much worse and lost his housing. it was so baffling to watch, like who in their right mind would put someone who’s not in their right mind, at all, someone who’s really struggling on cross sex hormones? I could only conclude that his health care workers didn’t give a fuck about mentally ill, mentally fragile people or homeless people nor did they give a shit about trans people.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. It is interesting that, on the job market, typically male characteristics are valued higher. Height is one, but I also read about a study that found that women with more masculine facial features were more likely to be promoted. It probably stops at beards, as gender-non-conforming women are definitely not promoted over other women (except perhaps if they claim to be men? Does anyone know the job chances of transmen?) but there is a definite trend.

    Which is why I think transmen, even those who pass, cannot reap full male privilege. Patriarchy is cleverer than that, and will discriminate against them because they’re shorter than the average man.

    (By “clever” I obviously mean not literally clever but, you know, working well in what it does. Like evolution. Is there an overlap between those who believe in “intelligent design” and those who think that the patriarchy is a conspiracy theory? I could imagine there is, as if they can’t believe that things happen without a mastermind behind everything, they probably think others have the same way of thinking.)

    Is there any sort of movement against this sort of discrimination against smaller people? I mean, even Sir Terry invented one (though the Equal Heights committee was not very popular among dwarves, they being of the opinion they have the correct height and not discriminated against on the job market), so there should be one in the real world, shouldn’t there?

    It obviously overlaps with discrimination against women, but the people who get that surgery don’t seem to notice that, so I doubt they think it is all covered by feminism and they don’t need a movement.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I can see the comparison to the transgender dogma and practices, but this feels more like straight-up plastic surgery for appearance’s sake in a way that transgender surgery doesn’t, and I can’t quite my finger on why.

    What struck me was the 3″ part. I don’t understand how 3″ could be worth such a painful, risky procedure. I mean, high heels are awful, but they seem much better than this, and there are ways to make yourself appear taller with what you wear, too, if it’s so damned important, which apparently it is. I would imagine there are some pretty significant scars to go along with this. It’s just so extreme.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, it is not as fundamental a change as transgender surgery – the women undergoing it retain their reproductive organs, and won’t require artificial hormones afterwards.When it is finished (provided there are no complications) it is finished, and they won’t have to worry about hormones, or if people actually believe they are really that tall.
      In a way, I guess the long-term happiness after this will be better. Also, I do think that some of the people doing this are really aware they are not doing it for themselves, but to survive in a world that discriminates against them, so they don’t expect an immediate self-esteem boost.

      Perhaps they intend to wear high heels on top of their gained height, to get into the height range that gets them employed?

      Liked by 1 person

      • From makemetaller dot org:

        Major Risks & Complications

        All Leg Lengthening methods involve separating one or more bones into two parts (osteotomy) and then slowly separating those two parts (distracting) and relying on the bones natural ability to regenerate.

        If the rate of distration is faster than the rate of regeneration, there is a chance that the two halves of the bone will become totally separate and fail to grow together. This is a form of non-union.

        This is a serious complication that sometimes needs bone-graft surgery to rectify it, or can result in the lengthening having to be reversed.

        Nerve & Blood Vessel Damage
        Leg Lengthening results in stretched nerves and blood-vessels. Sometimes, the stretching of them can result in damage to them which may require treatment by medication or surgery.

        These are more common than non-union, but can be mitigated by ensuring that the rate of lengthening is not too fast for the body to cope with.

        Premature Consolidation
        If the rate of lengthening is too slow, the bone can heal before the lengthening process is complete preventing the target height from being achieved.

        This can normally be avoided by careful monitoring, but if it happens, unscheduled surgery will be required.

        Other Complications
        Each different technique may bring its own unique risks, and these should be discussed with your surgeon in detail before the operation. An example of this would be pin-breakages with external methods.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Body hatred is universal, and so are the quacks exploiting it… | The Prime Directive

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