OK, let’s unpack this. Because frankly I have a lot of mixed emotions on the subject and need to work. it. out. And to clarify, I’m talking about elective plastic surgery–not reconstructive and/or medically necessary surgery, or gender reassignment surgery. We’re talking purely Joan Rivers, Kylie Jenner, and Pamela Anderson here. Granted, I don’t know their medical circumstances, but I feel it’s safe to assume that their cosmetic surgeries are of the elective sort (and if I have to hear one more person say that a “deviated septum” is really the legitimate cause for their nose job, I’m going to start responding with, “yeah, and I’m fucking the Pope.”).
On the one hand, I absolutely believe that every person has the right to do with his/her own body what he/she wants. So I feel that I need to take the “to each his/her own” approach to plastic surgery. On the other hand, I can’t help but think that the main reason people elect to have plastic surgery is because of a societal and cultural standard of appearance that they feel they need to meet, not because of some inborn instinct they have to have fuller lips, a more perfect ass, or balloon tits. Sure, if everyone was getting a nose job because it served some evolutionary or biological purpose, I don’t think I would feel so strongly opposed to it. But it seems to me that the main reason for it is that in our culture, particularly in the U.S., smaller/less crooked/more refined noses are coveted as “ideal” and “beautiful.”
But according to who? And why? If we all look inward, I think we would find it hard to come up with a good reason or explanation, other than, “that’s the mass media-dictated standard of beauty.” But even then, there doesn’t seem to be a logical justification–it seems that some people just decided that “beautiful” or “desirable” = a certain set of physical traits, and everyone bought into that over time, making us no better than lemmings, really. So, if I consider the reason behind an individual’s choice to have cosmetic surgery, I still find it hard to justify.
Furthermore, I think that there are harmful consequences to plastic surgery. Not just the obvious possible medical complications, but when celebrities or public figures who have had work done are touted as representations of true beauty, the message to the public is that we should all look like that, or at least strive to, and if we can’t attain that look, there is something wrong with us. But of course we can’t attain that look, because we don’t have the money to spend on it. Also, a lot of the time celebrities have plastic surgery but don’t admit to it, which makes their message even worse: “I am beautiful, and I am this way naturally, so if you can’t make yourself look like this naturally, there’s something wrong with you.” Of course this is especially dangerous when it’s being conveyed to young fans. And I don’t think anyone would dispute the fact that females are generally held to stricter standards of beauty and appearance than males in this society. So, essentially, the message that young, impressionable girls are receiving via media is that they need to fit a certain physical mold in order to be attractive and desirable.
I know I’m not the first to say any of this, but I think it’s important to talk about, because even I, a self-proclaimed feminist and graduate of a women’s college, find myself buying into these unrealistic beauty standards. And I have been fortunate enough to have access to quality education my entire life, and consequently the resources necessary in order to form informed responses to mass media propaganda, so I really have no excuse for falling prey to it. Yet, I do.
Every time I think about plastic surgery, I try to remain as objective as possible, and debate both sides of it. But every time I consider the pro argument that someone is having it because they want to and because it will make them feel better about themselves, I come back to the conclusion that the reason they want to have it and it will make them feel better about themselves is because it will help them attain the physical ideal that is promoted in our society and culture, and therefore, it is not such an autonomous decision as that argument would suggest.
That said, I’m always open to other ways of thinking and hearing other’s opinions on the matter. And I do thank all the people who have had horrendous cosmetic surgery for giving us all something to laugh at (I said it–SO SUE ME):
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