Do real liberals demonize plastic surgery?

I’m going to let the following Facebook thread speak for itself.  This was all in response to the following image posted on the Being Liberal Facebook Page:

USA #1!

  • Greg StevensWhy is “plastic surgery” included in this mix? What’s up with demonizing plastic surgery? Will you be demonizing tattoos, next? What a weird “Puritan” streak to see on a liberal page….
    • Jake MulvaneyMy interpretation is we have money to spend on that but not to fix some of the other things. Could be wrong, just a rationalization.
    • Mari StricklandI thought it was relative to media inflated self-loathing that paves the path for many of the other crimes, illnesses and justifications….
    • Lucy RizzoMy interpretation is: High plastic surgery rates equals a superficial society.
    • James TarrMight have to do with shallowness or poor self-image. Who knows.
    • Stephen Smithplastic surgery says a lot of nasty things about who we are. No , I’mnot talking about reconstructive surgery and you know it.
    • Danielle GussDo any of you dye your hair? Have piercings/tattoos? Shave? Then you are modifying your body from what it was originally meant to be. It’s no different from plastic surgery.
    • Dylan Porterwrong Danielle completely different things
    • Izel Terronezim in the process of scheduling sex reassignment surgery and facial feminization surgery, and get really frustrated with this. and even if you want to only talk about things that are “less serious,” its still stupid, i mean, who cares? so youre mad the money goes there rather than somewhere else? why are you even on facebook? facebook is a huge suck of time and money that could go to cancer research or feeding hungry people.also, it seems pretty much all these figures are either not adjusted for population or just bullshit. so whatever.
    • Danielle GussNo Dylan, it’s not. Body modification is body modification. You didn’t like how something looked about you, so you did something to the body to change it. But, really, it’s their body and why should anyone care but them?
    • Greg StevensThe fact is, being liberal is supposed to mean that we don’t cast moral judgments on what other people choose to do with themselves, by themselves, with their own priorities and values. It means that we’re not supposed to call someone “sick” or “weird” just because they choose a recreation or activity that isn’t what YOU would choose. It means you’re not supposed to be so puritanical that you can’t handle some diversity in the way that people EXPRESS themselves.That’s what being liberal means. When you judge people for choosing to have plastic surgery — something that only impacts themselves — you are not being liberal.
    • Gianni Forza Azzurri FioriniIt means that how you look is more important than how you are.
    • Greg StevensGianni, how you look is part of how you are. And part of being liberal means you don’t impose your own personal moral biases on others: it means you aren’t dictatorial about what it means to be “normal”.If someone wants to have plastic surgery, it doesn’t hurt you. So how about you stop wasting energy coming up with “theories” about what is psychologically wrong with them, and simply allow them to be unique individuals who happen to value things differently than you do.Embrace differences and diversity, remember? Being liberal.
    • Danielle Guss@Gianni. And no, again it doesn’t. But judging is pretty easy, isn’t it?
    • Izel Terronezwhy cant that just be a part of who you are?
    • Laura Williams GarzaI take it to mean we care more about our appearance than things like education for our children.
    • Greg StevensLaura, that might be how you take it, but it’s not what the statistic actually means. Putting a raw statistic about plastic surgery into this mix is a really unfortunate prejudice: it is not   like crime, rape, prisoners, teen birth rates, or any  of the other items on this list. It is something that a person chooses for him/her-self, and that one might choose for any of a wide variety of reasons. It does not belong on this list.
    • Izel TerronezLaura, get off Facebook and start educating children right now. You can stop to eat short meals and go to the bathroom and sleep. Anything else is a waste of time, and you wouldn’t want to “care about that more than things like education for our children” would you?
    • Danielle GussI take it as utter bull more than anything. As a women and human being, I certainly wouldn’t want people telling me what I should do with my body and judge me for what I do. If I get an abortion, I’m a murderer. If I get plastic surgery, I’m vain and insecure. If I don’t shave my legs, I’m disgusting. If I take birth control, I’m a slut. If I’m skinny, I’m anorexic. If I’m fat, I’m a lazy, unattractive slob. See where this is going?
    • Chris Dalzell“Plastic surgery” category, I imagine, represents use of monies for non-necessary medical expenditures over curative or preventative medical treatments. Moreover, narcissism of the well-to-do (and its ubiquitous advertisement) has long-reaching, systemic effects on other areas, such as teenage eating disorders, birth rates, etc. It is completely germane. I, however, don’t see the point in the “divorce rate” category. The nuclear family can easily be argued to cause more societal ills than it cures.
    • Greg StevensChris: Having a statistic about “plastic surgery”, alone, says nothing about whether those expenditures are “over” necessary procedures or anything else. There is absolutely nothing in that statistic about whether those moneys “could” or “should” have been used for anything else. And unlike anyof the other categories, plastic surgery is something that a person chooses for him/her-self. It doesn’t hurt other people, it doesn’t detract from other people’s choices or lives in any way.The only  negative thing someone could say about plastic surgery is based on prejudice and puritanical morality: “I personally think that only vain people have it, so I’m going to assume that YOU are vain if you do! And I’m going to judge you for being vain!”There is nothing  liberal about that kind of judgment. It’s moral imperialism at its worst, and it’s presumptuous.

