The “Normalization” of Plastic Surgery
I recently read an article by Vivian Diller, Ph.D., regarding the “normalization of cosmetic surgery.” In her piece, Dr. Diller argues that the popularization and accessibility of cosmetic surgery is potentially moving society toward “the homogenization of beauty, both in terms of physical features and ethnic differences.” She argues that the normalization of plastic surgery could more narrowly define acceptable physical features, create a culture of people who look increasingly similar, and generate little tolerance for differences. People can tell their plastic surgeons, “I’ll take the Angelina lips please, and the Jennifer cheekbones,” and that wish will be granted.
However, I have to respectfully disagree with Dr. Diller. Yes, there was a time in the history of cosmetic surgery when there was only one “right way” to do procedures. Take rhinoplasties – or nose jobs – for example. There used to be a one-size-fits-all approach in which surgeons adhered to one “Western” standard of beauty when constructing a new nose. Today, that is no longer the case. Cosmetic surgeons have advanced far beyond those limited tactics, and no reputable surgeon will push a standard look on patients.
In addition, a good cosmetic surgeon will not allow patients to “order” new looks based on their preferences for “Angelina lips” or “Jennifer cheekbones.” The surgeon must guide patients and educate them about what is possible. It’s important to consider how the new feature will “fit in” with the rest of the patient’s face. Will the proportions be right? Will the new shape of the nose, cheekbones, chin or eyes flatter the patient’s other features? Just because someone wants “Angelina lips” does not mean those lips will look good in the end – the shape has to be tailored to the individual.
Finally, a reputable cosmetic surgeon will make sure that patients are having procedures done for the right reasons. Wanting the same face as another person is generally not a good reason, and a reputable surgeon will decline to operate. In these cases, the patient is not pursing cosmetic surgery for themselves – it’s more likely that they are reacting to real or perceived pressures from their social circles or the media.
American culture, beauty standards, and individual race identities are vastly complex issues. Trying to boil them down to a few facial features – based on a fear of homogenizing ethnic differences – is not possible. Although, Dr. Diller certainly seems to think it could be. At least there is one point on which Dr. Diller and I do agree: Attractiveness comes in a lot of different shapes and sizes, and there is beauty in every stage of life.
Read Vivian Diller’s Huffington Post article The Normalization of Plastic Surgery