Plastic Surgery in Our Society
Plastic beauty — curse or bliss?
There is much controversy regarding physical appearance in the contemporary society, as while the masses promote the belief that it one’s thinking is more important than the way that he or she looks like, most people invest large amounts of money in their looks. The world has practically been bombarded by the effects of a cosmetic surgery culture during the recent years. Plastic surgery is in most cases a direct attack on society’s honor, as it encourages discrimination based on appearance. Even though it only seems natural to employ a criticizing attitude when faced with the concept, it is actually difficult to determine whether or not plastic surgery is good — the present day the social order functions in accordance with different values and people have come to achieve positive results as a consequence of artificially improving their outer shell.
While some might be inclined to consider that plastic surgery is justified in the case of a person who had just suffered an accident and needs to modify his or her looks in order to be able to reintegrate society both from a physical and from a , the general public expresses less understanding when it comes to people who want to achieve perfection and turn to cosmetic surgeons with the purpose of doing so. Moreover, this procedure is also condemned in the situation of people who experience depression as a result of growing older and think that they need it in order to be able to maintain their social status. There is nothing new about wanting to look younger, considering “Ponce de Leon’s well-known search for the fountain of youth” (Bayer) and the legend regarding how “Countess Elizabeth Bathory bathed in the blood of young Virgins in an attempt to retain the beauty of her youth” (Bayer). Similarly, Plato considered that “our world is a world only of partial representations of another one the realm of Forms” (Holliday and Sanchez Taylor, 180). Nonetheless, the fact that technology has experienced significant progress in the recent years made it possible for people to actually address their physical appearance. People “no longer focus simply on living longer; we want to live better — and look better-as we age” (Bayer).
When considering conditions in some upper class circles today, people frequenting them are encouraged in wanting to look good in order for these communities to provide them with a higher level of acceptance. Most individuals supporting a culture concentrated on attractiveness are fueled by a general motto: “the beautiful live and the ugly die” (Edmonds). In addition to this, the media world constantly uses aggressive techniques of providing people with the impression that they need to change something about themselves in order to seem more “normal” and desirable” (Bayer). Individuals are generally persuaded to believe that someone who is not beautiful has a physical defect and that he or she needs to do everything in his or her power in order to correct that respective flaw.
People who are actively engaged in reshaping their physical appearance through using cosmetic surgery seem to believe that surgeons perform supernatural activities while working on them. Plastic surgery has come to consist out of a vicious chain involving beauty and fashion magazines, entrepreneurs taking advantage of society’s trends, and patrons leaving cosmetic institutions with the confidence that they are closer to looking similar to their ideal concept of beauty. Many individuals virtually walk into plastic surgery clinics and order the appearance they want as if they were in a supermarket. There is always a “catalogue” sitting in waiting rooms and patients get the chance to look through it in order to kill time as they wait for doctors to consult them. These respective “catalogues” are in most cases simple magazines presenting people with fashion icons. Most women who visited a cosmetic surgery are likely to be acquainted with them, as they influence them in being more certain that they want to change something about themselves, as they want to look like “the other woman.” “Whoever she is at the time: Nadja Auermann, Cindy Crawford, Charlize Theron, or Julia Roberts — she is the Other Woman, the yardstick for our imperfection” (Blum).
It is apparently impossible for an individual living in the twenty-first century to refrain from assessing people on account of their appearance. This is a society where “Each woman is somehow made to feel an intensely private shame for her “personal failure” (Chapkis 5). The world is a hostile place for individuals who are not physically beautiful and it is very difficult and almost impossible for them to fit in as long as they are not familiar with the “language” and the “traditions” present in modern society. People eventually come to acknowledge that their exterior is unacceptable if they are not willing to disguise themselves. Individuals feel the need to raise public awareness regarding their character, as they feel that they are not provided with sufficient attention because of their looks. They consider that they are not who they appear to be and that it is essential for them to change something about themselves if they want the others to really appreciate them.
