Cosmetic surgery corrupts empowerment

Opinion by ChloeHerbert

Cosmetic surgery demeans women. If we truly wished to empower one another, we wouldn’t support an industry that tells women their bodies aren’t good enough. If we honestly believe that women are strong, capable forces of nature whose imperfections shape their identity and make them unique individuals, we would stop encouraging them to change their noses or shrink their waists. 

Why should we try to mold ourselves in an effort to have the “perfect” female body, when no such thing exists? God created us in His own image, so why do we feel the need to manipulate His work? 

Empowerment, one of my favorite Marian Core Values, encourages us to build one another up. Empowerment calls us to help every girl who walks through these halls realize her gifts and talents, and to use them to bring hope to the world. How does cosmetic surgery empower? 

It doesn’t. The industry is built around convincing women that their bodies and faces aren’t good enough. Cosmetic surgery marketing tells women that their appearance

plastic surgery graphic
Illustration by Lydia Larson

doesn’t meet their notion of what every woman must look like. The industry, worth more than $16 billion according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, portrays aging as a horrible disease that women should fear, not the natural progression of our bodies. Most responsible cosmetic surgeons will even refuse to operate on people who are overweight or possibly psychologically unstable, as they are at a higher risk of having complications from surgery. 

If we encourage cosmetic surgery as a means of empowerment, does that mean that only the wealthy should have access to such empowerment? According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average cost of a rhinoplasty (more commonly known as a nose job) is $5,350. Does this mean that empowerment is something so superficial that it can be purchased? 

While increased media attention has begun to normalize cosmetic surgery, it has failed to enlighten consumers on its negative side effects.

According to a study published by the University of London “complications from surgery include pain, scarring, infection and postoperative bleeding.” Silicone breast injections risk complications such as gangrene (body tissue dying and decomposing) or ulceration, both of which can require mastectomies. Liposuction, where fat is vacuumed out of the body, can lead to blood clots, disability from fat clots and bruising that lasts for months. And that nose job that costs more than $5,000 comes with complications that may include difficulty breathing, scaring and nasal septal perforation (a hole in the nasal septum). In terms of mental health, those who undergo cosmetic surgery run the risk of developing body dysmorphic disorder, a condition where one becomes fixated and obsessed with their appearance. 

Risking one’s mental, physical and financial well-being sure doesn’t sound empowering to me.

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