Historically, humans across the globe have always had an inherent desire to ameliorate the human race. As such, an individual’s body image and satisfaction are predominantly built around the propositions and expectations constructed by the society regarding how a perfect body must look like especially among women (Lupton 121). Consequently, a person’s daily interactions, as well as the social environment, play a significant part regarding the perception of what facial or body shapes are most glorified, their appearance and the most infamous looks. Most women suffer from emotional and mental disorders because they feel that their body appearance does not measure to the standards put by society.
Presently, there has been a considerable increase in the demand for corsets, cosmetic surgeries, piercings, and tattoos. Research shows that the reasons for the increase are that women are always looking to boost self-esteem, look more beautiful, and explore their sexuality to attenuate the negative self-image image. In essence, social media has contributed heavily by influencing the perception of beauty in our societies resulting in low body appreciation(Ghigi, and Roberta 290). This has made many women across nations to seek consolation in body modification and cosmetic surgery. This paper argues that social media has negatively affected the societal perception of beauty leading to a rampant quest for cosmetic surgeries, tattoos, piercings and corseting.
Social Media And The Increase In Cosmetic Surgeries, Piercings, Corseting and Tattoos
Social media platforms including Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, and Social cast among other beauty sites influence women on the king of body appearance they should strive for. Other influential sites include magazines, movies, television and newspapers(Ghigi, and Roberta 292). More so, columnists and journalists constantly gossip about different the appearance and fashion sense of prominent people including Michelle Obama’s figure and Hillary Clinton’s dress. According to these sites, a perfect woman across all societies is one who possesses an attractive should have blonde hair, have a slender and thin body, massive eyebrows, a long slim nose, and long dark eyelashes. These looks are generally associated with youthfulness, success, and social acceptability. However, the truth of the matter is that people come in all shapes and sizes and can be exceptionally attractive. In fact, in the past people adored curvy bodies which are no longer the same in the 21st century.
Different theories explain why social media has become such an influential tool in body modification. These theories include Albert Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory, Fulk’s Social Presence Theory and Lengel’s Media Richness Theory. The Social Cognitive Theory asserts that if a person is rewarded for a particular behavior, other individuals will tend to copy the behavior so that they can achieve the same awards. The Social Presence Theory holds that individuals develop intimacy through technology because they tend to interact with the sites more thus developing strong relationships that influence their lives. The Media Richness Theory asserts that continuous communication and interaction tends to solve challenges and ambiguity.
Body image is an ever-present engrossment among people of all nations. Research shows that 74.4 percent and 46 percent of average weight women and men respectively constantly think about their appearance or their weight(Blume 32). The percentage is even higher among women who feel obese. According to society’s idea of a perfect woman based on the average American model, a woman should be at least 5’10 tall and only weigh 120 pounds. The National Center for Health Statistics reports however says that an average woman should be 5’4” and her weight should be approximately 169 pounds (McClendon 11). Statistically, this is a huge discrepancy, but it has led to harmful behaviors among women which include corseting, extreme dieting and exercise, liposuctions and abuse of laxative among other body control behaviors (Blume 32). The media, magazines and various social media platforms such as Instagram feature most women with “wasp” or hourglass waists. As such, women struggle to alter their body weight and appearance through corseting.
Women across Europe and America across various socioeconomic backgrounds use corsets to achieve an ideal figure based on societal perceptions. Special corsets have also been made and used to be used by pregnant women and others to suit her needs while nursing. More so, the social media portrays an overweight woman as a person who is unattractive, ignorant, lack discipline, and lazy which has contributed to so much dissatisfaction among women(Blume 37). Currently, stars and artists such as Cardi B, Beyoncé, Shakira, and Lady Gaga put on corsets during their performance which makes their bodies appear magnificent and add a sense of drama and femininity while on stage(McClendon 14). Celebrated fashion designers like Gaultier jean and Alexander add value to their clothes by incorporating corsets in them. More so, reality show stars such as Kim Kardashian also use waist trainers to achieve the glorified small waist(Blume42). Excessive waist training which is common among most women alters the form of the ribcage thus affecting the shape of internal organs such as the lungs, stomach, and intestines.
