Cosmetic surgery is nearly as old as human civilization. In India, the punishment for adultery was losing one’s nose and eventually people figured out how to get a flap of skin from the forehead, bring it down and fashion a crude nose out of it. Modifying our bodies to change our appearance is just one of those things innate to humans.
Another innate human behavior is telling other humans what they should and should not do, what behavior is acceptable and what behavior isn’t. Invariably, this kind of argument always boils down to purely a value judgment. The real issue is where to draw a line.
Reconstructive surgery is a common aspect of life. Children can be born with a laundry list of deformities, from a cleft palate to microtia (deformed or absent ears), craniosynotosis, hemifacial microsomia or deformational plagiocephaly, there are innumerable ways for one’s appearance to be far off the norm. Then take into account injuries one can suffer, accidents, burns, vitriolage in the third world, there’s a lot that can go wrong. Someone I knew in high school had a boating accident and had reconstructive surgery to her face to appear even halfway normal.
Nobody denies that these people ought to be able to have medical procedures to address things that cause distress. To not treat a child’s malformed appearance only invites years of mockery and bullying at school, the psychological trauma in having prominent deformities is a pain I don’t wish on anybody.
When it comes to how much pain an individual feels, there’s only one single person who can assign a magnitude to that pain, and that is the victim. Nobody has any right to tell someone else how bad they should feel for how they look.
When it comes to examples of children with deformities everybody is in agreement. However, if someone has a terribly deformed nose and doesn’t consider it a big deal but gets a nose job anyway, is that acceptable? What if someone has a nose that is just a little too big or a bump that is a little too prominent, but feels tortured by it? Look at how many people in this country straighten their teeth when they have no problem eating and no problem with their bite pattern. There are so many different situations and circumstances that there is no easy way to decide what actions are acceptable and which ones aren’t.
There is a fantastically simple explanation as to why there is no way to easily determine how much distress is too much, requiring plastic surgery and how much distress is first-world handwringing at the minutiae of one’s appearance – these are subjective qualities. Everything depends on human perception. There is no way to measure how much pain someone feels from their appearance. If someone looks completely normal to everybody else but they have constant distress because of some aspect of their appearance, nobody can tell them they don’t feel what they feel. No one can tell them they do not have pain or that their pain isn’t worth treatment.
To say that one instance of plastic surgery is acceptable and another isn’t is nothing more than a subjective individual valuation of what an observer perceives of the subject in question.
To make a personal choice for oneself on what they prefer and what they will allow to be done to themselves is one thing, but to take those personal values and declare that everybody on the planet ought to follow them or else they are wrong is nothing but totalitarianism, fascism of the worst kind. Let other people do whatever they want to themselves. As long as they aren’t hurting me, I don’t care.
I hate going to Bellevue Square because of how fake and plastic everybody is. Nobody is real, even if they haven’t had any work done they put up facades that they feel will be liked by others. There are no genuine humans to connect with at malls these days. Hate it as I might, I will never tell someone they cannot do what they want to themselves. It’s not my place.
If someone wants to jack up their face to look like one of those abhorrent “addicted to plastic surgery” documentaries, I’m all in favor of them having the freedom to do so. I certainly won’t have any respect for them, I certainly won’t consider them attractive, but I will fight tooth and nail for their right to do whatever they want to themselves.
Editors note: read the otherside of this discussion here