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Can women legitimately choose to undergo cosmetic surgery or follow beauty norms?
Ideally, the number of women undergoing cosmetic surgery has increased significantly. However, the trend is more common in developed countries than in developing nations. According to the result released by the American Society of Plastic Surgery in 2013, about 1.5 million cosmetic surgeries were in the US alone (Kolovrátková, 2015). Besides, studies show that the high percentage of women going for cosmetic surgery is found in Asia and Europe. For instance, it is estimated that the number of women who went through cosmetic surgery in East India was about 20% of the total population in the region. The real number of women undergoing cosmetic surgery is even expected to be higher considering the unreported operations, which are significant. Consequently, the debate about the significant surge in cosmetic surgery is now widely discussed across the globe with people seeking to know the main reason behind this trend. At the same time, some reasons have been given to justify why many women are currently seeking cosmetic surgery despite the fact that it is associated with pain and high cost. Nevertheless, it is commonly argued that the need to enhance physical beauty is the main reason why women prefer cosmetic surgery. Even though many women legitimately chose to go through cosmetic surgery, the beauty norms and the ideal for physical beauty push many women to undergo the process, as they need to fit in the society.
Findings from various studies show that the need to enhance physical beauty is the main reason forcing women to undergo cosmetic surgery (Chambers, 2007). Therefore, it is important first to define beauty. The word “beauty” is one of the poorly defined terms while at the same time it is grossly overused and misunderstood. The definition of beauty varies from one culture to another, as people have a different perception of beauty. Consequently, there is no universal definition of beauty. It is, therefore, important to acknowledge that “beauty” is socially constructed, which is the main reason why the need to subscribe to beauty ideals or norms is the primary factor forcing women to undergo cosmetic surgery (Kolovrátková, 2015). At the same time, the media significantly define beauty. The media define beauty by using celebrities, fashion designers, and style experts as references. Hence, to fit in the society, boost their self-esteem, and to feel accepted, women, go for cosmetic surgery to meet and subscribe to the beauty norms that are required by a given culture or society.
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Just like the definition of beauty varies from one culture to another so are the beauty norms. Different countries have beauty ideals that women are supposed to subscribe to be considered beautiful (Chambers, 2007). For instance, in China, a woman is deemed to be beautiful when she is pale, have large eyes, including the oval-shaped face. As a result, many Chinese women use actress such as Fan Bingbing as their reference of beauty, and those who have financial capability go for cosmetic surgery to look like her. In the US, a curvy body is widely celebrated, including a slim waist. American women are expected to have the right figure and fit body to be considered beautiful. Additionally, American women strive to have high and prominent cheekbone regarding physical beauty. In other words, the two examples show that there are certain beauty ideals that women are supposed to subscribe to for them to feel and to be regarded to be beautiful.
The different cosmetic surgery trends in the various countries also support the argument that cosmetic surgery is significantly influenced by beauty norms. Three leading cosmetic surgery performed in the US include tummy tucks, breast implants, and liposuction, which is in line with the fact that beauty in the US is defined regarding slim body and thin waist (Whalen, 2017). Gluteoplasty, also known as “butt augmentation” is the most popular plastic surgery in Brazil, as beauty is mainly defined concerning butt a woman has. Indeed, studies show that Some Brazilian dances and festivals such as Samba showcase have made women in the country to believe that their beauty is defined based on the type of the but they have.
Additionally, the obsession with the thin long leg is making many women in the East Asia go for cosmetic surgery (Whalen, 2017). Though women from East Asia are always shorter than their counterparts from Western countries the media has made them believe that ladies who have long thin legs are more beautiful. Observably, almost all advertisements in the region have women with long thin legs. Consequently, women from East India strive to have a long thin leg to be considered beautiful. The desperation to have long thin legs can be seen in social media where ladies sometimes Photoshop to the extent that their legs become comically long to subscribe to the slender aesthetic (Whalen, 2017). As a result, limp lengthening surgery is the most common type of cosmetic surgery in East Asia, including India.
Therefore, beauty norms have significant influence in cosmetic surgery in the whole world. Women need to meet beauty standards to fit in the societies where they live. Women may like to retain their natural beauty, but the cost associated with failure to meet the beauty norms pushes them to for synthetic vision, which is mainly achieved through cosmetic surgery. There are many psychological and socio-economic costs associated with failure to meet the ideal beauty in any society. For instance, limb strengthening is one of the painful and the riskiest cosmetic surgery. However, many Indians women accept to face the risk and endure the pain because they believe that their short stature is one of the primary reasons why they are not landing in proper employment or even getting spouses.
Physical appearance plays a significant role in the society, and it significantly influences the life of a person. Physical appearance is important in any relationship, as people who are physically attractive quickly form relationships. As a result, to sustain a relationship and get a spouse, women are forced to undergo cosmetic surgery. Many women have faced marital problems after giving birth and losing their ideal shape and appearance. Studies have also shown that women who take care of their physical appearance have fewer problems in their marriage and they have a better rapport with their husband. Therefore, the fear of losing a relationship makes many women go for cosmetic surgery, as many men are obsessed with ideal beauty. Besides, women who are not physically attractive find themselves isolated, which can lead to low self-esteem and self-confidence. The need to enhance physical appearance is important in the modern society characterized by speed dating, as decisions to proceed with the relationship are made in the first encounter. Therefore, beauty provides women with an entrance ticket to the society while being ugly closes the door (Kolovrátková, 2015).
