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Britney NguyenDec. 8, 2017ENG 101The Beauty and The Beast through the History of Plastic SurgeryNo matter where one is, there are always people that strive to be as breathtakingly beautiful as the models presented on the cover of magazines. In current society, the picture of beauty is a paper thin model with the body of a divine goddess. They desire to have the curvy hips, long, slender legs, and chiseled face of those beauties. Because of these high standards of beauty, a person is convinced that by having these highlighted features, they will become the ultimate beauty and the first and most efficient way to get these results is none other than plastic surgery, or, cosmetic surgery.
As the years come and go, plastic surgery has become increasingly more popular. Plastic surgery is an incredible creation which has helped reshape the cosmetic world by helping reconstruct body parts of the punished, helping treat individuals with serious injuries during the war. Plastic surgery used to be a way to help those haunted from severe physical trauma, but today plastic surgery is proof that racist beauty standards is a lingering menace beast that society has still yet to defeat.Precedents can be traced around the globe starting hundreds of years ago B.
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C. in India, where brickmaker castes’ members attempted to reconstruct noses cut off as punishment for adultery, to 16th century Italy, where Gaspare Tagliacozzi pioneered techniques to repair the facial scars that came from recurring duels (Haiken). During the 6th Century BCE, an Indian physician named Sushruta, who is widely recognized in India as the father of surgery, wrote one of the world’s earliest works on medicine and surgery, Sushruta Samhita.
Sushruta’s work depicts the first written record of a forehead flap rhinoplasty, a technique that is still in use to this day, where a full, thick piece of skin from the forehead is used to reconstruct a nose (Menick). At that time, patients in need of that procedure generally included those who had lost their noses as punishment for theft or adultery (Division). The nose has always played a significant role in India symbolism. The Indian nose varies tremendously and provides a unique appearance to everyone of the subcontinent as it is commonly pierced and jeweled to provide further accentuation and charm (Shah). Sushruta Samhita came up with other contributions towards the practice of plastic surgery such as the use of cheek flaps to reconstruct absent ear lobes, the use of wine as anesthesia, and the use of leeches to keep wounds free of blood clots (Dhwty).
Later on, the Roman Empire also began to work with plastic surgery, which came unsurprising given that they were a culture that took the most admiration to the human body’s aesthetic and beauty. During the first century A.D., Roman physicians were performing rhinoplasty that became popular because of the barbaric custom of many kingdoms such as cutting off the upper lips and noses of enemy soldiers (fashion). Roman surgeons would remove scars, especially those featured on the back, which were seen as marks of shame because it had suggested that a man has betrayed his own country in midst of a battle or, worse, had been whipped like a slave (Burd).
Gladiators, as well, sought to have lost noses and ears repaired as best a surgeon could manage (Burd). Cosmetic Surgery has also helped in the treating of soldiers with severe injuries during the world war. As they returned home, discharged soldiers with repulsive facial deformity found it impossible to secure a job, settle with a wife, or even to simply walk down the street without receiving glances of disgust. Surgeons were then required to treat and reconstruct deep and extensive injuries such as open face injuries, fractures, blown-off noses, lips and other injuries (Nordesthetics). According to the history of the American Board of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (ASPRS) describes, trench warfare caused thousands of WWI soldiers to receive extensive trauma wounds on their faces, necks, throats, and arms (Salcido). Through the heroic efforts of wartime surgeons such as Sir Harold Gillies, the specialty of plastic surgery gained worldwide prominence for its treatment of the devastating facial wounds suffered by so many in World War I (Backstein).
During and immediately after the First World War, surgeons spoke and wrote in unselfconscious terms about the fact that their goals was to recreate a face that would enable its wearer to function in a society (Haiken). Along with this success, the introduction of anesthesia and antiseptics brought about a resurgence in plastic surgery in the late 18th century and became a prominent medical practice in the wake of the two World Wars that had left many individuals wounded, scarred, and disfigured (Cherie). After the World wars, there is no doubt that plastic surgery took a huge turn of change in its industry. Although it is a great invention that can completely transform a person into something beyond one’s imagination, it is also a weapon of destruction that has ruined original and true purpose of plastic surgery. Soon enough after the world wars, personal image amongst the public became another issue.
Beauty in American culture is and still is defined by the media through magazines, television, and music. The perfect career, the perfect family, social status, and high self-esteem all revolve around having a flawless figure (Haas). Many individuals in the public were not pleased with their appearances and requested specific procedures such as breast implants, double eyelid surgery, facelift, and many more. Plastic surgery began to be misused and instead of helping individual with facial damage or injuries, it is now being used to change the outer image of an individual in order to maintain the perfect young appearance.
“Society today has a strong focus on appearance and perfectionism. Sometimes it can be good to focus on those who always do their best, but perfectionism can go on to become morbid and destructive,” Pettersen, Associate Professor at the University of Tromsø, notes (Øvreberg). Because of the over-usage abuse of this invention, the issue of racial beauty standards began to rise. Racist beauty standards caused a massive amount of damage to non-white women. The immense global pressure to follow the white European ideal, which includes lighter complexion, straight hair, and a slim figure, means that women of color are particularly more likely influenced as well as developing psychological problems ranging from eating disorders to depression and generalized self-hatred (Foley).