There have been some campaigns that managed to draw a lot of attention through attempting to boost people’s self-esteem as a consequence of having them realize that inner beauty is what really counts. Despite that, the majority of individuals cannot abstain from being influenced by the concept of physical beauty. The perfect appearance has come to be the result of plastic surgery and people today are obsessed with looking beautiful and having the perfect bodies. The masses support these individuals through expressing appreciation concerning their appearance and thus play an active role in promoting artificial beauty. Society thus consumes itself as people are indirectly responsible for the fact that some come to see themselves as imperfect and are obsessed with having a faultless appearance.
Society today knows no limits when it comes to expressing disapproval in regard to a person’s physical appearance. Individuals are unable to think normally when they are criticized for their appearance by the very people that they feel close to. “Having a parent criticize a physical feature is a complicated emotional experience that induces both anger and guilt” (Blum 1). People who are approached by their kin about their looks feel that they are responsible for disappointing their relatives and that it is their job to do something concerning this. In contrast, the general public typically prefers to believe that conditions are different in parent-child relations and that all parents believe that there is nothing wrong with their children. Society thus enjoys lying to itself in an attempt to mask the ugly truth. There is virtually no limitation when it comes to people’s attitude on the topic of beauty, as some would even want to perform plastic surgery in order to “fix” the truth if this was possible.
Children today are pressured into developing false images of beauty and they have difficulty understanding the moral aspect of life. They are provided with a lot of information about physical appearance as they grow up and come to associate success and happiness with beauty. “The adolescent girl, especially, enters the world tentatively and waits for it to say yes or no to her face and body” (Blum 2). Individuals are influenced to think that it is very important for them to act before it is too late, as expressing indifference in regard to their appearance is likely to have them lose things like money, love, and success. Life is apparently easier for people who are beautiful.
Some people are infatuated with the fact that they think that they are ugly and would stop at nothing from trying to correct their appearance. One cannot blame them, especially considering that society often categorizes individuals on account of their looks. People seriously think about surgery as they experience rejection, as they start to consider that their appearance is responsible for preventing others from accepting them. Most of these individuals think that they can “achieve emotional, psychological, and social improvements by having plastic surgery” (“Why People Want Plastic” 2). As they interact with other individuals and see their reactions, some reach the conclusion that employers (and a series of other people) can refuse to work with them if they are not beautiful enough.
Women are normally more concerned about physical appearance and while there are also men who turn to plastic surgery in order to “fix” their appearance, females largely dominate this environment. They do so for a series of reasons, but one of the principal motives fueling them is the fact that they observe how society tends to provide beautiful women with more attention. Women dominate the plastic surgery scene because “men will never be aesthetic surgery patients in significant numbers since the whole construction of being a patient or surgeon is intrinsically gendered” (Holliday and Sanchez Taylor, 185).
While people normally think of plastic surgery as being a tool primarily used by , it appears that patients turning to plastic surgery come from a diverse range of environments and one of them can be “the young mom next door, the waiter who served you coffee this morning — even your coworker” (“Why People Want Plastic” 2).
Society promotes the belief that to be feminine is to be beautiful, thus making many women encounter difficulty in trying to find a personal identity. With cosmetic surgery seemingly being capable “to alter anything we choose” (Blum), it seems less problematic for women to successfully integrate the social order. Plastic surgery holds the key to making women exactly as society wants them, as it enables them to address society’s requirements regarding their appearance. Women are no longer required to consider beautiful women rivals, as they can apparently become as beautiful (or even more beautiful) than anyone they want to. One of the reasons for which some women come to consider beautiful women rivals is the fact that they observe how men are generally attracted to these individuals. Considering that a beautiful woman can take their men away, “normal” women come to believe that they are also a threat to their bank accounts, their social status, and even their children. Many women are inspired to take on certain attitudes as a result of seeing how celebrities behave. With celebrities typically being icons when considering their physical appearance, people are influenced to create a false image regarding perfection. The fact that most celebrities treat beauty as something that is not particularly important has individuals even more stressed out as a consequence of their looks. They feel that being as beautiful as their favorite stars would help them experience the same fate as they did. “Those gorgeous would-be palettes of makeup, fashion models, are simultaneously our rivals, our doubles, and our goals” (Blum). Thus, people turn to cosmetic surgery hoping that they will be more attractive and that they will become famous as a result.
