Sunday, February 8, 2015

Stigmas, Normalcy, and Uncertainty

I remember channel surfing when I was a teenager and landing on one of the “Real Housewives” series.  I was sucked in by what was going on in the episode.  It wasn’t the normal drama (Your daughter was mean to my daughter!; You went on a date with him?!; No wonder your husband is filing for divorce! Etc.) but instead a plastic surgeon (I think, anyway) was at one of the houses giving Botox injections at a party.  This was of course shocking to me because I didn’t quite understand what they were doing.  There were a few wives who had already had this done and a few who hadn’t.  If I remember correctly, one of the daughters even had an injection!

Some things I found intriguing were the questions and thoughts Victoria Pitts raised in her book Surgery Junkies:

What are good and bad surgeries? (5)

Who are acceptable and unacceptable patients? (5)

How do new configurations of medicine and technology, and other developments, influence what we see when we look at the body?  And then, what is not only seeable, but also sayable about these things? (25)

I think the last quote is one that can bring on an important conversation about cosmetic surgery, along with other forms of body modification that society does in hopes of gaining social acceptance.  How have our means of gaining social acceptance changed?  Those things are constantly changing and are not always related to technological advances, however, those seem to be the most extreme versions.  I think the question “What is not only seeable, but also sayable?” raises a lot of questions and could be an entire blog post, or even a book, on its own.

Additionally, I was very surprised to learn what the plastic surgeons thought about their work.  Dr. McMullen, who had performed 38 surgeries on one patient, said that he didn’t want to see her anymore and that he “didn’t want his signature on her body” (2).  This makes it seem like their surgeries are a sort of “art”, which I suppose they could be considered as, especially when they talk about proportioning the chin and nose after nose alterations.

I was a bit stunned when I read this sentence:  “My surgery and Lydia’s have both taken place in a historical moment of social uncertainty about cosmetic surgery.” (11).

Social uncertainty?  I realize this book was published in 2007, and perhaps there was a lot of vagueness about cosmetic surgeries like Botox, liposuction, augmentation, etc.  My reaction to this sentence also made me think a lot.  Why did I think the idea of plastic surgery being regarded as uncertain by society was so crazy?  Are we now in a time where this is socially acceptable, normal, and even encouraged?  I wonder how this will change in the future.  Will our thoughts on cosmetic surgeries ever change?  Will the “extreme” forms of cosmetic surgery become normal?  Just like tattoos and piercings were once seen as outlandish and a deviation from societal norm, will the stigma that comes with cosmetic surgery go away?

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