Whereas the highly racialized nature of this beauty standard was rarely recognized by white America, the looming influence of white ideals of feminine attractiveness made beauty culture a subject of contention in many cultural communities. Oredin, a victim to following these beauty standards, goes on to share her experience of her struggle to follow through the racial beauty standards, “Straightening my hair in an attempt to move my appearance towards the standard of whiteness took its toll on my mental wellbeing throughout my teens. I felt insecure and pressured to try and achieve a standard of beauty that was impossible for someone who looks like me.” In modern day Jamaica, lighter brown skin is known to be symbol of wealth and more power, while poor Jamaicans are mostly the darker tone or to put it bluntly, black. It is extremely rare that a patient will explicitly mention racism or colorism as a reason to follow through skin bleaching. Instead, they pick out vague language, often an echo of the promises the products themselves are marketed with. “They want to be “brighter,” “clearer,” get a “different look,” “tone” their skin, or “cool down” their complexion. Sometimes people who bleach are looking to get a more “matte” look,” Dr.
Braham says (Kebede). However no matter how one words it, all of these terms equate to the same meaning: skin that is not dark and that right there is an example of racial beauty standards in play. If you pathologize people who lighten their complexion, you ignore the racism that incites them to do it. (Kebede). Not only does this problem occur in African Culture, but it also happens in Asian cultures. Leo, a victim emotionally scarred by those who mocked him for his chinese feature, risks the chance to alter his cultural feature through plastic surgery in order to attain western features such as double eyelids, pointier nose shape, sharper jawline in order to be accepted by the public within the UK.
He views this cosmetic fix as a facilitator because it makes him become more confident. The longer he lives like this, Leo claims, the less racial overtones will hang over (Stokel-Walker). For centuries, worshipping of the west has always been a harmful part of Chinese society. However, it has never been manifested so clearly as in the sudden rush to alter our faces to idealize the features of another race and never has self-loathing been so utterly transformed into the core of the Asian aesthetic (Stokel-Walker). Beauty has been warped to fit into a Caucasian person’s ideal, thus causing many cultures to follow an aesthetic that is ultimately not created by their own hands. Western beauty standards carry with them an inherent racism? that is rooted in the white West’s colonization of the rest of the world. Living within these standards as a woman of colour, hearing “never beautiful enough”, provokes feelings of insecurity and inferiority (Friktion). This wouldn’t necessarily be problematic if we were talking about fashion norms, but the beauty standards in question, such as lighter skin and straighter hair, are much more dangerous to acquire because women of color must expose themselves to an additional amount of chemicals that white women do not dabble in (Kramer).
In the end, women of color are only hurting themselves physically and mentally because of the higher levels of beauty-related environmental chemicals in their body and the false images of beauty that the world has created.Depicted daily in billboards of thin models, magazines of artificial beauty that is created through the magic of photoshop and makeup, and established list of the world’s most prettiest faces, are the social flaws that humans most often support unconsciously. The concept of beauty is very much misrepresented in today’s society and its definition will always vary due to the media’s perception on what beauty should be. Every individual will constantly be pressured by their social influences to do what they believe is right for themselves even if it means to eradicate their unique distinct feature.
Beauty comes in all different shapes, shades, and culture, and it is about time society learns to accept and learn to love and appreciate all of them.Work CitedBurd, Jr. Randal A. “Saving Faces: The History of Plastic Surgery.
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medicaltravelczech.com/blog/plastic-surgery/history-plastic-surgery.Davis, John Staige. “Plastic Surgery in World War I and in World War II .
” Annals of Surgery 123.4 (1946): 610–621. http://sciencenordic.
com/content/elisabeth-%C3%B8vrebergDhwty. “The Sushruta Samhita and Plastic Surgery in Ancient India, 6th Century B.C.” Ancient Origins, Ancient Origins, 23 Dec. 2014, http://www.
ancient-origins.net/artifacts-ancient-technology/sushruta-samhita-and-plastic-surgery-ancient-india-020148″Division of Plastic Surgery.” History of Medicine: Ancient Indian Nose Jobs & the Origins of Plastic Surgery | Columbia University Department of Surgery, columbiasurgery.org/news/2015/05/28/history-medicine-ancient-indian-nose-jobs-origiNs-plastic-surgery.
Foley, Katherine Ellen. “Racist Beauty Standards Are Leading Women of Color to Use More Toxic Products.” Quartz, Quartz, 16 Aug. 2017, qz.com/1054067/cosmetics-marketed-to-women-of-color-may-contain-more-harsh-chemicals.
Friktion. “‘The Ugly Refugee’ — Brown Skin and White Beauty Standards.” Friktion, Friktion, 9 Sept.
2017, https://friktionmagasin.dk/the-ugly-refugee-brown-skin-and-white-beauty-standards-38d0246ec2bd. Haas, Cynthia Figueroa, et al. “Motivating Factors for Seeking Cosmetic Surgery: A Synthesis of the Literature.
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“History of Plastic Surgery.” Nordesthetics Clinic, www.nordesthetics.com/en/articles/plastic-surgery-history#Romans.”History of Plastic Surgery in India | Dr. Shah.” Facial Plastic Surgery | Chicago, IL, 5 July 2016, www.shahfacialplastics.
com/articles/plasticpedia/history-plastic-surgery-india-2. Kebede, Rebekah. “Why Black Women in a Black Culture Bleach Their Skin.” Marie Claire, Marie Claire, 13 Nov. 2017,www.
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com/article/lifestyle/2017/08/16/for-women-of-color-beauty-standards-are-literally-toxic/23079183/.Menick, Frederick J. “Paramedian Forehead Flap Nasal Reconstruction.” History of the Procedure, Problem, Presentation, 11 Oct.
2017, emedicine.medscape.com/article/1293154-overview.Oredein, Tori. “Racist Beauty Standards Are Having Physical Consequences For Women Of Colour.” The Pool, 28 Aug.
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