In which ways does the performing body influence the way we look Essay

Throughout this essay; key themes, debates and concepts which support and argue against this statement will be discussed. Focusing mainly on the rise of cosmetic surgery within celebrities, and those not in the public eye, to become the modern day visual concept of perfection and how social media can be a huge influence on the way we look and view ourselves. The industry has seen thousands of young adults paying huge amounts of money to change certain features on their face and body. Celebrities are offered free cosmetic surgery in return for advertisement on social media and their hundreds of thousands of followers are then aspiring to look like them. This essay will debate the ways in which the performing body influences the way we look and view ourselves and how this is shown in the rise of cosmetic surgery. This essay will also argue how men and women’s facial exterior can become the object of minute scrutiny, discipline & control with all different individuals from different classes, ages, genders and ethnicities.

“What seems most obvious to you is probably the appearance of others - how people look - but think a little harder and soon you will find that the bodies of other people become conspicuous in other ways - smell, size and shape, personal habits.” (Alexandra, H (2004) Introduction from The Body in Society). Many would agree, at first glance you observe an appearance of a person but as you spend more time with someone you discover more than just how they look. However, with the uproar of posting on social media and the new age of being part of an “internet community”, so many people are solely judged by their appearance as they may have online relations and never meet this person in real life to discover their personal habits, smell etc. This gives men and women both a sense of control over how others view them and their lives. This also influences people to have a very high standard of the way they view themselves as they are constantly comparing to what else they see on social media which as many know a majority of the time has been tweaked or edited to be more pleasing. Many are not aware of the new name Generation Glass or where it came from, however, this is the reality of children (and adults) today and living their lives through a glass screen. “They began being born in 2010, the year the iPad was introduced, Instagram was created and “app” was the word of the year, so they have been raised as “screenagers” to a greater extent than the fixed screens of the past could facilitate. For this reason we also call them Generation Glass.” (The New York Times, online).

Kathy Davis described cosmetic surgery as a ‘strategy that enables women to exercise a degree of control over their lives in circumstances where there are very few other opportunities for self-realisation’. (Kathy Davis, cosmetic surgery and the eclipse of identity) This is argued against by many theorists; the argument goes further into the idea of self-realisation. This cannot be always resolved by an operation or a ‘quick fix’ but it is something deeper within that has to be discovered first. The world of social media has left women (and men) unhappy and unsatisfied with the way that they see themselves and has a huge control over determining their happiness. Social media apps such as Instagram are based on posting the highlights of your life and the more ‘likes’ that post obtains, the more ‘popular’ it will become. Without realising people use social media to show others about their lives but are making themselves subconsciously vulnerable to whether it is good enough or not. Self-realisation will then eventually begin to deteriorate as it is controlled by other people and how they judge the best parts of your life in which you have chosen to share with them.

“Make-up can become the positive ritual via which women transform themselves daily in preparation fo the outside world.” (Biddle Perry & Miller). It is argued that social media has become the ‘make-up’ of today. Women (and men) all over the world apply make-up everyday to face the day ahead and feel confident within themselves. They will use it to adjust aspects of their face or draw attention to their best features. Social media is giving men and women that platform also to do so by the editing and enhancing apps and posting atheistically pleasing photos in return for likes and compliments. The bombard of compliments and likes boosts individuals self esteem and can influence how people feel.

“A cosmetic surgery company messaged me offering any treatment I wanted in exchange for social media content, which is obviously extremely generous… However I can’t get over how damaging this is in the industry and how unsurprising it is that so many girls have taken the offer.” (Olivia Buckland). This is an example of how a young 24 year old woman has become the object of scrutiny and this is a huge influence on how this woman will now view herself. It is no surprise that the rise of cosmetic procedures is increasing so considerably when the operations are there and so easy for young women (and men) to have. If companies are going out of their way to target young adults and from their social media accounts, begin to assess their photos and bodies and make their on judgement on what they might consider a good operation for them. These people are only human and will of course question it themselves.