As many as 10 million men and 20 million women are experiencing eating disorders in the United States today. Social media exposes young female to various distorted ideas regarding beauty standards and cultural ideas of womanhood. This has led to increased cases of dysmorphia which occurs due to eating disorders among men and women(McClendon 19). The most affected individuals include teenage boys and girls as more than half of the American adolescent girls, and 1/3 of the teenage boys suffer from eating disorders such as the use of laxatives, diet pills, crash dieting, and self-induced vomiting. According to the hospital that looks into eating disorders in Chicago, 30 to 50 percent of the young adults used social media to support their reasons for adopting various eating habits (Lupton 134). Some of these sites included Facebook and fashion magazines.
Piercing and Tattoos
In the 18th and 20th century, piercing of the ear lobes was a common practice among women. Presently, requests for piercing the bellybutton, nipples, ring finger, nose, tongue, and even the genitals has become quite rampant(Ghigi, and Roberta 290). According to a study carried out by Hill, Orletree, and McCary (2016), various reasons contribute to increased body modifications. These reasons include the need for self-esteem, appreciation, and uniqueness. According to this research, women were more likely to ask for tattoos and piercing as compared to men given that women needed these piercings and tattoos to raise their self-esteem (Lane 22). The women with such body modifications scored low on self-esteem and body appreciation as compared to women without body modifications. This research asserted that the main reasons for body modification included the need to enhance self-esteem, body appreciation, and be a unique individual.
There exist hundreds of social media sites advising body modification artists on how to grow their business and others holding interviews with the artists. Leanne Hughes, a trendy body modification artist, said that her seven-year career has helped her reconnect with society. According to an interview conducted by the Peepso, Leanne grew up as a lonely and isolated woman and felt that she did not fit in society (Lane 27). However, after starting The Piercing Urge shop in Melbourne Australia, she has attended to millions of men and women seeking tattoos. She asserted that her passions included tongue split, deep tattooing, piercings, and scarification. Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram have been the most significant tools for networking as she can post pictures and add comments to attract customers(Ghigi, and Roberta 290). According to an article published by the family and Youth Services Bureau, people should make informed decisions while getting piercing and tattoos so that they do not come to regret in the future. This article addressed various risks associated with such body modification procedures which may include scarring and infections.
Cosmetic Plastic Surgery
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons holds that many women requesting for aesthetic genital, facial, nose, breasts and facial surgery do so to alleviate their self-esteem. Research on cosmetic surgery shows that there were over 1.8 million surgeries carried out in the United States in 2015. This number increased by 20% in 2016 (Montemurro 270). Some of the most requested aesthetic surgeries include breast lifts, genital surgery, dermabrasion, eyelid surgery, tummy tucks, breast augmentation, nose surgery, and liposuction among others. In 2016, the American Society of Plastic, 246,344 women asked for liposuction, 209,571 for eyelid surgery, 300,378 for breast augmentation and 43,635 for breast reduction. The costs for these procedures include $6,450 for breast argumentation, $4,650 for eyelid surgery, 12,125 for facelifts and $6,025 for liposuction(Montemurro 273). Each one of this procedure is carried out to achieve a certain look. For instance, breast reduction involves the removal of excess breast fats in the glandular tissue to make it smaller. The main aim of Dermabrasion is to soften a woman’s skin by removing the outer layer as well as the pre-cancerous skin layer known as keratosis. Apparently, 84,276 women asked for this procedure in 2017 according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
Women request for breast lifts to remove excess skins and tighten the surrounding tissues with the aim of supporting and reshaping the breasts(Montemurro 276). Mostly, breasts lose their elasticity because of changes in weight, nursing a baby, heredity conditions, pregnancy, and gravity hence the need for breast lifts. Facelifts are another aesthetic surgery that is often requested. In 2017, over 125,697 facelift procedures were carried out by making incisions around the ears and behind the hairlines with an aim to tighten loose skin thus making a face tight. Facelifts are most requested by women in their late 40s and 50s who had been using fillers to achieve a more permanent solution(Montemurro 276). Plastic surgeons perform tummy tucks to remove excess fats and skin around the abdominal region. Eyelid surgeries are performed more on Asian women to alter the lower and upper lids to give them a more American look. Also, Asians request for nose reshaping to straighten the profile and create a more refined tip thus achieving a more western look. Breast argumentation gained more than 3 percent increase in requests from 2016-2017 with women aiming at making their breasts bigger, symmetrical and round through fat transfer and implants.
