Women and Cosmetic Surgery Term Paper

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North American Women Continue to be the Primary Targets and Consumers of Cosmetic Surgery?

In a world in which we are judged by how we appear, the belief that we can change our appearance through cosmetic surgery is liberating to a lot of women. The growing popularity of cosmetic surgery is a testament to society's overrated fixation with appearance. For women living in North America, their appearance is in fact an obsession. For hundreds of years, cosmetic surgery has thrived on women's insecurities pertaining to their physical appearance, and today, million's continue placing themselves under the knives of unscrupulous businessmen while struggling to "improve" themselves. Women's fascination with beauty and their physical appeal to men has always been a famous trend. In the past the art of manipulating ones appearance was a practice celebrated by the wealthy and the famous, but is now so commonplace that it is feasible for women of all ages, races, and economic status to participate. Cosmetic surgery, a phenomenon so greatly overrated, has become a 'quick-fix' solution, to the tedious drudgery of slaving away at the gym or starving with diets. It is a means to eradicate wrinkles, and buy participants a little longer shelf life.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, over 7.4 million people in 2000 had some aesthetic defect whether real or imagined, surgically fixed. What many do not realize is that cosmetic surgery has become a cruel business venture, one often realized at the expense of the vulnerable women; Women who have been manipulated and deceived by the advertising media.


Throughout history, women have been fed the notion that beauty is all that matters in life, and cosmetic surgery is the answer to many if not all of life's problems. Today, in the 21st century, women continue to be the primary targets and consumers of the media industry. Media manipulation of women's perspectives related to their appearance routinely occurs, as media moguls persist to work hand in hand with the cosmetic industry, feeding society with unattainable ideals, encouraging women to mutilate themselves for the psychological reasons, often with lethal consequences usually hidden in fine print.


The ideals of beauty and what is and is not considered attractive have changed drastically over the past centuries. The history of cosmetic surgery goes back more than one hundred years ago, when a few men began to explore some minor surgical reconstructive and functional repairs that improved appearance. Very early on in history for example, it is commonly known that women would paint their skin and color their hair with natural plant dies to enhance their beauty and the appearance of youth. Berries would often be crushed, the juice from which was applied to the lips and cheeks, thereby rendering a fuller more attractive specimen to male attendants. This historical practice of altering one's physical appearance is commonly noted in Egyptian history, as painted pictures of hieroglyphs depict women with enlarged features and painted "tattoos."

Initially, "cosmetic surgery" was intended and typically reserved as a repair mechanism to assist wounded and deformed soldiers in war. Soldiers returning from WWI with missing limbs and shrapnel torn faces entrusted their appearance to the hands of skilled surgeons of the time. The development of cosmetic surgery received a push for movement from the need to repair gross deformities sustained in WWI to the need to change normal and typical physical appearances. Early surgeons intended cosmetic surgery for surgical repair of congenital or acquired deformities and the restoration of contour to improve the appearance and function of tissue defects (Kazanjian, 250). Today however, cosmetic surgery takes on a whole new meaning, and the players are participating in a totally different ball game. Though many plastic surgeons are still touted and well received for their remarkable abilities to restore dignity to the deformed, cosmetic surgery has also taken on a new meaning. Cosmetic surgery has become a mechanism women have turned to in hopes of changing not just their appearance, but also their life.

In modern day times, cosmetic surgery has unfortunately become a degrading and harmful procedure, especially for women. It is an invasion and exploitation of women's bodies, a harmful procedure that women often perceive as the solution to life's problems. A procedure the media encourages, directly and indirectly. The problem must be voiced to the public.

Modern Day Cosmetic Surgery as a "Panacea," the Cure All for Life's Problems

Cosmetic surgery has become the answer for many modern women, who hope that surgery will help them feel better about themselves, become a part of societal ideals or disguise and perhaps even eliminate the signs of aging. What happened to the idea that 'beauty is only skin-deep?' Is one's character and personality less important than one's looks? According to the media, perhaps the answer to these questions is yes. In a news report in Arlington Heights, Ill. The following was said of women and plastic surgery, "Women reign supreme when it comes to cosmetic plastic surgery." (plasticsurgery, org., 2002). According to the same article released in April of 2002, women performing elective cosmetic procedures comprised 87% of the entire plastic surgery population. That is a lot of people choosing "elective" procedures, and relatively few truly "needing" plastic surgery.

Every year, millions of people hurt themselves and mutilate their bodies by trying to alter their natural characteristics and uniqueness in an effort to produce carbon copies of what society considers beautiful and sexy. Of course, this varies from country to country, however in North America statistically and historically the trend has moved to pencil thin women with skinny noses, pouty lips and enormous breasts. Modern day images in magazines that TV media hail women who have achieved this picture of perfection, causing the majority of women, who do not look like these media "ideals" to feel less than beautiful.

According to 2000 ASPS reports, the number of people having cosmetic plastic surgery has consistently increased, in fact tripled since 1992. "Certain levels of attractiveness can open doors. It can make a difference in a teen's social life and later on, in a career," (Bloch 60). However, the question remains, shouldn't people accept themselves for who they are? The reported rise in cosmetic procedures should raise eyebrows, and point out that more and more patients, primarily women, are falling victim to their insecurities and the need to match up to unrealistic media images of ideal. In a society filled with naturally beautiful women, it is shameful to think that many women live their lives feeling mediocre.

Why the proliferation of women flocking to plastic surgery? One of the reasons is beauty has become a business, a socially constructed scheme with a clear message that a pretty face will get you far in life. As George Brennen, M.D., in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery claims, "A big part of self-esteem is feeling that you look good. We can cure an insecurity in 30 minutes, that a psychiatrist can't cure in 30 years." With a message like this, who can resist an innocent tuck, lift or boost? What this statement does not point out is that insecurity is often deeply rooted, and the idea that altering ones physical appearance alone will cure such a deeply rooted problem is preposterous. Most individuals that have high self-esteem have confidence and security whether or not they fit into societies ideals of beauty. The question doctors should be truly asking is what makes these women feel so bad to begin with?


The value of natural beauty has been replaced by fake and artificial models of what is acceptable and ultimately considered beautiful. Politics have taken over the idea of beauty and transformed it into a vicious cycle by developing unattainable ideals and forcing women to strive to reach those goals. All of the pictures that women and men see each day of models in the media reflect not the true appearance of the women photographed, but a fantasy. People whether adults or teenagers, do not care that the models they see in magazines are airbrushed to eliminate any imperfections. The public also does not take into consideration the fact that these "models" often work out three times a day because they are getting paid for it. What they see are perfect people on their television sets, people that are hailed and honored, adored by their fans. They are people hat the public will go to any lengths to emulate. Hollywood is responsible for making people feel inadequate about their bodies. To often women fall into the trap of comparing their bodies to their favorite movie stars. "Stars have personal trainers, stylists, make-up artists and people to airbrush the wrinkles and cellulite out of their magazine covers - all of whom create an image that is meant to be frozen in a photograph or presented in a two-hour snippet" (Brew I). If every working mother or single parent had a personal trainer, a personal…[continue]

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