Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Stigma Behind Plastic Surgery

I found the readings and discussions surrounding plastic surgery to be quite interesting.  Initially, I was aware with two camps of thought.  There are people who denounce it for being superficial and unnecessary, and there are people who had a live and let live mindset.  The different perspectives surrounding feminism and pathology are newer to me, and they raise a number of valid points.  Are we promoting unhealthy beauty and physical standards by engaging in cosmetic surgery, furthering pathology,or just allowing people to live their lives?
Plastic surgery “junkies” seem to be a big point of concern, as they exhibit signs of pathology, commonly Body Dysmorphic Disorder.  People dealing with BDD struggle to see their body in a realistic or positive way, and pursue a large number of cosmetic procedures.  For whatever reason, the media correlates most plastic surgery with this type of pathology.  Seldom are cases of plastic surgery covered where a person is just going about getting a procedure once or twice to alter a part of their body for their own happiness.  Instead, we make spectacles of extreme plastic surgery cases, giving women with extremely large breast implants their own episodes of “True Life” and make shows exploiting some of the more eccentric characters in the plastic surgery world on shows such as “Botched.”
The feminist and pathological schools of thought work to figure out what drives a person to pursue plastic surgery, either pathologically or cosmetically and dismantle that establishment.  They also call into question the ethics of the medical professionals who seem to “take advantage” of patients who are facing the pathology and pressures of society.  For me, this is a very complicated issue.  Clearly, women are conditioned to look and act a certain way from a very young age.  If they do not fit the very exact mold, they are torn down and feel lesser.  I understand that plastic surgery is giving into this establishment.  However, we have to understand that those standards do exist, and not every single person wants to fight to dismantle it; they want to reach a place where they feel comfortable in their skin in the context of their culture.
While I think that the notion that plastic surgery is inherently evil is a bit extreme, I think that the feminist argument has a lot of importance.  The attitudes that society holds towards women are mind-bogglingly sexist and hypocritical.  Our society is set up in a way that constantly tells women what they need to look like.  We see it in the entertainment industry, advertisements, and basically any kind of media that is consumed.  These standards permeate women’s lives, even as evidence by our discussions as to what women are pressured to do with their own body hair.  However, when women go about getting plastic surgery which often involves trying to fit the bill of typical attractiveness, they are shamed.  They are either assumed to be pathological or superficial.  Where do these critics presume that these pressures are coming from?  The presence of plastic surgery tells a lot more about what is wrong with the people on the other side of the knife, in my opinion.
While this is clearly a complex issue and the concerns surrounding it are reasonable, I think autonomy is the ultimate thing that should be considered.  I actually got rhinoplasty for my deviated septum.  While I let on to my parents that the only reason I wanted it was so that I could breathe better (which it absolutely helped with, and ultimately stopped my migraines), I would say my motivation was about sixty percent driven for cosmetic reasons.  When I would point out my badly deviated septum, people would notice it, and then it would become a recurring joke.  While I was not super self-conscious about it, I really felt very uncomfortable with it and wanted to go about getting it fixed.  I am now happier health wise, but also image wise.

Ultimately, unless it is easily identifiable that a person’s life is being consumed by a dysmorphic disorder and they are putting themselves in great physical danger, I think people need to approach plastic surgery with an attitude of minding their own business.  Like other forms of body modification, people are trying to reach a sense of comfort with themselves.  Sure, the constructs in place that make plastic surgery commonplace are troubling, but that is an entire sociological discussion.  With these procedures being so personal in nature, it should be the worry of solely the patient and the physician if plastic surgery is a beneficial path.

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