Saturday, August 18, 2012

Anthropology and Cosmetic Surgery by Evie Robinson

Anthropologists are consulted by many different disciplines. Psychiatrists, for example, have consulted anthropologists specialising in ‘moral panic’ when researching the question of whether internet sex addiction is in fact an addiction at all, or a media storm simply seeking to medicalizing a personal preference in order to boost circulation figures. The use of anthropological data is extremely useful in investigations of this kind. But has work been done into the rise and rise of cosmetic surgery in society?

Medicalizing Aesthetics
The increasing application of medical techniques to the arena of human aesthetics should give the inquisitive anthropologist pause for reflection. What of the history of self-adornment, and are there parallels to be drawn. What is the difference between inserting a gigantic cup into your lower lip, and extending your neck with metal rings, and the surgical enhancements on offer from cosmetic surgeons today? Discuss. There is no doubt that human beings have a primary urge to appear as attractive as possible to the opposite sex, and are prepared to take some fairly extreme measures to enhance their assets. Some attempts, such as the bizarrely huge boots seen in Mexico of late, can be seen as a passing fashion, albeit one that is taking off across America where Mexican communities are strong. Others are deeper rooted and culturally specific.

Men And Cosmetic Surgery

Reports show that men in the West have shown an increasing willingness to undergo surgical cosmetic procedures in the last five years. This is no doubt due to the rise and pressure of the celebrity culture, which has made male cosmetic surgery more culturally acceptable. Increasingly too, men are being confronted with the commoditised body as a thing to aspire to. The six-pack is the object of desire, and magazines such as Men’s Health play a large role in creating a body-conscious male consumer. The shift in acceptability of men undergoing cosmetic procedures is a massive cultural shift. Whilst male grooming in many cultures is acceptable, it stops short of the excessive measures such as breast reduction, eyelid lifts and liposuction, and points to a change in ideas of masculinity. There is no more shame in seeking Propecia hair loss information than in searching out a new gym. The stigma of male vanity being associated with weakness or homosexuality has vanished, particularly amongst the younger generation of men, to whom cosmetic products are aggressively marketed.

Women’s Bodies
Whilst there has always been a cultural obsession with women’s appearances, the acceptability of  procedures has led to skyrocketing demand. Moreover, women’s sexuality is now the object of functional improvement. ‘Revirgination’ is a relatively new but increasingly requested surgery, involving the reattachment of the hymen for women as a ‘gift’ to their husbands. Anthropologists could surely find some cross-cultural parallels in the subject of female genital mutilation, but the difference with this procedure is that it is largely requested by women. The fact that the procedure is only in evidence for one night does not seem to deter women who typically undergo this surgery later in life – in one instance for a fiftieth wedding anniversary present.
Breast enhancement surgery seems to be a western obsession, and it is interesting to note the increased emphasis on the bottom in other cultures. The desire to enhance the derriere is such that women are prepared to take horrific risks to achieve the desired effect, most notably in a recent case where a woman was injected with a mixture of cement, mineral oil, superglue Fix-a-Flat tire sealant leaving her with horrific injuries.
This should be no surprise whatsoever to anthropologists, when we consider other forms of bodily mutilation women across the world undergo for cosmetic reasons. Women in the West African tribe of Karamojong to cut their skin with metal hooks, rubbing ash into the wounds to prevent healing. Girls from the Mursi tribe pierce their bottom lip and gradually stretch it with wooden plates over time. By the time they marry the piercing is large enough to accept a debi or clay plate on their wedding day. Extreme beauty is not confined to the West, as this fascinating slide show depicts. It would certainly make an interesting study.

Mexican boots

Woman from West African tribe of Karamojong
Young woman from the Mursi Tribe


allure medspa said...

can you opt for any course involving full body Cosmetic surgery after doing bachelors in dentistry?

genevatriggs said...

Excellent post. Thanks for sharing such a valuable post among the users. I have read the entire post and got great learning from your post regarding cosmetic surgery. Keep sharing such an informative information among the users.

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Laderma said...

Anthropology ans cosmetic surgery have been explained in the post here. Read details from here
Cosmetic Surgery

jackjack said...

It has been a very popular topic yes, I'm talking about "Anthropology and Cosmetic Surgery" among cosmetic surgery circles. They want to talk more and more on the said topic. Thanks to Evie.


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