Friday, February 13, 2015

The Line Between the Self, the Body and Society

Plastic surgery is a very difficult and confounding occurrence that I don't know how to interpret. As I described in earlier posts, I struggle to categorize it in my mind: do I consider plastic surgery good or bad?

I described earlier my dislike of people trying to conform to an unrealistic standard of beauty that is put forth by our society. I find that society's perception of beauty has pushed a disturbing homogeneity into everyday lives and culture. For example, girls on campus here at Syracuse  often where identical outfits, consisting of duck boots (previously Ugg boots, though those seem to have gone out of fashion), long North Face jackets and leggings. Similarly, guys often wear Timberland boots, khaki pants and short North Face jackets. Regionally, these stereotypical looks change. At the University of Florida in summer, girls generally wore running shoes, oversized t-shirts and gym shorts, even while at bars (I've been told this is a common outfit at other schools in the south, as well). While there is nothing wrong with these outfits in and of themselves, their cliché has given me quite the distaste for them, perhaps because I find beauty in deviations from the norm. I tend to prefer people with unusual attractiveness instead of conventional beauty:

Johnny Depp,
Not Attractive
Zac Efron,
Not Attractive
Evan Peters,
Natalie Dormer,
These imperfections in our bodies and our selves really reflect our humanity and trying to remove them seem to remove them seems unnatural and like an attempt to deny who we are. Those who embrace these flaws or even modify their bodies to go against these norms try to further express themselves, while those who change themselves to fit these norms seems to want to hide themselves.

Maybe this is why I was extraordinarily happy to find my first gray hair. The lyrics of a song by my favorite band floated through my head, "I can't wait to go grey." (Bonus points if you know the name of the song.)

In the case of Katie Cox, I understand her want to appear normal. The difficulty with her jaw goes beyond a slight imperfection to a deformity which could put her in danger. Fixing this would seem a normal decision, but she went beyond what I'm comfortable with when she decided to also go blond in order to fit in with a sorority (don't get me started on a "Blond Awe" rant, the frustration I feel towards that is unending), her set of veneers, the almost surgical alterations to her teeth and her intense chemical acne treatments. These changes move beyond correcting a deformity to changing the overall image of a person, changing the "self".

And yet, despite all this commotion in my head, I can't help but feel a bit hypocritical. I, too, undergo changes to make myself feel more beautiful, and is that not subject to the same scrutiny? I use chemicals (similar to the chemical acne treatments Katie Cox used) to remove excess hair on my body. I brush my teeth three times a day to avoid staining from the excessive amount of tea I drink. My dentist has used tools to fix my chipped teeth. Despite these things, I feel that I am remaining true to what I consider my "self".

I suppose the real line between what I consider to be acceptable in terms of body modification is how true you are to your self. Are you letting society define how you feel about yourself? This line blurs when one feels beautiful, but their sense of beauty is contingent on the predefined norms of society.

tl;dr there's not really a black and white answer to the question "Is cosmetic surgery a good thing?" The answer lies within the person undergoing (or not) the change which makes the interpretation of their decision impossible to comprehend by other people.

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