Sunday, October 22, 2006

nip/tuck & green apples

According to New Scientist,
"Last year, 291,000 American women had bags implanted in their breasts, 324,000 Americans had fat vacuumed out of their bodies, and 231,000 had fat, skin and muscle cut from around their eyes. Add less common operations such as buttock lifts, pectoral implants and vaginal rejuvenations, as well as "minimally invasive" procedures such as Botox injections, and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons estimates that Americans underwent at least 10.2 million cosmetic surgery procedures last year."
The article also notes that in the United States "people suffering from body dysmorphic disorder may be 45 times as likely as normal to commit suicide" and that "over 56% of women and 43% of men are dissatisfied with their appearance."

On the one hand we have "beauty" defined by the advertisements, media, fashion and cosmetic industries making women evermore insecure about their divergence from the "standards". (I do recognise that there are all kinds of gender issues involved here but it isn't my main concern for the moment.) On the other, women become the agents to reproduce these images by 1) consuming the images and products generated by these industries and 2) through plastic surgery, as they have gained relative economic independence in the last few decades. The article in New Scientist was about the US, where these developments are very visible, but one can see it growing globally, too...

"We don’t need Afghan-style burquas to disappear as women. We disappear in reverse—by revamping and revealing our bodies to meet externally imposed visions of female beauty."

-Robin Gerber

It's one other way to control "nature" of course. We are never happy with what is out there. We have to change and shape it. So much so that “what is out there” (and even in there if you care to look at the ratios of psychiatric patients and hence the use of related “medicine”) to be changed and shaped now also includes our bodies. The beautification of female body is no longer a ritual, as it appears to be in history. The body is no longer ornamented but is transformed. This is not limited to cosmetics, fashion, surgery, or diets. It also relates to medicine. More and more often natural cycles and processes are seen as obscure and almost unwanted -hence modern medicine tries to rid women from their natural "burdens". One of the latest examples being the pills that would stop women's menstrual cycles until they want to reproduce. Sounds horribly liberating, don't you think so? The predecessors of such “progress” have been PMS reducing tranquilisers, all the procedures that have been suggested to stop mothers' milk, or anti-aging pills / creams / hormones and the like, as well as smaller and more cosmetic examples such as all those pills that would allow you to be tanner or whiter regardless of the season / colour of skin you're in, anti-perspirant deodorants, or the requirement to remove body hair.

This also reminds me of the “green apple culture”: Anything that can make you feel/be anything less than an icon of healthy-fit-young (and hygenic in an almost sterile way) individual is regarded as evil. Moreover we can no longer pursue ways in which we can remain out of the norm, either. Think of non-smoking parks and beaches, think of legislations that require obese people to pay more for the health services / insurance everyone is entitled to, think of the social and peer pressure that forces us into things.

It has been marketed so long now that one can hardly recognise it. Nor its health effects on women that end up in bulimia or anorexia.

Is it too big a leap to make? I don't think so. Everything is at our service not to be what we look like and not to be happy with what we are like. Our individual freedoms are at risk, as we are no longer allowed to make “mistakes,” and hence “be ourselves”…

There are n-number of social problems it brings, or course, but going back to the minor issue of beauty, even the sheer time it takes for each women to perform (or even consider how to or whether or not to perform) all these "duties", make it impossible to direct our energy and focus into what WE might find important and worth changing in our modern patriarchal societies...

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