This article was originally published in the Online Edition 10 of VARSITY.
Plastic surgery becomes increasingly controversial as it becomes increasingly normalised. However, the previously controversial debate of whether someone should be enabled to actively change the way parts of your body look has shifted to one around whether plastic surgery is a means of empowerment.
I can understand the appeal of changing a part of your body to fit what you believe is the truest representation of yourself. And I can understand the empowerment that must come with that. People don’t undergo plastic surgery lightly, and usually they wouldn’t say that they’re doing it to be more accepted in society – they’re doing it because they always felt that part of them could be better. And just like an overweight person taking up sport will feel good about losing weight, so will someone who underwent plastic surgery: they both made an active, empowering step to take control of their appearance. The only difference? Plastic surgery can change the things nothing else can.
However, it’s important to realise that a lot of the time, when an individual believes that their body needs to be changed, it is the result of the influence of a culture of body shaming – whether that be subconscious or not. For example, would someone really think that their nose is too big and needs to be reduced if this culture didn’t shame people for having big noses? Would someone want Botox if this culture didn’t place a disproportionate value on looking young and wrinkle-free?
Superstar Lady Gaga says she was urged to “get a nose job” when she started out in the music industry – but didn’t, because she just wanted to be herself.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) September 28, 2018
Unfortunately, the reality is that by participating in plastic surgery, people are actively participating in body shaming, because they’re accepting that certain bodies should be shamed, and promoting the idea that if someone fits those “non-ideal” looks, they should actively change them. Rather than accepting that all bodies are valid, plastic surgery promotes the idea that the “ideal” body is one which should be achieved at all costs.