- Critically discuss key concepts and theorists in socio-cultural studies of embodiment.
- Explain key concepts in the study of the body in culture and provide illustrative examples.
- Analyse a contemporary issue or bodily practice using relevant theory and concepts.
- Minimum of 6, relevant to the question, scholarly sources.
- Correct application of the APA referencing style.
Given the historical and contemporary connections between cosmetic surgery and embodied regimes of power (e.g. around sex, gender, ethnicity, ’race’, sexuality and disability), to what extent is the increasing demand for, and proliferating forms of, cosmetic surgery cause for concern?
You may respond to this question in general terms or you may focus on a specific contemporary issue such as: ’ethnic’ cosmetic surgery (noting Heyes’ argument that all cosmetic surgery is ’ethnic’); genital cosmetic surgery; transgressive cosmetic surgery (surgery that explicitly challenges bodily or beauty norms); or another contemporary issue of particular interest to you.
Cosmetic Surgery: A Threat
This essay will tell us that why plastic surgery has increased with time and why it is a reason for concern. A contemporary issue that high number of plastic surgery due to lack of love and acceptance for a person’s own appearance will be highlighted here (Turner, 2008). Some key concepts associated with study of body in culture such as subjectivity, responsibilisation and patriarchal power will be discussed here. This essay will mainly discuss about the relationship between plastic surgery and embodied regimes of power around sex, gender, ethnicity, race, sexuality and disability based on historic and contemporary connections. A brief idea of transgressive cosmetic surgeries and Heyes idea of all plastic surgeries to be ethnic will also be given.
Cosmetic surgery is a clinical operation conducted mostly by professional cosmetic surgeons, which aims to change the outer appearance of a person’s face or body with the help of reduction or injection of different chemicals mostly plastics. These changes are done for achieving a better outer appearance in order to match the social and cultural norms and beliefs of beauty. Women mostly opt for plastic surgeries but men as well are no stranger to it. Some of the most common plastic surgeries include Liposuction, Breast Augmentation, Blepharoplasty, Abdominoplasty, Breast Reduction, Rhinoplasty, Rhytidectomy, Breast Lift etc. (Singh, Vatsa, Bhatt, Bharadwaj, Noore, & Nooreyezdan, 2010). Only in recent times plastic surgeries have increased to a very alarming level because of continues changes in lifestyle and perceptions of beauty.
Michel Foucault was a one of the most known theorists in socio cultural studies of embodiment and made contributions in the field of Archeology, gynecology and technology of self. Some of his ideas associated with study of body in culture are Disciplinary power and Biopower (Kelly, 2018).
Responsibilization: This refers to the process where a person is rendered individual responsibility of a task that was earlier somebody else’s, mostly a group’s duty ( Fleming & Wakefield, 2018). In reference to the context of the text responsibilization can said to be applicable to the fact that the idea and concept of beauty and bodily perfection is created by the society. However, people take it on themselves to be acceptable and more liked in the society by following these norms and that is what increases the rate of plastic surgery because the unrealistic standards of society can only be archived by that. An example of this concept is the rise of the fitness industry. The fitness industry promotes physical wellbeing to look attain the perfect shape. However, some people see these fitness enthusiasts and models and fail to understand the correct method to obtain it and thus indulge in practices such as plastic surgery in order to achieve it. The absence of a perfect physical appearance makes people self-conscious and makes them think they are unattractive and unacceptable.
Subjectivity: This refers to a philosophical concept, associated with self-awareness, personhood and truth (Francescotti, 2017). In reference to context, it can be seen how subjectivity has led to the increasing rate of unnatural bodily modifications. No matter what the society believes or says, we are owner of ourselves and accountable for our own actions but due to subjectivity humans always have the urge to be socially acceptable and match the standards of beauty that is most admired. The self-consciousness that leads to the lack of confidence makes a person feel unattractive, unpreventable and unacceptable and thus opens a path for plastic surgeries. An example of this is increasing number of breast implantation surgery. Women who lack huge breasts consider themselves to not be feminine enough and thus get physically insecure which explains the number of surgeries.
