Monday, June 16, 2008

Plastic Surgery and the Fake Beauty Ideal

What do Cindy Jackson, 48, and Steve Erhardt, 23, have in common?

They've both spend over $100,000 USD on plastic surgery.

The images above are of human beings that do not exist in nature. What I find intrinsically wrong and disturbing is my reaction to both pictures. Cindy, my mind tells me, is a pretty woman. Don't I wish that I will look like that when I'm almost 50? Steve, according to my inner sense of beauty, is a bizarre parody of a man. Cindy is beautiful, and Steve is abhorrent.

If my inner sense of beauty was as unwarped as I would like it to be, both pictures should disgust me. My mind should be incapable of finding completely unnatural and fake images of humanity as sexually appealing, or more so, than images of unaltered human beings.

I tested this with several of my friends. Unanimously, regardless of their gender or sexual preference, everyone I talked to found Cindy better looking than Steve. In fact, only one of my friends, a straight woman, thought that Steve wasn't disturbing.

What does this mean?

It means that our definition of female beauty is so warped that we find completely invented images of women prettier than actual women. This standard does not apply to men. When confronted with an image of the "perfect man" who has spent thousands of dollars augmenting himself to adhere to a beauty ideal, most react with disgust. When we see Cindy, on the other hand, we find her unanimously prettier than Steve, at the least, and extremely good-looking in general.

I submit this experiment as absolute undeniable proof that the image of female beauty is invented to a degree that male beauty has never been. Humanity finds the male that occurs naturally much better looking than one that appears plastic and fake. Whereas, unless we're plastic surgery experts, we are incapable of recognizing alteration to the female form because we are socialized to find such alternations beautiful and normal.

It is the true female body, with its stretch marks, pores, unlined eyes, uneven skin, knobby knees, and slight pouch that we find as disgusting as the altered male.

Repeat this experiment with your friends. Even though I spend hours weekly trying to deconstruct the false image of beauty that marketing has socialized into my subconscious, I still find Cindy infinitely more attractive than Steve. I highly doubt that anyone, regardless of their sexuality or gender, disagrees with me.

It is this evidence—socialization has ruined my natural sense of beauty—that is much more horrifying than the thousands of dollars and months of pain women undergo to transform themselves into some Living Doll. Although I cannot determine which came first—the demand for false beauty or the image of unnatural beauty—I can say that my subconscious is evidence that we continue to perpetuate this demand for the mutilated image of femininity despite any objection that so-and-so prefers natural beauty.

In fact, I postulate that anyone when confronted with a unadorned symmetrical female face through the media would not find it as attractive or "normal" as the completely unnatural image of Cindy Jackson.

This fact, coupled with the observation that we are capable of valuing real men over altered men (who would argue that a naturally handsome man is less appealing than Steve?), leads me to believe that feminist theory is undeniably true: that what is we think is "normal" female beauty has nothing to do with nature. This hijacking of female beauty and biology is nauseating in its totality.



Amelia said...

Very interesting post, Jen. This one's gonna leave me thinking...

Amelia said...

I did come up with a question, though. Do you know how comparable their plastic surgery was?

I am just thinking that it might not be fair to make claims if Cindy, for example, got a tummy tuck, and we only see her face, while Steve had work done to his face, which we see.

Anonymous said...

This is disingenuous, at best.

There are PLENTY of men, (especially celebrities) that have undergone vast amounts of plastic surgery and are considered very handsome.

The reason this "Steve" is regarded with disgust is because what he's done to himself is hideous.

You chose a terrible example of a male with plastic surgery, and in doing so, stacked your own deck to support your own argument.

All in all, it's terribly intellectually dishonest.

Michael said...

What Anonymous suggested, except maybe a little bit nicer.

Really, I can think of dozens of examples offhand of women who have made themselves look fabulously unnatural through plastic surgery, and plenty of men who have come out of plastic surgery looking perfectly normal and handsome. Jocelyn Wildenstein is a bad example for women, and Tom Jones and Bruce Jenner both look fine as men. Sure, you'll always have your Michael Jacksons and whatnot, but well-done cosmetic surgery looks quite fine.

Anyway, Steve's surgery seems to have been pretty poorly advised and/or planned. His face is incredibly out of proportion. Tiny eyes, permanently pouting lips, and an INSANE cleft chin do not an attractive person make. He's dangerously close to the Uncanny Valley, in my (completely nonprofessional) opinion.

Angelia Sparrow said...

Steve is hideous. His skin tone is wrong. His ears are in the wrong places. His eyes are badly set.

Cindy...meh. It's plastic, sure. But she's done it mostly to remove aging signs.

A better example to pair her with would be Harrison Ford's most recent nose job. It didn't bob the famous honker, it just straightened it back out from the lop-sided mess it was a few years ago.

Amelia said...

After reading these other comments, I see that they do make some good points.

What I would like to know is which gender gets the most plastic surgery, under what kinds of circumstances, and for what reasons. I think some answers to those questions would be helpful in your argument, Jen.

Lindsay said...

Why would Harrison Ford "fix" his nose? I thought it was cute, just like Owen Wilson's nose makes up an important part of his face. I saw a website that, through photoshop, changed different facial traits of celebrities - Owen Wilson's nose, other unique features like that - and to me, at least, it seemed like the changes drained some of the character out of their faces. It's those little things that make their face unique - why does the beauty industry demand that we all look the same?

cyn said...

I actually find Cindy rather horrible. Too fake and plastic, almost scary. As scary as Steve, and as scary as Wildenstein. Maybe because I think of reality as attractive and fakeness as ugly. I don't even like highlights nor french manicure, let alone surgeries!

It's quite scary that Cindy is part of MENSA. She could get loads of power with her intelligence and use it all against us. If society is already obsessed with looks and pressure, now imagine a Cindy Jackson-ruled society!

Angelia Sparrow said...

Lindsay, Ford fixed it because it had been broken badly and noticeably.

If you watch the Star Wars cast interviews from around the time Revenge of the Sith came out, it's a misshapen, lopsided mess like he'd taken too many punches and been slammed into too many walls.

He had it put back into the original alignment somewhere around 2005. Very handsome.

Michael said...

Cyn: MENSA means nothing except that you're part of MENSA. Seriously, it indicates essentially nothing about intelligence. She's more likely to gain power through her looks than through her 'intelligence.' Random "celebrities" have far too much power these days.

Claudia said...

Well, Cindy is an artist. She did her own sketches to determine what she would look like. Obviously, she chose her procedures and the surgeouns with immense care. Her procedures include much more than just removing the signs of aging, her face was very much altered in the process.

Steve, on the other hand, did things to himself without considering the whole picture, so the result is not pleasing. Look at any website with, say, breast augmentation pictures. Sometimes the results are very good. This is when the resulting breast is in harmony to the body. But there are many women who desire breast augmentation and who have in fact perfect breasts, but would need to loose weight around the middle. When the implants are added to the existing bulk, a sort of sea cow is the result.

You can look good through plastic surgery, but you have to be able to detach from the aversions you have towards single body parts.

But, yes, I agree completely: The real world is full of "ugly" women.