Technological improvements have made plastic surgery more widely available and effective. Consequently, ideas about reinventing oneself by surgical means have gained traction, as shown in series like The Swan, Extreme Makeover, and Nip/Tuck. Labiaplasty and vaginoplasty are only two of the many genital cosmetic operations becoming popular among women. Advertisements for these procedures often claim that women would feel more confident afterwards. The demands and expectations that society places on women in terms of their bodies, looks, and sexuality are brought into question, however, by these operations. Many chapters in the book “Body Outlaws -rewriting the Rules of Beauty and body image” shed light on the nuanced nature of beauty and body image issues. Furthermore, the Health at Every Size (HAES) approach promotes healthy behaviors instead of weight loss as a measure of health and advocates for the acceptance of a wide range of body sizes. This article will discuss how the HAES perspective might serve as a more accepting and healthy alternative to the views about women’s bodies, appearance, and sexuality that motivate the choice to get cosmetic surgery.
Female genital alteration operations have increased in popularity as cosmetic surgery generally has. Cultural norms around women’s sexuality and bodily standards significantly affect the choice to get genital cosmetic surgery. Women have always faced pressure to uphold what some call “unrealistic beauty standards,” but the advent of widespread social media use has only made the issue worse. To comply with societal preconceptions of what a woman’s body should look like and to get the elusive “perfect” physique, genital cosmetic surgery becomes an option. Instead of reinforcing destructive beauty standards, we should strive for a culture that appreciates all bodies and promotes variety.
In her work “Destination 120,” Debbie Feit examines the adverse effects of an unhealthy preoccupation with weight reduction on women’s bodies and confidence. Debbie recounts her experiences of her struggle with body image and those of other women in society (Edut and Walker 49). As she puts it, “The destination of 120 [pounds] or the perfect body is always out of reach, always beyond our grasp” (Edut and Walker 49). The uncomfortable dress Feit wore to her wedding equates to the uncomfortable surgical procedures women have to endure, all in the name of beauty (Edut and Walker 50). The fixation with weight reduction and the pressure to comply with unattainable beauty standards negatively impacts women’s physical and mental health. The widespread pursuit of “perfect” body types and procedures, such as genital cosmetic surgery, is evidence of this pressure. Feit contends, however, that such an ideal is impossible to achieve and may have disastrous results if attempted. As a culture, we must cease our promotion of destructive beauty standards and instead strive toward a world in which all bodies are celebrated and valued.
In her work, Logwood discusses how the African-American ancestry of her family and the traditional foods they made influenced her relationship with food. She explains that “the food we ate was never just about sustenance; it was a connection to our souls, a way to celebrate our culture, and a symbol of love.” Eventually, though, Logwood’s awareness of cultural beauty standards made her feel embarrassed about her appetite and weight (Edut and Walker 99). The prevalence of “diet culture” and the need to “find your perfect size” speak to this conflict. The message of Logwood is unmistakable: we must alter our perspectives on food and the human body (Edut and Walker 102). We should appreciate food as a chance to connect with our cultural history and bodies rather than consider it a source of guilt and shame.
Regina Williams narrates her struggle with body image due to her weight and how she conquered the societal discrimination she faced for being “fat.” Williams’s realization that people of various sizes may be healthy and that weight is not a reliable sign of health sparked the beginning of her path toward body acceptance (Edut and Walker 182). Initially suspicious, Williams’ perspective on her body shifted as she learned more about her body and connected with others who had similar experiences. In the same way any other physical being does, it deserves to be cared for and cherished. Williams’ message is one of unconditional self-appreciation. She advocates for readers to reject conventional ideas of beauty and embrace their unique physical selves. She advocates a revolt against the idea that people’s bodies are broken and need repair. It is time to accept one another for who we are and honor our bodies for their miraculous, sturdy, and beautiful creations.
In her work “Marked for Life: Tattoos and the Redefinition of Self,” Silja J.A. Talvi examines how tattoos factor into the larger context of accepting one’s identity and finding ways to express it. Talvi says that tattoos have the potential to undermine conventional ideas of attractiveness and help people retake control over their bodies. In general, Talvi’s chapter emphasizes how tattoos may be a form of expression and defiance in the face of conventional aesthetic standards. Talvi advocates body positivity and uses tattoos as a form of self-expression, sending her audience a message of strength and independence.
According to Amy Richards, a youthful, slender, and white body generally portrays the “perfect” female body. This restricted view of beauty damages women and promotes an environment where people feel bad about their bodies and hate themselves. Websites leverage this negative body image to promote the widespread use of cosmetic surgery among women. Negative body image may lead women into cosmetic surgery with an urge to be more beautiful per societal beauty standards. Women may feel safer accepting their bodies as they are and fighting the urge to conform if we adopt a more inclusive definition of beauty (Edut and Walker 200).
In the short story “Parisian Peel,” Joyce Dyer thinks back on her choice to have a Parisian Peel, a cosmetic operation that involves scrubbing the outer layer of skin off the face. Dyer discusses the reasons behind her choice and the psychological and physiological effects of the operation. Dyer’s experiences exemplify women’s many insecurities regarding their bodies and the dangerous extent to which they will go to fit society’s perception of beauty. For instance, the intense pain Dyer felt with each session but came back for more sessions (Edut and Walker 270) portrays the negative impacts of poor body image. This chapter by Dyer emphasizes how the pressure to conform to unrealistic beauty standards may drive otherwise healthy people to risk their health for vanity. Dyer’s path to self-acceptance reminds one that inner beauty is more important than external appearance to have a happy and meaningful life.
In her essay “The Art of the Ponytail,” Akkida McDowell delves into the historical and social importance of the ponytail among African Americans. She considers how the haircut has impacted her and others and how women utilize it as a form of cultural resistance and individual expression. She recounts societal discrimination due to her hair (Edut and Walker 124). Society’s view of hair as an epitome of beauty (Edut and Walker 128) may make women who are not confident in their hair undergo surgical procedures to enhance their beauty. McDowell’s chapter explains how one’s hairdo may be a means of cultural protest and individual expression. She urges her followers to embrace their individuality and reject society’s beauty norms by expressing themselves via their hair.
Instead of focusing on weight reduction or conforming to an ideal body type, the Health At Every Size (HAES) concept encourages people to develop and maintain healthy habits (ASDAH). The HAES method is advocated by (ASDAH) because it recognizes the value of celebrating the differences among people of all shapes and sizes. Women should accept themselves and work on sustaining healthy habits rather than trying to achieve a particular body type. Women should not feel pressured to alter their bodies through cosmetic surgery or conform to societal beauty standards. Instead, efforts to normalize healthful practices and treat people of all sizes with dignity and compassion are essential.
In conclusion, the cosmetic surgery revolution has prompted a heated discussion about women’s bodies, appearances, and sexualities. Some women choose cosmetic surgery to boost their self-esteem, but others say it promotes unrealistic body ideals and fuels eating disorders. The perspectives of numerous writers in “Body Outlaws – Rewriting the Rules of Beauty and Body Image” and the HAES method examine the intricacies of these concerns. We can create a more welcoming and empowering culture prioritizing confidence and inner beauty above physical attractiveness by celebrating how women express themselves via their bodies and experiences.
ASDAH. “The Health at Every Size® (HAES®) Principles.” ASDAH, 22 Apr. 2022, asdah.org/health-at-every-size-haes-approach/.
Edut, Ophira, and Rebecca Walker, editors. Body Outlaws – rewriting the rules of beauty and body image. 2nd ed., Seal Press, 2004.