This article about plastic surgery in Brazil surfaced on my Facebook feed (I ❤ NPR):
Reading it, I felt immediately enraged.
Being from Miami, no one has to tell me the price women (and even girls) are willing to pay to “perfect” themselves. Miami is a plastic surgery Mecca. Years ago, a student of mine (not more than 19) shared that she would be getting a “boob job”. Since then, I’ve had students divulge that they had nose jobs in high school, were “given” procedures as gifts from family, or were getting some kind of work done because so-and-so did it and it “wasn’t that bad”. I’ve also known several people who have gone under the knife, electively, for a variety of reasons. I actually support anyone who wants to give themselves piece of mind in simply feeling better (and probably navigating the world more freely), but there is a higher cost when it goes to the level of the profiles from the article.
Many times, I find that people are trying to “fix” the things that make them decidedly a part of their ethnic origin(s). Noses, cheeks, chins, eyes; these aren’t just gifted to us by our immediate genetics (read: mother, father), they’re historical records of where we came from. The same can be said for our bodies – for good or for bad by society’s standards. The intensely beautiful diversity of human looks, features, shapes, etc. is being artificially narrowed to satisfy impossible beauty ideals perpetuated by popular culture. I say “artificially” because plastic surgery has no carry-overs to the next generation. The chase, then, will always be on to look like something we are not. What’s popular today may not be popular tomorrow, but what won’t change is the notion that we somehow have to “correct” what we are not. Women, specifically, are given and internalize this message every day. And yet women are handing down this message, daily, in countless ways.
With students, I’ve tried (probably in vain), to have them understand that comparison is an evil thing humans learn. Social media, above all other mediums, makes comparison all too easy to engage in. But I also tell students that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (whatever) have all become the “highlight reel”. People are only interested in sharing the things that make it appear as though they are flawless and living insanely awesome lives every single day. The majority of people on my own Facebook feed have somehow become Ford Models (of course, I am from Miami and living in LA…).
I recently read this apropos quote somewhere: “Comparison is the death of joy.” – Mark Twain
The price of plastic is that there is no finish line to perfection and a forever dwindling appreciation of all of the phenomenal things that make us exquisitely unique.