While people normally believe that men are responsible for having women wanting to perform plastic surgery, women themselves can also be held accountable for this procedure. A woman can turn to having cosmetic surgery as a result of the fact that she “fears the judgmental gaze of other women” (Blum). People are also influenced in changing their appearance by the way that they perceive the ideal image of themselves
Considering that “more than 2,000,000 cosmetic procedures are performed annually” (Sevinor), one can surely assume that the world holds an impressive number of individuals who believe that the more they improve their physical appearance the more they are likely to experience positive results in their lives. Western culture today constantly differentiates between the concepts of beautiful and ugly and influences people in being unable to understand what position they need to adopt in order to have the whole world express more appreciation regarding their physical appearance.
It is very difficult and almost impossible for someone today to achieve success in a public domain without displaying exceptional beauty. The same thing can apply when considering extreme unattractiveness, as society is also inclined to enjoy seeing ugly people as they exploit their disturbing looks with the purpose of profiting from the enterprise. Grotesque bodies have always caught public attention. Even with that, ugly people experience significant problems as they try to integrate society and are normally rejected when they attempt to fit into groups that focus on only accepting individuals who beautiful.
In spite of the fact that there are many cases involving people suffering psychological harm as a result of performing or wanting to perform plastic surgery, this procedure is also recognized for having played an important role in improving people’s lives. Individuals who were born with deformations, who suffered accidents, or who gained significant weight as a consequence of having medical problems turned to plastic surgery in order to become “normal” again. These people did not want to be beautiful, as they simply wanted to repair their physical appearance. They act because they want to look “human” and they go “to the plastic surgeon to be put together, to give them a chance at what Mahler calls that second, “psychological,” birth” (Blum 120). Although one might consider that a perfect society would not discriminate against people with defects and that they, as a result, would express no interest in wanting to change something about themselves (as long as they are able to perform similar to a normal individual), this society does have problems with appearance and would consider that an individual absolutely needs to improve his or her appearance in order to be considered eligible to be an active part of the social order.
Plastic surgery has certainly provoked harm to the contemporary society because it made it difficult for people to focus on concepts that really matter. Individuals no longer express interest in moral values and want to become as material as possible, even if this means that they act in disagreement with some of humanity’s most treasured concepts. With lesser and lesser people caring for inner beauty, the world is gradually becoming a place where materialness is the only thing that matters.
Bayer, Kathryn, “Cosmetic Surgery and Cosmetics: Redefining the Appearance of Age,”Generations 29.3 (2005)
Blum, Virginia, “Becoming the Other Woman: The Psychic Drama of Cosmetic Surgery,” Frontiers – A Journal of Women’s Studies 26.2 (2005)
Blum, Virginia L., Flesh Wounds: The Culture of Cosmetic Surgery (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2003)
Chapkis, Wendy, Beauty Secrets: Women and the Politics of Appearance (Boston: South End Press, 1986)
Edmonds, Alexander, “The Poor Have the Right to Be Beautiful’: Cosmetic Surgery in Neoliberal Brazil./<> Chirurgie Esthetique Dans le Bresil Neoliberal,” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 13.2 (2007)
Holliday, Ruth and Sanchez Taylor, Jaqueline, “Aesthetic surgery as false beauty,” Retrieved December 1, 2011, from the University of Leeds Website: http://leeds.academia.edu/RuthHolliday/Papers/472491/Cosmetic_Surgery_as_False_Beauty
Sevinor, Sheldon J., “The Psychology of Beauty: What Are the Right Reasons for Plastic Surgery?,” USA Today (Society for the Advancement of Education) Sept. 1994
“Why People Want Plastic Surgery,” USA Today (Society for the Advancement of Education) Oct. 2005: 2