Friday, April 11, 2008

Stephanie Kuleba

About two weeks ago, South Florida teen, Stephanie Kuleba, died during breast augmentation surgery. The 18-year-old captain of her high school cheerleading squad, an accomplished student who had already been accepted at University of Florida pre-med, died due to complications from the anesthesia used during her procedure.

In case you didn't know, Kuleba wasn't simply aiming for bigger breasts--according to reports, one of her breasts was larger than the other, and one of her nipples was inverted, causing her distress throughout the years.

I'm curious about your thoughts about this story. Obviously, Kuleba's death is tragic and highlights the dangers of surgery in any case. Elective procedures, especially, are called into question, when medical necessity won't provide justification. But, should Kuleba have lived in shame of what she felt was a malformation? Should a psychologist have been involved? What does this say about women's body image (especially teens') and the perfection our culture demands?

I'm being interviewed by a local news station at 11:30 am to address these questions, so if you happen to see this post before, I'd love to read your comments!


Suzanne Nam said...

i don't understand what her death has to do with eating disorders or unhealthy body image issues? it makes me uneasy that there are unspoken implications that this young women was vain because she decided to undergo a procedure to correct something she and many people would consider a deformation.

what if she died while having cleft palette surgery?

Anonymous said...

I agree with Suzanne. However, even if she was having the surgery purely for vanity reasons, that choice does not, in and of itself, prove anything. No woman should feel *compelled* to have the surgery, of course. But, this young woman died due to a tragic mistake with the anesthesia.

Laura said...

This story has everything to do with body image issues. Being fat isn't the only issue I've been struggling with for a long time. One of my breasts is probably about a cup size bigger than the other. I feel deformed. I have considered surgery. This issue closely mirrors the fat issue. Finding clothes that don't make my differntly sized boobs look funny is just as big a problem for me as finding good pants to squeeze my fat ass into.

I do not consider what was written about Stephanie at this site to imply that this woman was vain. It was meant to ask the question of healthy body image. I'm actually pretty sure that it said she wasn't going in to get big-ass-titties. She was going in to get something fixed that felt like a deformity to her. Like cleft palette. It's not just a fat issue. It's the fact that a normal human body is disgusting. Everybody's body is asymetrical, but if it's noticible people will talk. And insult.

This is about the torture that some women feel because they are different. It's wrong and an innocent girl who has been made to feel hideous even though she is well-liked and obviously very intelegent has died becaues of it.

Sorry about the probable bad spelling. I needed to get my thoughts out quickly.

BreezieGirl said...

I've considered breast augmentation since I was 13 years old. It has everything to do with body image. I was one of maybe a handful of girls with breasts in elementary and middle school. I was embarrassed and felt unattractive. I wanted to make them smaller. To this day, I refer to my breasts as a curse.

Stephanie's death is tragic. No person should feel like they *need* to have a surgery to become "better" or more attractive. They shouldn't feel like they need to have surgery to become normal.

If our imperfections could be seen as unique and beautiful in their own right, then perhaps we wouldn't have tragedies such as hers. Perhaps if a psychologist had been involved, then Stephanie wouldn't have felt the need as greatly. Do we know the process? Do we know what the doctors told her or how long the period from initial discussion to surgery was?

Anonymous said...

I don't see anything wrong with the decison Stephanie made for the surgery, no matter if vanity or shame motivated her. It was still her decision. There's nothing wrong with cosmetic surgery unless or until it becomes an addiction, and people are using it solely to fill other needs (obviously, this kind of addiction does not apply to many people, because most can't afford surgery enough for it to become addictive, to begin with). For me, Stephanie's death is a tragic mistake of a medical nature. It's an operation gone wrong, which happens sometimes. I do think that it would have been perfectly fine if Stephanie had accepted her body as it was. But it's also okay that she wanted to change it to some degree to feel more "normal". I can understand that, myself. In a perfect world we would never be influenced by what others think of our appearance, but this is not a perfect world. I don't see why people who go for *reasonable* changes via cosmetic surgery should be judged, therefore. I often envy them. I don't have either the money or the courage to go under the knife.

jaed said...

A lot of this seems like projection - or at least unwarranted speculation.

Do we have some reason to believe she "lived in shame" because of an inverted nipple and some asymmetry? Or is this loaded phrase thrown in to pathologize her wish to have surgery? She seems to have been an accomplished young woman, not a cringing victim of "shame".

Is there some reason to think a mental disorder caused her to want to have these minor deformities corrected? Or are we talking about bringing in a psychologist in order to - what? convince her not to have surgery? "Analyze" her unaccountable wish for the surgery? Or just talk it away with happytalk about how 'everyone is beautiful just the way they are'?

General anesthesia can be dangerous, yes, because some people have previously-unsuspected sensitivities to the anesthetics. That doesn't mean that any and all elective surgery is unwarranted, nor that people who seek it are irrational, living in shame, weak-minded, or unable to resist cultural imperatives.


MDD said...

i think its a horrible thing that happened to that poor girl, and instead of trying to say whether or not she should have had the proceedure, we should be asking what happened to her and why were the doctors not paying more attention and what can we do to make sure it doesnt happen again.

As a side note
Im starting my own blog, read me and tell me what you think!

Anonymous said...

I think that some degree of shame probably motivated her (similar to someone getting a nose job, only breasts are in even more loaded body part, no pun intended). Of course, we live in a very shame-based world, esp. for women who don't "measure up". On the other hand, maybe she also just wanted to feel and look "normal". Whatever motivated her, I do not presume to judge it as bad. I can't deny, however, that body shame is very common in women, to one degree or another. Moreso than not. Even otherwise "perfect" looking woman like Stephanie was.

Anonymous said...

Stephanie also was 18, going away to college, involved in cheerleading. With an inverted nipple, I would imagine she avoided sexual contact as well. If it made her feel ugly, then she was just in having the surgery. If it wasn't this breast augmentation, it would have been wisdom teeth.....or anything else down the road.

Anonymous said...

Society has put extreme pressure on what a "beautiful" woman should be. When a movie star has plastic surgery, the entire world is notified, indirectly saying "this is beauty." Having any type of plastic surgery is a personal decision and should not be judged by another. We all have to feel that we are attractive to others and to ourselves. There is NOTHING wrong with having plastic surgery. If we say that it should not be done then why do we go to the gym? Why do we get our teeth whitened? There is surgery to save your life, and there is Cosmetic. Thank God, some surgeries are done by choice.