Michel Foucault and Body in Culture
Patriarchal Power: Patriarchal power refers to the power associated with the Men of the society and the comparatively higher benefits and ease they have in life than women. Women have always been attached to social norms and made to believe they are unwanted and unacceptable if they do not look a certain way. Men and other women have always deprived women from the feeling of self-love and satisfaction with respect to their external appearance and the accumulation of this over years have settled in the minds of women that they are not worthy enough due to their appearance. Women are made to commit with unnecessary beauty rules that contemplate nature and are not associated with men such as body hair removal. However many women movements have promoted acceptance of flaws in appearances and taught them a lesson of self-love. An example of this concept is that in ancient times when women did not have any financial independence of professional ambitions, their only aim was to make a rich successful man to marry them to live a prosperous life and for that, they focused only on looking more physically attractive (MacDonald, 2016). Though plastic surgeries were not very common at that time due to lower technological advancements the beauty industry did sell products to promote societies idea of beauty and acceptance and not a lot has changed ever since .
A Contemporary issue associated with the body in culture is the alarming rate with which the amount of plastic surgeries increasing due to continues trend changes with body appearance. It is a very common psychological trait in human being to be self-conscious while interaction with other fellow human beings but when it comes to a connection as close as sex the level increases and leads people to go to an extend to get their bodies altered in order to look unrealistically perfect.
In ancient times when cosmetic surgeries were not as popular, innerwear for women were invented order to achieve the shape and size considered ideal and beautiful by the society such as corsets, mastoids, girdles, farthingales, bullet bras etc. (Linding, 2016). These garments often were very uncomfortable. In addition, took a lot of time to put on. Some garments such as the steel corsets harmed the ribcages and backbone of women and caused permanent changes in the shape of women’s body and were harmful up to a fatal extend sometimes.
The norm of looking perfect and unrealistic throughout history is mostly attached to women. Men and other women have always succeeded in decreasing self-esteem in women and that has led them to follow methods such as plastic surgery in order to please them. Women empowerment in modern times have completely changed this idea and women no longer indulge into artificially transforming themselves externally with only the aim of attracting men to get married. This is also done because of the rise of beauty and fashion industries, social media and television who promote the idea of being a certain way in order to look beautiful ( De Souza, Vail, Jewell, & Grief, 2018).
Key Concepts of Body in Culture
Throughout history the Whites have believed themselves to be superior and have enslaved and exploited the blacks and forced them to believe they were primitive. The ides of discrimination, just on the basis of colour throughout history has made black people believe they are not beautiful and acceptable due to their colour (Hunter, 2011). They believed beauty, acceptance and prosperity came with fair skin. This promoted plastic surgeries associated to changing skin colour. In contrast, most recently darker skin has attained a huge respect and popularity in the industry of fashion and beauty in western countries. As tanning under natural sunlight is not realistic enough to attain this goal, women tend to choose artificial methods to darken their natural skin tone I order to look more up to date with fashion and beauty.
In ancient times, people of the LGBT community did not accept and come out because any unnatural aspect associated with sexuality was a crime. More recently with the positive alterations of laws associated with the LGBT community and rise in moments associated to them more such people have accepted their sexual orientation and are willing to change themselves. People who are transgender fail to accept the body that they have and believe does not belong to the gender they actually are and thus undergo sex change operation (Gates, 2011). As these operations in spite of medical and technological advancement do not completely accomplish to alter the appearance of a person, people go under the knife to change their face and body to attain more similarity with the gender they believe they are. This is mostly done in male to female transition. Some people do not obtain sex change operation in the first place due to lack of financial aid, or the horror of the physical troubles it might bring along, as an artificial body does not hold the similar physical strength as the natural body. However, they do go under the knife to alter their outer appearance that is visible to world such as Rhinoplasty, Breast implantation, Butt implantation etc. (Kraemer , Delsignore , Schnyder , & Hepp , 2008).
Even heterosexual men and women indulge is surgeries associated with sexuality to overcome their sexual complexities and fears. Women who have smaller breast believe and are told to be not feminine and sexually attractive enough and thus they undergo breast enlargement surgery (Taylor, 2012). Other surgeries women undergo that are associated with their sexuality are vagina-tightening surgeries to feel younger and more youthful. Men undergo surgery to alter the shape and size of their genital as per social norms to feel manlier and sexually appealing.