Demand is high for young adults, mostly women, to improve their appearance or to remain looking young and youthful. Breast enlargement surgery is the most popular procedure in the industry at the moment with the majority of celebrities in the public eye and over social media having this operation. Cosmetic surgery has evolved over the years into not necessarily a ‘correction’ procedure but a ‘perfection’ procedure. Young girls are claiming to ask for ‘Kylie Jenner’ lips when booking in for a lip filler appointment. It is not necessarily addressed at how problematic for young adults self esteem it can be to be told they can have surgery to look like their aspired celebrity. In reality not two people will ever look the same. Men and women can use cosmetic surgery as controlling the way they are viewed by other people. This can be a defence machinism as they do not want to be viewed as their true self.

“We have programmes telling us how to diet, fashion/dress the body, ornament/make-up the body, exercise/train the body, manipulate the body’s tissues through surgery - In short, all programmes which instruct us about how the body “should” look.” (Richardson, N (2010) The Freak Body) Richardson agrees we are constantly being told on how we should look. Chloe Ferry is a reality star from a very popular show called Geordie Shore, recent stories have claimed that over £50",000 already has been spent on her cosmetic surgery and she is only 23 years old. “Chloe underwent the procedure three weeks ago, and explained: "I've got a high pain threshold and I'm quite wild... but I can't sit down properly for the next four weeks and I have a special cushion I have to use.”” (MTV). Many would argue that this is completely wrong and Ferry is under fire of constant name abuse. However, when you look at photos of what Ferry looked like before she joined Geordie Shore and ‘the world of social media’ - it is a completely different person. Her entire body and face was under constant attack by ‘fans’ and viewers of the show and the affect it has had has caused an entire body dysmorphia. The way that young girls (and men) are viewing themselves is completely changing and they are seeing somebody possibly so different to the rest of the world.

“I’m concerned with the dramatic rise in the number of Westerners increasingly concerned with and insecure about appearance. I especially want to know what drives people to a personal makeover through cosmetic surgical culture.” The cosmetic surgery industry is talked about and publicised hugely in the UK and America as there are many TV series which originate from the UK and America in which the main stars will have enhanced or changed the way they look considerably. For example in America, Keeping Up With The Kardashians follows the life of the Kardashian and Jenner family in which every member has had a considerable amount of cosmetic surgery. This TV show is watched all over the world. For one family member, Caitlyn Jenner, aged 69 formally Bruce Jenner, her facial exterior has become the object of discipline and control over her whole life. Caitlyn Jenner has transgendered from Bruce to Caitlyn and has been very public about not wanting to do so until her children are old enough to understand. Keeping Up With The Kardashians has 226 episodes and is still ongoing, watched in not just the western side of the world. Cosmetic surgery doesn’t appear to be spoken about so openly in Eastern parts of the world however it is just as popular in some and just as life threatening. Limb lengthening in India is on the rise and is incredibly painful but is a procedure in which people are having in the hope to improve possibly careers or marriages, it can add up to three inches onto someones height. Another procedure popular in the Eastern part of the world, especially in Iran, is the nose job. It is known that more 60% of cosmetic procedures in Iran are nose jobs as women are usually more covered with their dress, their facial features can be the way to enhance beauty.

With cosmetic surgery now being given out for free, all classes of individuals are exposed to it. Made in Chelsea is a popular reality TV series in which the stars of the show have not necessarily had huge amounts of cosmetic surgery but a few have had some procedures to enhance their beauty. The majority of the stars on this TV show are from upper class families and live luxurious lifestyles. When comparing this to reality TV shows from other areas of England, such as The Only Way Is Essex, where the stars are from middle class families, some lower class, they have very different judgements on their cosmetic procedure decisions. Turner describes the celebrity and the body as "A source of gossip, which as itself understood as an important social process through which relationships, identity, and social and cultural norms are debated, evaluated, modified and shared’ (Turner, 2004:24). This is shown in both reality TV programmes as the sole reason of the show is to follow the gossip of the individuals lives and to debate, evaluate, modify and share it. The stars of both shows put themselves forward to be the object of scrutiny, discipline and control. The have their bodies and facial exteriors judged and examined by hundreds and thousands and are heavily influenced on how they should feel about themselves and view themselves by others.