The procedure that has however garnered more attention in the cosmetic industry is genital surgery. It is proof of how much social media has continued to corrupt the minds of both women and men. It also shows how far women are willing to go to achieve their inborn desire for perfection(Bridi, Augusto, and Torres 318). In 2016, a group of researchers carried out a study to establish what men think about the appearance of perfect genitalia. In their research, three pictures of the female genitalia with different shapes and varying sizes of the labia were presented(Gonzales-Alabastro 3). The participants were asked to choose the image that represented “normal” and attractive genitalia. 96.8 percent (767 out of 800) of the participants choose the genitalia with slightly and non-visible labia as the most beautiful and normal variant(Bridi, Augusto, and Torres 319). According to the researchers, most participants identified with the genitalia that is most portrayed in popular social media sites, and this seemed to be the highest driving force for the aesthetic genital surgery requests.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons also holds that the resolution to modify the labia among most females comes from the popular perception of the female genitalia in almost all social media outlets as having perfectly proportioned labia minora, homogenously hairless and symmetrical (Bridi, Augusto, and Torres 318). Many plastic surgeons who apply aesthetic technology in performing different genital aesthetic procedures hold that most women experience physical and psychological trauma because of how their genitalia appears and functions. Women who have large or very small labia or their genitalia is not symmetrical develop negative emotional feelings due to shame, embarrassment, self-consciousness, functional distress and psychosexual trauma all of which negatively affect their sexuality (Gonzales-Alabastro 8). More so, plastic surgeons including CEO and founding member of Christine Hamouricosmetic surgery and skin Spar says that the increased demand for cosmetic genital surgery has optimized the female’s confidence and desire to explore their sexuality (Bridi, Augusto, and Torres 320). The word sexuality is explained as a wide range and multidimensional erotic behavior, experience, feelings, and desires that are constructed by varying economic, social, and political discourses. Plastic surgeons report that at the entry stage, most women requesting genital cosmetic surgeries express concerns such as decreased sexual satisfaction and experience negative genital self-image. After completing the procedure, women report increased sexual pleasure.
With the increased praise for cosmetic surgery, most women ignore or are not aware of the dangers that are associated with cosmetic surgery. Most women relate aesthetic surgery with a smooth, flawless face, and a perfectly shaped body. Plastic surgery is associated with a wide range of risks. First, it can result in an allergic reaction due to certain medications. Secondly, it may occur in nerve damage given that most patients experience numbness and pickling sensations which are signs of nerve damage. Thirdly, it may lead to hematoma which is described as a pocket of blood that resembles painful and large bruises. This risk mostly occurs in 6% of the breast augmentation surgeries as well as facelifts(Gonzales-Alabastro9). Fourthly, cosmetic surgeries can lead to infections such as cellulitis in breast surgeries as it occurs in 4% of the procedures. Firth, it can lead to pulmonary embolism as blood clots form and block blood flow in the veins. This is a risk especially when the clots travel close to the brain, lungs or heart as it can lead to quick death. Other risks include scarring, general dissatisfaction after the procedure, organ damage, seroma, and blood loss.
Summarily, social media has mostly contributed to the rampant requests for cosmetic surgeries like a tummy tuck, breast augmentation, neck lifts, facial surgeries, breast lifts, eyelid surgery, and genital cosmetic surgery as well as body modification procedures like piercings and tattoos. Social media continually corrupts the propositions and perception of an ideal female body as well as genitalia leading to poor self-image, dissatisfaction, and low self-esteem and among many women who feel that they do not fit in the societal description. Body modification such are tattoos and piercings are meant to raise self-image and make an individual unique. However, females need to be aware of the potential risks that can result from such procedures which may include clotting of the blood, allergic reactions, implant rejections, scarring necrosis, pigmentation and nerve damage among others.
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