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Think critically before getting plastic surgery

While plastic surgery can boost confidence, its hidden effects should be critically examined and addressed. | Fiona Legesse/The Cougar

We should never shame the choices women make concerning their own bodies, but it’s important to remain critical of an industry that profits off of systemic insecurity.

As of 2017, women accounted for 92 percent of all cosmetic procedures performed in the United States. This statistic makes sense, not because women are inherently vain or image-obsessed but because of the reality we face.

Women are typically given greater opportunities and social mobility when they adhere to mainstream standards of attractiveness. Though the media has typically shamed female celebrities for getting cosmetic procedures done, these women often see greater success afterward.

Kylie Jenner seems to be the clearest and most relevant example of this. Jenner famously built a makeup empire off of her lip kits, which became highly sought after thanks to her cosmetically-altered pout.

With this cultural context in mind and celebrities like Jenner serving as examples of the societal benefits cosmetic surgery can bring, it seems obvious why women get work done at such high rates.

In a society in which women are often treated according to their appearance, we shouldn’t cast judgment on the ways women consciously or unconsciously navigate these social constructs. However, we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking we are making these decisions free of outside pressures.

The rate of plastic surgery among young people aged 13-19 has been rising. For comparison, the human brain continues to develop in vital areas like decision making, logical thinking and identity until the mid-20s. When asked why they underwent cosmetic procedures, many teenage patients claimed that it was for their own self-confidence or happiness.

Some patients even cited feminism.

As one Twitter user aptly states, “It’s so I can look in the mirror and love who I see.”  Though this may be true and many women do genuinely enjoy beauty rituals like makeup, skincare and even plastic surgery, we are also socially trained to.

The rise of social media has intertwined cultural beauty ideals with our lives in an unprecedented way. In a lengthy Twitter post explaining the reasons behind her decision to get lip injections, beauty influencer Gabi DeMartino cited Instagram comments and a desire to become a better influencer alongside her own private insecurities.

Within the past decade, researchers, journalists and recipients of operations, whether they’re famous or not, have cited social media as primary factors in patients’ decision. Psychologists back this up with correlations between frequent social media use and heightened insecurities or depression.

The decision to get plastic surgery doesn’t exist in a vacuum and is often made hand-in-hand with exposure to conventional, European standards of beauty. Every woman I know is able to look back at her life and pinpoint the exact moment she first felt pressure to change something about her appearance for external approval.

These external pressures can become internalized and ingrained, especially when they come at fundamental developmental stages. We begin to place these external standards of beauty on ourselves and become hyper-critical of our own appearance.

That doesn’t mean that every time we put on makeup or shave our legs we’re doing it for external approval, but saying that we do it for ourselves feels like a dishonest and shallow argument. When I put on makeup, I do it in part because I enjoy the ritual, but also because from a young age I was taught to cringe at my under-eye bags, acne-scarred skin and weird-shaped eyebrows. There’s a $445 billion industry counting on the fact that I feel the need or desire to put concealer on every morning.

I don’t mean to write this from any sort of moral high ground. I recognize the major impact such procedures could potentially have on your self-confidence and social stature. If you want to get surgery, go for it — it’s your body. But, be aware of all the powerful people, industries and cultures that profit off of you doing so.

Opinion columnist Adison Eyring is a media productions and political science sophomore and can be reached at [email protected].

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