Plastic. Derived from the the greek plastikos, ‘to mould’.
Plastic surgery has been around since 600 BC. Sushruta, an ancient Indian physician, is thought to be one of the first plastic surgeons (Robinson, 2015: n.p). What a lad. His practices have led to what we now use to help those who have been disfigured, injured, or are born with life threatening defects.
However plastic surgery, like most revolutionary things in life, has a way of becoming a violent and destructive force. Just look at the things you can do with technology. Cyber bullying, trolling, and hacking. Once we figured out that we could use plastic surgery to alter the way we look, everything changed. The prospect of having all those insecurities vanish with a wave of the knife was one we could not resist. Cosmetic surgery is at its all time highest and will continues to rise. Business is booming!
The problem, however, does not lie with plastic surgery itself or wanting to go under the knife. Who am I to question someone’s choice? The real underlying problem is the beauty standards behind it all. The ones that make us feel we need plastic surgery. We are constantly exposed to various outlets that tell us how we should look. TV, magazines, and social media are especially guilty of this. If we aren’t of a certain weight or don’t have the right kind of nose… well we’re ugly. That’s just the standard we’ve set for ourselves. But no worries! Plastic surgery can fix all of that.
The most interesting case of plastic surgery phenomenon is in South Korea.
I was recently watching an episode of the South Korean show ‘Hello Counselor’. This show invites members of the public to share their concerns, discuss them, and hopefully work through them. It’s like a more placid Jeremy Kyle. There’s no shouting, fights, or exes storming onto the set to throttle their cheating partners who’ve just failed the infamous lie detector test. One of the concerns brought up by a woman said a lot about Korean society and its beauty standards in general. Her nose is so perfect that everyone around her thinks it isn’t real. Yes, you read right.
This woman hears people whispering about her nose, seeing them put up their fingers in an L shape to deduce whether its ‘real’ or not, and calling her a ‘plastic surgery monster’ (sung gui). The poor woman can’t sniff or have a cold nose turn red without accusations that these are signs of a nose job.
This concern makes it evident the scale of plastic surgery and its influence in South Korea. When you see a good lookin’ schnoz the first thing you should be thinking is damn that’s one good lookin’ schnoz. For the first thought on someone’s mind to be that’s a nose job isn’t exactly normal.
But in South Korea it is normal to have had plastic surgery. 50% of women in South Korea have had some form of plastic surgery while 15% of men have also gone under the knife. It has become a normal practice because of high beauty standards so it is understandable why people think this way. Since looks are very important in conveying the kind of person you are in South Korea, it is no surprise that beauty standards are this high. So high that even a double eye lid can change a woman’s prospects of finding the perfect suitor or landing a job. Yes. In South Korea, you are required to, majority of the time, attach a photo to your job application. We’d probably go ape s**t over this idea alone. British aggression +1
And while men in South Korea have plastic surgery, it’s only 15% that do. If that doesn’t make it evident who feels more pressure to fit into these high beauty standards then… you should’ve gone to Specsavers. Not only is plastic surgery suggested by parents to their daughters for better prospects of jobs and marriage, a lot of these girls are rewarded with cosmetic surgery on the condition that they are successful in their studies. If you’re wondering what the standard of beauty is there, here are a few popular beauty trends for reference: slim jaw lines, small faces, big eyes, double eyelids, prominent foreheads and noses, aegyo sal (the fat under your eyes which makes you seem more youthful), etc.
Of course, here in the West, we’re no perfect either. If it isn’t big breasts we’re pining after, its big bottoms and voluminous lips. These beauty standards all perpetuated infamously by the Kardashians and other celebrities alike. I’ve seen a lot of young girls, perhaps 14, following these trends and looking as if they’re in their late twenties. At that age I looked like an emo potato.
The point of this post is to highlight the internal violence we put ourselves through when we play into beauty standards and the physical violence of altering ourselves that we feel the need to implement as a result. Beauty standards have become more important in our society now more than ever. We have lost our grip on what we should really be valuing,our inner beauty. If we keep putting ourselves up against such beauty standards, we may just lose touch with ourselves. We will start to believe them and stop believing in who we are. As cliche as it may sound, as long as you’re beautiful on the inside, you will radiate nothing but beauty on the outside. I mean, Christina Aguilera wouldn’t have made a song about it if wasn’t true, right?