Have you noticed that those who cheer the loudest for body modifications are also the ones that most often condemn plastic surgery? Where one is an expression of beauty and personal aesthetic, the other is a woeful submission to society's obsession with beauty and a betrayal of the body's natural beauty? This has never sat right with me, aren't plastic surgeries just another type of body mods? My thoughts on the following are below. After you read, why not share your thoughts in the comments?
In this article, when I refer to "body modifications", I am referring to procedures such as piercings, subdermal implants, tattoos, scarification, ear pointing, tongue splitting, teeth pointing, etc. When I refer to "plastic surgeries" I am discussing things like breast augmentation, rhinoplasties (nose jobs), abdominoplasties ("tummy tucks"), buttock augmentation, lip enhancements, or liposuction. I realized before I posted this that it could confuse some readers because plastic surgeries are technically modifications of the body, but for my purposes I am using the umbrella terms of "plastic surgery" and "body modification" separately.
Body modifications and plastic surgeries have both been in practice, in different forms, for hundreds of years. Sushruta, the Indian "father of surgery", was practicing surgical procedures way back in 800BCE. However, his surgeries were unique at the time because, according to his book Sushruta Samhita, he was not only practicing medically necessary surgeries, but cosmetic ones as well. Body Modifications have, likewise, been around for thousands of years. Archaeological findings have shown that the Romans, Native Americans and Egyptians all practiced body piercings, though most think that the practices are much, much older.
In the modern day, there are two rather extreme sides to take on the subject: either you think that body modifications are for young ruffians and that plastic surgeries are for forward-thinking people, or you think that plastic surgeries are a confirmation of society's unreal perceptions of beauty and are thus sexist and degrading while body modifications are a celebration of personal aesthetic and freedom of expression through our appearances.
Ricky Genest with and without tattoos
Source: Daily Gossip
Source: Daily Gossip
The first argument I hear against plastic surgery is that it comes from societal pressures. Well, of course some people's choices do, but some people have their own internal pressures and ideals of beauty that strengthen their desires for plastic surgery. Country singer Dolly Parton, who has been open about her plastic surgeries, has been quoted in ELLE UK as saying ""If it makes you feel better about yourself, why not?" and in other interviews as saying that "I love being artificial."
By the same logic of "pressures", wouldn't people who want body mods be submitting to subcultural peer pressure? While the main example of pressure from the mainstream culture that I can think of, "skinny is the only beautiful", has been decried, it has also been subconsciously reenforced by the marketing and media around is. Hasn't the idea that "all Goths have body mods" been decried the same way, but then reenforced when many of our idols and models from the subculture have piercings, tattoos, etc? Of course the scale is smaller, but the basic principle is the same.
The argument I hear most often from enemies of body modifications is that body modifications are unsafe. I'm not going to deny that, when the artist or person performing the modification makes a mistake or the person with the modification does not follow proper care instructions, the results can be rather unsightly. Rejection of piercings or implants, allergic reactions, infection, unusual scarring, nerve pinching, and tattoo smudging are not unheard of, but they are uncommon. Generally, it seems like going to a reputable source and then following their instructions for aftercare seems like the best plan.But, plastic surgeries are not without blame. Visible scarring, puckering, nerve damage, muscle paralysis, blood clots, allergic reactions, skin discoloration, infection, rejection of implants and other nasty things can occur. Admittedly, the people performing these operations have had the medical training to try and prevent these things from happening and to treat them if they become a problem, but the risks still stand.
My only body mods to date are my single pierced earlobes, but I have an ever growing list of mods that I'd like to get when I turn eighteen (including cartilage piercings, more lobes, a rook piercing and a tattoo on my left shoulder.) I do not, at the current moment, count plastic surgeries on that list. Still, I don't consider the body mods to be choices any different from the breast augmentations or rhinoplasties that other women get. They're a personal choice that makes ones body more in line with their personal aesthetic, just like any other body modification. Still, what are your two cents?