      Being Liberal means letting other people make their own choices about their own bodies, and express themselves even if you personally don’t “like” their choices for self-expression.

      So how about we have a little open-mindedness, a little “live and let-live”, on this liberal page?

    • Jessica StrunkI think plastic surgery is a symptom of our culture telling others they aren’t good enough the way they were born, so they have to shell out cash to be accepted. Which I think does suck. The media tells you that you should have a particular nose. Skinny. With big tits. And yeah… It’s not a good notion. Your choice, sure. But I feel it’s a reflection on our society, and how it put’s you in a position to feel bad about yourself.
    • Greg StevensJessica: You reallyfeel comfortable making the assumption that people who get plastic surgery always (or even mostly) do it because they feel insecure? And you really feel comfortable making a moral judgment that people should NOT take control over their own appearance if that is something that makes them happy? Come on… no matter how you dress this up, it’s Puritanism. You’re imposing your own assumptions and values on others, and there is no place for it when they are only making decisions about themselves.You know what Being Liberal means to me? It means living in a diverse and heterogeneous society, where some people choose to modify their own bodies, and other people do not, and people don’t judge each other for it.



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  1. Niles Chandler says:

    You’re double-welcome. 😉

    Seriously though, Greg: I knew that my mention of defensiveness was imprudent and provocative.

  2. Niles Chandler says:

    I’m sorry, Greg, but you sound VERY defensive up there, almost to the point of being in denial. For some reason this issue is obviously very personal to you, but remember, another part of (ideal) liberalism is the willingness to listen. “The ONLY negative thing someone could say about plastic surgery is based on prejudice and puritanical morality”? No, people were trying to articulate other genuine concerns, but you did not want to know about those.

    Think of that “Twilight Zone” episode (set in the future) where, at a given age, a young woman has to go in and have her face completely changed to match one of the very few “types” of appearance that are now allowed. That’s an extreme extrapolation of how the world’s wide variety of “non-standard” beauty can be reduced when cosmetic facial surgery becomes widespread and steers people toward a particular model (pun perhaps intended). As a liberal, I’m concerned when parts of the corporate world try to make a profit from convincing us (subtly or overtly) that part of our unique individuality– in this case, the face and body we were born with– might be inadequate by THEIR standards and therefore we should consider permanently altering it in an attempt to be more “marketable” in our careers and relationships. Where I live there are ads from a local cosmetic surgeon suggesting exactly that– but, of course, written as if the choice came entirely from within US and the doctor is merely fulfilling what WE always wanted. That may often be the case, but in others IT IS NOWHERE NEAR THAT SIMPLE!

    Look again at Jessica Strunk’s post. She’s not wrong. Girls and young women, in particular, are bombarded, year after year, with corporate messages suggesting that they might not “measure up.” You write that people should “take control over their own appearance if that is something that makes them happy”. Sounds great– and that’s exactly how the cosmetic-surgery business would want people to see it. But some people end up letting business interests and advertising media “take control” of their own judgment. Some get irreversible cosmetic surgery done because they HOPE it will make them happy, or hope it will keep them from feeling UNhappy, or feel overtly pressured into getting it done, or any of a whole host of reasons– and then find that they are not, in fact, happier. We know this has happened, because people have written or spoken about their experiences. Meanwhile, they have lost part of their own inborn uniqueness (and, in a broader sense, the world has lost that little bit of diversity, too, with the opportunity to appreciate it for what it is– and thus the whole cycle may end up being accelerated).

    Elective cosmetic surgery may be just fine in many cases, but to say that it’s always just “a free choice that makes me happy” is, to me, a Pollyanna view that ignores legitimate concerns, such as commercial exploitation of people’s vulnerabilities.

    • Greg Stevens says:

      You say: “Elective cosmetic surgery may be just fine in many cases, but to say that it’s always just “a free choice that makes me happy” is, to me, a Pollyanna view that ignores legitimate concerns, such as commercial exploitation of people’s vulnerabilities.”

      OF COURSE the plastic surgery industry leaves open the door to commercial exploitation of people’s vulnerabilities. Then again, the breakfast cereal industry also could be (and is) subject to commercial exploitation of people’s vulnerabilities. When it comes down to it, ANY industry could (and pretty much every industry HAS, with one degree of success or another) exploit people’s vulnerabilities.

      My claim never was, and never would be, that the industry is completely innocuous. Most industries are exploitive, let’s face it.

      My claim is that it’s an irrational demonization of plastic surgery to put it in the same category as CRIME, RAPE, HEART ATTACKS, and PRISONERS.

      It’s stupid, and it’s shallow, and it’s presumptuous to assume that plastic surgery is a symptom of harm or of brokenness in a society — which all of those other things (crime, rape, etc) are. Plastic surgery is an industry that can prey on weakness of ego, sure. So are lottery tickets. So are sports. So are sit coms. So what?

      So thanks for your long tirade about how plastic surgery “can” be motivated by conformity, and double-thanks for the ad hominems about me sounding “defensive”, but none of that is actually relevant to the point I was making.

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