In the beginning of this course, we were forced to overcome our personal biases and judgments when discussing body art modification such as Chinese foot binding, suspensions, and facial implants (such as horns), to name a few. Cultural relativism was an important concept to understand in order to objectively learn and have open-minded conversations about alternative and foreign body modification customs.
Ironically, the more we have been discussing domestic body modification, the more judgmental class conversations have become. While it seems a room of honors students are able to discuss branding in a scholarly way, there is a tone of disapproval during topics of plastic surgery in the United States.
I definitely think any pressure young adults feel to undergo plastic surgery is an issue in our culture. However, I do not think elective plastic surgery is bad. It’s a choice to permanently change one’s appearance, just as tattoos, facial implants or other extreme body modifications. Just as someone would choose to research and pay for facial tattoos, to give them a desired appearance, someone can choose to research surgeons and pay for a nose job to give them another desired look.
Underage plastic surgery is definitely controversial. On one hand, doctors should not be operating on underdeveloped bodies. A young girl should not get implants before she has even fully developed. But as anything, there can be exceptions to this mentality. For example, some studies show procedures for transsexuals can be more effective when performed before puberty. However, the debate ensues, how can one be certain a ten-year-old will want that surgery for the rest of their lives?
Pressures from plastic surgeons to their patients is also an issue discussed in class. Sometimes patients go in for one procedure, and find themselves with multiple. Doctors should never pressure a patient into unnecessary procedures, especially for profit. However, the argument can be made if someone goes in for a nose job in order to get a certain appearance, and the doctor knows from experience that the appearance they want can be obtained with both a nose job and a chin lift, the patient has a right to know. Practiced plastic surgeons know the type of look their patients are going for, and I think the patient has a right to know how to get the look they want. From there, it’s there decision to undergo or not.
The final issue to discuss in terms of plastic surgery being just as legitimate of a body modification as many of the others we talk about is the amount of surgeries. In class, we talked about mental illness, addiction, and people who get many elective surgeries. I agree that surgeons should require patients to see a psychiatrist before undergoing multiple surgeries. However, as I mentioned in class, I do not see the difference between people who get multiple plastic surgeries, and people who get tattoos or piercing all over their bodies. Both are going for a desired look, both understand it could make them at risk for certain social situations, and it is very possible both could be addictions. However, if we are to accept that tattooed or pierced person, why not accept the surgically enhanced one?