Cosmetic Surgery and the Mask of Aging in Western Societies Essay

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Cosmetic Surgery and the Mask of Aging in Western Societies

"Nature isn't always the best. I have the money to improve on nature and I don't see why I shouldn't"

(Cher, as cited in Glasgow Evening Times: 24 April 1992)

"We hadn't seen or heard from each other for 28 years…Then he suggested it would be nice if we could meet. I was very nervous about it. How much had I changed? I wanted a facelift, tummy tuck and liposuction, all in one week."

(A woman, age forty-nine, being interviewed for an article on "older couples" falling in love; "falling in love again" 1990)

In late modernity, the exterior territories, or surfaces, of the body have become symbols of the self, and in a society
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Whether this is achieved through ornaments such as jewellery or through the wide range of physical alterations from hairdressing to tattoos to body piercing, we respond to the demand of seeing and being seen. Such visual judgements are ubiquitous in western society, and perhaps even necessary, yet they also trap us, as seen in the past hundred years where we have increasingly turned to those whom it is believed can permanently alter the way we look to others - cosmetic surgeons.

Throughout the ages women in particular have undergone pain to attempt to conform to the current cultural ideals of beauty and youth. This is clear in relation to procedures such as foot binding and the wearing of restrictive corsets, where women suffered discomfort and immobility in the name of particular fashions. In recent decades, Western society have replaced these practices with strict diets and perhaps even more remarkably, cosmetic plastic surgery. The 1990s saw a significant increase in the numbers of women receiving cosmetic surgery in Britain and the United States, especially liposuction and breast augmentation procedures and today more and more women are turning to cosmetic surgery to change the shape and appearance of their bodies (Grogan: 1999: p.49).

Whilst plastic surgery is not a recent phenomenon, with a history tracing back to 1000 BC, where
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