In some cases, plastic surgeries are done to hide or eliminate physical disabilities. Some of them might be necessary for physical wellbeing while some are done to hide or remove physical deformities. Some examples are Patients of breast cancer undergo breast implantation to achieve back their breast that had to be removed for treatment of cancer; Victims of acid attack or people who critically burnt their skin in a fire undergo plastic surgery to make themselves look better. When plastic surgery is done because of a physical disability the extent and form of the disability comes to an account in such cases.
Contemporary Issues with Body in Culture
A type of cosmetic surgery is the transgressive cosmetic surgeries in which people go up to an extreme extend in order to achieve appearances that are extreme and even unnatural. When a person indulges, in such kind of a surgery, it most often leads to addiction and the number of plastic surgeries the person indulges in keeps on increasing. An example of such surgery is Valeria Lukyanova who is also called the human Barbie who went under the knife several numbers of times and completely transformed her appearance to look like a Barbie doll (Propheta, 2017).
All the above-mentioned aspects have led to the increasing demand of plastic surgery and the risks associated with it is a cause of concern. According to Heyes all plastic surgery are ethnic because a person indulges in it to change his or her appearance as per the suitability and likability of his surrounding which is his ethnic background. Every ethnicity has standardised ideology of beauty and physical perfection. The variations in the changes a white, black and Asian wants in themselves are proof of this point (Heyes, 2009).
This essay concludes that with continues changes in perception of beauty, associating its idea with acceptance, likability, and technological advancements the numbers of plastic surgeries have alarmingly increased over time. The people who associate with plastic surgery are mostly women and patriarchy plays a big role in it. This essay mainly concludes that surgical methods must only be opted for medical emergencies and must have the least risk and hazard. People must love and accept their true selves and do not rely on such methods for looking and feeling beautiful.
De Souza, M. M., Vail, B. A., Jewell, A. D., & Grief, S. N. (2018, December). Plastic Surgery for Women. Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice, 45(4), 705–717.
Fleming, J., & Wakefield, A. (2018). Responsibilization. Retrieved November 30, 2018, from The SAGE Dictionary of Policing: https://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781446269053.n111
Francescotti, R. (2017). Subjectivity. Retrieved November 30, 2018, from In The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy: https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/thematic/subjectivity/v-1
Gates, G. J. (2011, April 1). How Many People are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender? Retrieved November 30, 2018, from UCLA: The Williams Institute: https://escholarship.org/uc/item/09h684X2#author
Heyes, C. J. (2009). All Cosmetic Surgery is “Ethnic”:Asian Eyelids, Feminist Indignation, and the. In C. J. Heyes, Cosmetic Surgery : A Feminist Primer (pp. 194-204). London: Routledge.
Hunter, M. L. (2011). Buying Racial Capital:Skin-Bleaching and Cosmetic Surgery. The Journal of Pan African Studies, 4(4), 142-158.
Kelly, M. (2018). Michel Foucault (1926–1984). Retrieved November 30, 2018, from https://www.iep.utm.edu/foucault/
Kraemer , B., Delsignore , A., Schnyder , U., & Hepp , U. (2008). Body Image and Transsexualism. Psychopathology, 41(2), 96-100.
Linding, S. (2016, July 21). The Evolution of Lingerie. Retrieved November 30, 2018, from Elle: https://www.elle.com/fashion/trend-reports/g28532/evolution-of-lingerie/?slide=11
MacDonald, T. (2016). The New Man, Masculanity and Marriage in the Victorian Novel. New York: Routledge.
Propheta, D. (2017, September 18). The Incredible Story of the Real Human Barbie. Retrieved November 30, 2018, from Direct Expose: https://www.directexpose.com/real-human-barbie-lives/
Singh, R., Vatsa, M., Bhatt, H. S., Bharadwaj, S., Noore, A., & Nooreyezdan, S. S. (2010). Plastic Surgery: A New Dimension to Face Recognition. IEEE Transactions on Information Forensics and Security, 5(3), 441 - 448.
Taylor, J. (2012, Decembe). Fake breasts and power: Gender, class and cosmetic surgery. Women's Studies International Forum, 35(6), 458-466.
Turner, B. S. (2008). The Body and Society: Explorations in Social Theory. los Angeles, New Delhi, Singapore, London: SAGE.
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