Aesthetic Surgery: What Happens When the Thin Line between Use and Abuse is crossed?
Final Reading Response #3
American University of Beirut
Thursday, December 9, 2010
“It is the young who play the lead roles. So, it is no surprise that the old want to look young and the young want to look fabulous,” says Hiromi Yamamoto, a Japanese makeup artist (http://www.time.com/timen). Plastic surgery has become a national obsession crossing all ethnic and culture barriers. The illusion of the youthful appearance has in a manner of speaking blinded several generations causing them to fall into the deceiving search for the “holy grail” of the dynasties, eternal youth, depicted by absolute perfection of the body. The young seek improvement by means of plastic surgery, believing that any congenital defect can be corrected at any price. Yet, sometimes this tool is abused to satisfy the desires of the vain who seek beauty’s faultlessness with voracity. It is true that plastic surgery became has global obsession and that the fine line between use and abuse has been smudged. The present situation shows us a growing the obsession and fixation with plastic surgery present as well as the emergent fear of aging.
As for a start, women have gone far in order to attract the opposite sex. For instance, the past will show you women in African tribes or in the Kayan tribes in Thailand undergoing neck and earlobe extension. Foot binding was a common practice in ancient China based on the idea that women with small feet were more desirable than others. Similarly, women in Western civilizations forced themselves into corsets and girdles just to look slimmer at the waist. Is there a difference between the past obsession with beauty and the obsession with plastic surgery which manifests in our society?
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the total surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures have increased from a 2,099,173 procedures in 1997 to a tremendous 11,456,768 cases in 2006. While the study conducted by the same organization shows a 36% jump in the number of breast enlargement cases between 2000 (212,500 cases) to 289,325 by the end of 2009 (http://www.plasticsurgery.org/). The obsession with aesthetic beauty turned into a so-called epidemic that affects all societies regardless to social barriers. For instance, Fordham describes the global fixation with plastic surgery by depicting the large numbers of people who had undergone plastic surgery by using her sense of humor. “You can bounce a squash ball off the breasts at the private beaches. Surgery is a nation obsession” (Fordham 2008). Similarly, breast lifts also known as Mastopexy have been popular as the numbers increase 65% between year 2000 (52,836 cases) and 2009 (87,386 cases). The study conducted by the American Society of Plastic surgeons shows a horrific 132% increase in the case numbers of patients undergoing buttock lift between the same year range (increase from 1,356 to 3,134 cases) as well as an 84% increase in the number of patients undergoing tummy tuck which is also known as Abdominoplasty. Their work concluded that breast augmentations, nose reshaping, liposuction, eyelid surgery, as well as tummy tuck rank the top five between the most desired cosmetic surgical procedures for the year 2009 each attaining a total of 298,000, 190,000, 176,000, 173,000 and 111,000 cases respectively between women. Whereas for men highly demand liposuction, Rhinoplasty (nose reshaping), eyelid modification, Gynecomastia (reduction of breast size) as well as hair transplantation. The study showed a total of 31453, 30174, 28678, 19124, 18062 respective total cases for the year 2008.
Both men and women of the past three decades have taken the obsession with perfection and beauty up to the next level. For instance, some women would rather undergo cosmetic surgery regardless to its risks rather than accept the natural signs of aging, while seeking the illusion of exquisiteness and excellence. Libby Babbage age 47 for instance states to a reporter that she never thought that she would lose her looks as she aged. In order to restore her past figure, Libby underwent several costly operations (http://www.mirror.co.uk/life-style/). She states that she will continue to undergo surgery until her death). Babbage spent more than 25,000 £ on plastic surgery as she underwent a face and neck lift at the age of 47 that cost her almost 2,500 £. She shows her satisfaction with the results by stating that undergoing plastic surgery felt like going twenty years back in time and that feeling made her feel like she was back to her old self, “Thanks to surgery”, she states, “I will carry on having surgery whenever I want to improve on my looks in the futures and I know I won’t stop until I die” (http://www.mirror.co.uk/life-style/).
Fordham states that plastic surgery has become a national obsession (2008). Recent studies conducted by CNN concluded that there is an emerging trend and obsession with plastic surgery. The wave usually targets Lebanon during the holidays since Lebanon offers various beauty clinics and bank loans for that purpose. For instance, Lebanon’s first national bank offers loans up to 5,000$ for cosmetic surgery. Roger Khoury, head surgeon at Beirut Beauty Clinic states that plastic surgery reaches its peak during the holidays “"We are very busy at this time of year; we work like restaurants, when everyone is on vacation, we're working” (http://articles.cnn.com/2010-11-19/world/Lebanon.plastic.surgery_1_cosmetic-surgery-surgery-industry-hajj?_s=PM:WORLD). CNN’s report metaphorically compares Lebanon which is a destination for those seeking aesthetic beauty to pilgrimage sites. As various people seek Lebanon’s high medical expertise, the plastic surgery industry has flourished in the past years regardless to the unstable situation at hand.
