26 October 2009

Cosmetic Surgery/Tattoos/Piercings: Self Mutilation or Self Expression?

As a former RA I have unfortunately been met with instances of Self Mutilation more often than a normal person. Because of this when I happened upon a book at the library about it I picked it up hoping that learning more about it will allow me to be better prepared should I come across this ever again in the future.

The book, "Self Mutilation" is part of the Opposing Viewpoints Series where the editor brings different articles written by people with, you guessed it, opposing viewpoints, together to compare and contrast ideas about the subject.  And while they talked about the traditional forms of self mutilation of people who cut and burn their own skin the end of the book touched on a much more interesting and controversial topic.  Self Mutilation as Fashion.  Several of the articles listed plastic surgery and even piercings and tattoos as forms of self mutilation.  The following quotes/ideas are from Britist Columnist Melanie Phillips. 

Ms. Phillips writes in reference to tattoos that are meant to be sentimental to the person (her example is famous soccer player David Beckham who has both his wife and son's names tattooed onto his body). 

"Such tattoos are considered sexy.  But however feminine the design, they display the innate ugliness of any disfigurement.  They are not so much body art as designer wounds."

She continues later:

"Cosmetic surgery, too, is a bodily assault course.  Botox injections to smooth out wrinkles employ a poison which, if used long enough, makes the facial muscles atrophy from lack of use....And they queue for collagen injections to plump up their lips, which instead of turning them into sex kittens make them resemble the inhabitants of a goldfish bowl."

These are extremely harsh words aimed at a society where a later article in the book states you are 5 times more likely to get hired if you are "traditionally goodlooking" and where 6 of 10 Americans over fifty claim they would have cosmetic surgery if they could and 75% of them say that they would not be embarrassed if people found out they had had work done.  

So what do you think?  Is surgically enhancing your body wrong?  Is it just another form of abusing yourself or self-hatred?  Or is it simply a way to "look the age you feel" or feel that you "match" the rest of society?  

And finally, the last quote from Ms. Phillips I will leave you with...is our desire for physical differences hiding our lack of mental individuality?

"Tattoos expose a terrible hollowness of character. Their owners appear to believe that displaying feelings makes them real. But in a society where actual feelings are becoming increasingly shallow, committed and faithful relationships are disappearing and emotion is giving way to sentimetality, so it is becoming more important to announce that your emotions are permanent, if only in ink."

How do you respond to this idea?  I myself am on the fence because the only tattoos I have seriously considered getting (I currently am without any) have been for just that, a beautiful (if sentimental) tribute to a loved one.  But is it overly sentimental?  Or is getting a tattoo another form of expression of dislike of one's own body?

What do you think...I'm really interested in hearing other opinions about this.

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