Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Teenage Conundrum

The issue of plastic surgery continues to be a very difficult one for me.  It is such a multi-dimensional issue.  Different forces such as autonomy and pathology come into play.  Each person’s experience with their own body in the context of their own mind and society around them is unique, which makes it difficult to make a blanket statement about whether or not plastic surgery is something useful, ethical, or harmful.  Additionally, the idea of minors getting plastic surgery seems to make the issue even more confusing.
The article on the rise in teenagers getting breast reductions seemed to create a further schism between cases where plastic surgery is acceptable and where it is not.  A lot of the teens who engaged in breast reduction did so for physical well-being, eliminating discomfort, aches, and pains.  This allowed them to do physical tasks with more ease, and also reduces the chances of further complications.  I think that a majority of people would agree that this is a perfectly reasonable reason to get breast reduction surgeries, even at an early age.
However, once we start to examine other reasons, the issue becomes more complicated.  One of the other listed reasons for teenage breast reduction was the unwanted attention women faced in high school.  Some face such a challenge just to go about their daily business that they feel compelled to alter their bodies.  Teenage years are highly charged hormonally, and dealing with one’s sexuality is always confusing and difficult.  However, to me, this path of teenagers feeling as if breast reductions are their only options shows a highly problematic system.
Essentially, this trail is suggesting that it is the responsibility of the woman to control their physical appearance, and not the responsibility of onlookers to control their behavior.  This is similar to rape culture, in which the victims are viewed as guilty, which is pure nonsense.  What is also troublesome with this is that people view this reasoning as superficial.  If a teenager is constantly being harassed and degraded, their natural response would be to make some sort of change to put it to an end.  That being said, this is essentially treating psychology with surgery, which is a very tricky.  
By allowing that teen to go ahead with the surgery, are you saying that they should be uncomfortable with their bodies, or are you just trying to make them feel more at peace?  The article referenced one doctor who told one of their breast reduction patients that, “people would pay thousands of dollars for these.”  Hopefully, these cases are outliers, but it also poses other questions.  Are you further perpetuating victim-blaming?  Surely, you cannot dismantle a patriarchal society overnight, so should someone who is wildly uncomfortable have to wait for a social change that may never come?  These issues are extremely complicated, and I do not think that there is a universally applicable answer.  However, examining the worth of breast reduction surgery on a case by case basis would be too inexact.
This leads to the issue of development.  Some people continue to grow and develop into their early 20s, and any type of cosmetic surgery may lead to further complications.  To me, this is the strongest argument against letting teens get cosmetic surgery.  However, I think that this is used as a guise for covering up true feelings about cosmetic surgery.  If a woman gets breast enhancements, she is regarded as promiscuous and superficial.  If a woman gets breast reductions, she is regarded as a prude.  However, if a woman does not look a certain way, she is not given respect.  It is a vicious cycle of telling women what they should look like, and then shaming them for shifting towards that image, whether it be for physical, emotional, or mental reasons.

Personally, I always lean towards bodily autonomy.  I want total control over what I do with my body without being judged or ostracized, and I like to give that liberty in return.  Contrary to popular belief, teenagers are highly thoughtful, functional people.  As long as cosmetic surgery does not pose a serious physical danger, their actions and reasons behind those actions are not, and should not be, any of my business.

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