Friday, February 6, 2015

Plastic or Pure?

   The word cyborg is a combination of the words cybernetics and organism. I propose a new word: plastorg (a combination of plastic and organism). This word could help us describe people who help shape their bodies with the help of plastic surgery. (Note: I'm using the word plastic in reference to its Latin root meaning to mold as opposed to the material.)

   Like cyborgs, plastorgs have modifications done to their body to improve them generally in a cosmetic way. While reading Surgery Junkies by Victoria Pitts-Taylor, I had a jumbled mix of emotions going through my mind. Among these were:

  1. Confusion. The book in general seems very convoluted, so reading it was challenging in and of itself. For example, the following phrase is from the second paragraph on page 28: "In postmodern culture, we have seen a transition from a biomedical culture to what is often called a 'biopsychosocial' one, which enlarges our interest in health to increasingly include its social and psychic aspects." What? There's simply no need to use such confusing language. Perhaps she used these complicated words in order to make herself appear more intelligent in order to get tenure (which was the reason she wrote the book, according to Prof. Peace), like a student attempting to sound knowledgable about a research topic in a term paper. I believe this sentence could be rewritten to say something along the lines of, "Modern culture has increasingly considers psychologic health key to overall well-being."

  2. Approval. Plastorgs undergo cosmetic surgery despite others' commentary. This is admirable, as most people aren't willing to undergo such scrutiny. This sentiment really came through while I was reading the chapter about the author's rhinoplasty. However, I feel these bodily changes are often rooted in unrealistic social norms, which is why I also felt some good ol'

  3. Feminist outrage. I find it disappointing that our unrealistic standards of beauty make so many plastorgs feel the need to physically alter their bodies to fit into these ridiculous body types. The ads and magazines that propagate this type of insane body image surround us so constantly that we often don't even recognize the amount of effort and photoshop that goes into making these picture-perfect people.

    For example:

    I feel frustrated that our culture constantly propagates this dissatisfaction with normal body type to the point where people will pay thousands of dollars and physically hurt themselves to look like these images.
  4. Dislike. It seems to me that plastorgs aren't willing to put in the effort necessary to take care of and maintain their bodies. Going under the knife seems like a cheat. For example, someone could limit their calorie intake and go to the gym to get in shape, or they could get stomach staples. They could avoid tobacco and thus the associated damage to skin tissues that cause wrinkles, or they could get a facelift. It seems unfair that the rich are able to almost get away with being lazy and pay to return to this idealized body type with no effort (though I realize that this isn't always the case with plastic surgery).
  5. Guilt. Perhaps this isn't quite the right word, but I generally consider myself a very open-minded person and was disappointed with my immediate dislike of the plastorgs described in the novel. People should be allowed to do whatever they want without judgement from others shaping how they feel about themselves, and yet here I am judging them like many others, thinking them lazy or something. What right do I have to judge what they do with their bodies? Perhaps my disapproval stems from the fact that they are allowing others to shape their self-image and make themselves feel dissatisfied. There may be no defiance of social disapproval involved; instead they may be doing it simply to gain that social approval.
  6. Apprehension. This last emotion was particularly geared towards the idea of psychological health. I'm not very familiar with psychology (having only watched some educational videos on YouTube), so I'm not very sure how this body art and modification would relate to that. At what point do we draw the line between someone who wants to improve their looks and their psychological health and someone who's maybe not right in the head? Is the guy who cut off his nose to look like Red Skull crazy or just supporting his psychiatric health?

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