Perhaps, to the advocates of aesthetic surgery, such deals may sounds attractive. Ms. Babbage’s case, which was published online on 2008, states plainly that, “Thanks to surgery I still have an exuberance and zest for life that come looking and feeling great” (http://www.mirror.co.uk/life-style/). Sure thing, plastic surgery can offer women a younger look, a face lacking aging signs such as saggy skin, discoloration, and black spots. Yet like everything in life, plastic surgery is a two faced coin.
And when it comes to using something, the word abuse comes along. A recent article published by Times magazine and with the help of China Quality Daily magazine shows that 200,000 lawsuits in China were filed in the past ten years under claims of malpractice. Dr. Philip Hsieh comments on the issue to the Times magazine saying that doctors in China use any method available to make a quick income some of which are not approved and may endanger patient’s life. (http://www.time.com/time/asia ).
For instance, Botox which is a common toxin used in plastic surgery may lead to an allergic reaction or droopy eyes incase it was injected near the eyes. Similarly, Dr Peter Misra has warned about the rising and unknown dangers imposed by the excessive use of Botox (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1413927/Warning-on-long-term-side-effects-of-Botox.html). Misra, a doctor of the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London talked about the dangers inflicted on the nervous system as well as the brain by such a toxin. The article states that Botox which is a derivative of toxin Botulism. As Botox affects the neuron ends, it prevents the nervous messages from sending messages to the muscles. In addition to that, laser hair removal may cause burns and permanent scars due to the burning of the top layer of the skin. Studies show that rejections of breast and buttock implants may cause complications, hematomas, bleeding and swelling as well as normal post-surgery pain. Thus, we conclude that such procedures aren’t always risk free and hence, no plastic surgeon can guarantee a 100% success surgery no matter what he does.
In the light of the arguments presented, many advocates of plastic surgery may argue that it has various applications in modern medicine. For instance, plastic surgery may come in handy when dealing with burns, amputations, lacerations as well as accident injuries. Indeed, plastic surgery has immense applications in medical and therapeutic sectors, yet what is a little disturbing is the global fixation of the younger generations with plastic surgery that has reached levels of madness. Young teenagers in a manner of speaking order celebrity body parts when going to a beauty clinic: Angelina Jolie’s lips, Jenifer Lopez’s butt, Scarlet Johansson’s eyes, the sky is the limit.
Generally, media has a greater effect on the younger generations more than parents do in some aspects of life (Bordo2006). Younger generations are affected mostly by the images portrayed by media. Pictures of models, actors and actresses with the perfect bodies as well as the looks serve as a proof. For instance, you rarely see an ugly or natural model on the cover of a magazine posing without flattering her brand new nose or set of breasts. Yumi Sakaguchi a 26 year old woman, according to Times magazine states that: “I always wanted to believe people were ultimately judged by what was inside...but I knew from my personal experience that wasn’t true…It is the pretty girls who win the goods in life” (http://www.time.com/time/asia/covers/1101020805/story4.html). As a conclusion, plastic surgery has become a national obsession just like eating disorders crossing every single racial line. It is true that this obsession knows no gender and no race, yet manifests mainly in the younger generations. Yet, how are the young who are sometimes called the perfectionists and vain supposed to find balance in a world ruled by images and looks?
In the end, no one can deny that the obsession with aesthetic beauty is consuming our uniqueness in our community and turning our younger generations into clones resembling each other seeking perfection in beauty. Yet, we can’t help but notice that the situation is a far cry from the normal when the balance is lost and our younger generations are indulging themselves in the luxury of plastic surgery and losing all the values that we cherished the most. Nonetheless, how is balance supposed to be found? An old saying in Japanese says:” A sound soul resides within a sound body and a sound mind." Thus, both the soul and the body must be trained to embrace the values that our parents have upheld by accepting that time, an unstoppable force, leaves its marks on us, strengthening our souls and weakening our bodies. With it the passing, we have to believe in the saying “Beauty is on the inside”
Bordo, S. (2006) The Globalization of eating disorders. In Z. Sinno, R. Rantisii, G.Zeineddine, N. Honein, J. Najjar ,Shades of Gray. (Eds) Shades of Gray (2nd edition)( pp 320 -324). Edinburgh gate, harlow; pearson education limited.
Fordham, A. (2008) Bombs and Botox in Beirut: How do you cope with living in Lebanon? Get a nose Job. In Z. Sinno, R. Rantisii, G.Zeineddine, N. Honein, J. Najjar (Eds.),Shades of Gray. (2nd ed)( pp. 298-300). Edinburgh Gate, Harlow; Pearson Education Limited.