Physical appearance also influences the ability to get employment. According to the study that carried out by Engeln-Maddox in 2006, many American women associate beauty with greater job opportunities. To such extent, they enhance their physical appearance to boost their competitiveness in the job market (Kolovrátková, 2015). Subscribing to ideal beauty also affects other employment factors such as job status and earnings. The research conducted by Jones in 2010 revealed that people who meet the beauty standards in the US earn higher salaries than their counterparts who are considered less attractive (Kolovrátková, 2015). Therefore, for women to survive in societies where beauty norms are highly valued, and come with many advantages, they undergo cosmetic surgery to enhance their physical appearance.
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Besides, physical appearance defines social status of women in the society. For instance, in Korea, white, baby-soft skin is associated with upper class, and women who have such appearance are readily accepted in the society. The same applies to Iran where nose jobs, which are also known as rhinoplasty, are associated with high-class people, and it is used as a symbol of wealth. The surgery is expensive and can only be afforded by a few rich people in Iran. Hence, to prove their social status and their worth in the society Iranian women go for nose jobs. Therefore, the need to be part of a social class makes women go through plastic surgery.
Therefore, women mainly follow beauty norms when they decide to go through cosmetic surgery. There are standard definitions of beauty that women in different societies are expected to meet to be considered beautiful. Meeting the beauty norms come with many advantages such as social acceptance, enhanced employment opportunities, and better relationships. On the other hand, failure to meet the beauty standards is costly to women, and it is associated with low self-esteem, which can lead to some psychological problems. As a result, women are forced to optimize their beauty, which can best be achieved through cosmetics surgery.
However, some women legitimately go for cosmetic surgery without following the beauty norms set by the society. According to studies, some women go for plastic surgery to fix physical problems, especially those that can affect their health. Such operations are aimed at restoring the proper functioning of the body (Peacock, 2013). For instance, studies show that a woman can legitimately choose to undergo eyelid surgery, commonly known as blepharoplasty, to enhance peripheral vision. At the same time, it is found that medication forces some women to go for the nasal surgery. Here, surgery will help them to improve their breathing as well as reduce or eliminate snoring. Besides, women choose to undergo body-contouring surgery legitimately after losing a significant amount of weight with the aim of reducing excess sagging of skin that hinders proper movement. Still, it is argued that cosmetic surgery can help women to change their inborn body deformities or those that have been acquired through accidents. Therefore, it is worth arguing that not only the need to subscribe to the beauty norms makes women to undergo cosmetic surgery, but it can also be performed to improve individual health and to correct certain kind of deformities.
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Observably, some women legitimately choose cosmetic surgery to boost their careers. For instance, there are some jobs that involve a lot of customer interaction that requires a person to be physically attractive such as sales and customer service jobs. Therefore, to offer quality customer service, a woman can decide to go for cosmetic surgery to enhance here physical appearance (Peacock, 2013). Even though it is possible to argue that this type of cosmetic surgery is aimed at conforming to the beauty norms, some women do it for the purpose of their customers, organization, and career growth, which is legitimate. Furthermore, they legitimately go for cosmetic surgery after pregnancy to get rid of problems such as saggy or wrinkled tummy. As a result, it is possible to argue that women can legitimately choose to go for plastic surgery. However, many of the legal decisions have a close relationship with improving physical appearance.
In conclusion, the need to meet the beauty standards that are set in a given culture or society is the primary reasons that motivate women to for plastic surgery. Beauty is socially constructed, and women are expected to meet the set standards to be accepted in the society. Failure to meet the beauty standards come is very costly. To such extent, cosmetic surgery becomes the best strategy that women can use to survive in the modern society where beauty is glorified and significantly determine how people are treated in various sectors of an economy. However, it is possible for women to choose legitimately to undergo cosmetic surgery, especially when it is aimed at improving health and transforming body deformities. Regardless of the motives behind the cosmetic surgery, women should understand the risks and challenges associated with the process. Women should not go as far as compromising their health in the name of subscribing to the beauty norms in the society. Therefore, cosmetic surgery comes with advantages and disadvantages that women should be aware of before making decisions to undergo the process.
- Kolovrátková, K. (2015). The perception of physical appearance and attitudes towards cosmetic surgery in South Korea: A Question of sociocultural values and media exposure.
- Chambers, C. (2007). Sex, culture, and justice: the limits of choice. Penn State Press.
- Peacock, L. (2013, May 22). The pursuit of beauty: what compels women to go under the knife?
- Whalen, S. (2017, February 3). Is Beauty a Social Construct?Global Plastic Surgery Stats Provide Answers.