Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thoughts on Plastic Surgery and Body Mods

First off: a few notices. As you can see, I've updated my blog with a new theme that I made and I'm hoping that it's easy to navigate and looks cleaner. If you have any suggestions or concerns about the new layout, please let me know. I also joined Twitter! My username is still TheEverydayGoth and you can follow me here. An "About This Blog" section has been added, which adds some technical blog policies in a posted area. More changes are to come. Now, onto things of actual importance.

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?

Source: Tumblr

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

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.

Heidei Montag's plastic surgery list [enlarge]
Source: Huffington Post

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?


  1. I think you make a great point here. I personally aren't one to tell people that they can't let a person be themselves by modifying their body, whether that be body modifications or plastic surgery (in your terms), and be happy within that. But if that modification is purely for a societal need to fit in, which in the end will not make you happy, I choose to not condemn but look down towards somewhat.

    SO basically:
    For your own happiness: Good.
    For other peoples happiness or society: Not always good.


  2. Yeah, exactly my point. I think that some people need to avoid making such quick judgements about why people get these things because they are really personal and our knee-jerk reaction to think that they're for society/subculture is kind of rude.

  3. You make a good point. One can say that modification and plastic surgery are different branches of one tree; in the end, they're essentially from the same root. Both require a lot of work, and both are purposed for enhancement.

    The clothes don't make the man, as they say. Mods and surgery have an effect, but they're nothing without the person.
    Terry Bayer

  4. The branch/tree comparison is very aptly put, and yes, it's all about the person behind the mods and surgery. At least that's what we've been pushing anyway, and what I believe to be true.

  5. I think it's all unsafe, and you have to know the risks. As a body mod fan myself, I'm only "for" a few kinds of procedures especially when it comes to piercings. Anything with too much of a risk of infection or a silly, easily irritated location isn't for me but I won't condemn others for it.
    things like tongue splitting and anything else permanently altering the SHAPE of your body frightens me, though. I'm very much a piercings n tats girl only.

    With plastic surgery, I guess I think it's disturbing that you can't press undo and it often looks stiff and strange. There are only a few cases where I'd say OKAY FINE IT'S A GOOD IDEA, but mostly it just makes me nervous. As with tattoos, exercising cautions before anything permanent is always a good idea, but a tattoo can be covered (depending on location) or (at painful cost) removed, but the plastic surgery is different. I understand more than many my age the desire to be young because of my aging phobia but I'd like to think I wouldn't resort to plastic surgery just to feel good about myself again. I think everyone has the right to do what they want, but it's just not for me.

  6. Terry made a good point. Expanding upon that, aside from body mods and plastic surgery, you can also say that make-up and other cosmetic products are of a similar vein, albeit one with a smaller impact. Likewise, there are also body builders that push themselves to achieve a unique look.

    In the end, whether it's a tattoo or a facelift, at the very core we're all humans that seek to improve ourselves, whether it's physically or mentally, and it our bodies often reflect our ideals.

    -Geoffrey Lelia-

  7. I agree with both Geoffrey and Terry. We all have our own preferences on what is beauty, and if that's plastic surgery and body mods, then I think it's for you to decide. We grew up with different beliefs and principles, so we can't really hold people accountable if their beliefs goes against ours, right?

    Marc Bryan

  8. I've never heard of a single plastic surgeon who's admitted to performing extreme body modification. Most other people I mentioned this to thought that it was correct that there ... Cosmetic surgery just seemed to be viewed as 'not really' body modification..

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