“Cosmetics offer women not only enhancement and the correction of perceived imperfections, but also the promise of social and sexual success and a positive sense of self.” (Biddle Perry & Miller) Biddle Perry & Miller argues here that cosmetics offer women a positive sense of self, this contradicts the argument that cosmetics can influence people and celebrities too much and give them a false sense of happiness to be or look like someone they are not. Davis agrees to an extent with this by saying cosmetic surgery “enables women to exercise a degree of control over their lives”. Both these statements agree that cosmetic surgery and makeup are used to change their lives in a positive way, whether that be through your relationship or social group or the way in which you see yourself. Whilst some argue that your appearance is not what helps you build and grow as a person and in life but what you do and how you act. However, social media is a huge aspect of falsely leading people to believe that how you look determines all your life decisions. The more attractive your appear or more enhanced your obvious beauty is, the more likes and attention on social media. This leads people to believe that they have control over their lives by controlling the way they look.

“Big Brother is panopticon television in its most visible form… the increasing number of celebrity surveillance magazines work in a similar way” (Storey, 2012: 137/8). Storey agrees with the concept that only the best highlights of celebrities lives are exposed. This happens on social media on celebrities Instagram pages and also in magazines and on TV. The public only see what they are edited to see and this gives individual’s a false identity of happiness and what it means to be happy. Everything that is seen on a screen or paper has been tweaked or enhances in someway to improve its appearance, this being said is the reason why so many celebrities are now fighting against social medias such as Instagram and Twitter for people to not believe everything they see or read as it can be very far from the truth.

To conclude, ‘For many women (& increasingly men) every facet of their (facial) exterior can become the object of minute scrutiny, discipline & control’ (Biddle Perry & Miller, 2009: 9). Social media has played a huge part in an example of how many women and men are using their facial exterior to control their lives, social and sexual relationships. Many people, mainly celebrities are also scrutinised, whether that be on social media or in magazines or on TV shows. The rise of being so judged and criticised is causing people to result to cosmetic surgery to try to become the person they are ‘expected’ to be rather than the person they are. Celebrities continue to post the best moments of their lives on their social medias yet still are under constant attack of judgement and comments, from people they don’t know and even from ‘fans’. Cosmetic surgery companies are offering celebrities (and normal people with large followings on social media) free surgery on what they believe the person would want to change or enhance about their body. Creating a doubt for the person in their mind which wasn’t there before on whether they need surgery or not. This goes to show just how the body is influencing people hugely on how they view themselves and how we look. People are being told that by looking better they will be viewed differently by people in a positive way, this can teach individuals that it is not accepted to just be yourself and you should try to enhance your beauty or facial exterior if you can to go further in certain aspects of life. Many though have disagreed, it is argued that make-up and cosmetic surgery creates a identity for women (and men) that gives them the confidence to address the day ahead of them. It has been argued that it gives people confidence to believe in themselves and be able to fulfil their achievements in the ‘outside world’. It is also argued that if people are receiving compliments ont he way they look, their makeup, or new beauty enhancement, they will then feel good about themselves and view themselves in a confident positive way. The problem is this can be short lived as trends and fashions change so quickly and drastically and what may be a popular enhancement now, such as having big and plump lips, may not be desired in the future. Those who are constantly trying to keep up with the trend will end up battling with what they used to look like and now what they want to look like, according to the latest hot trend. Rather than focusing so much on what people would desire to look like, it should be taught how to be happy in your own body and except the way you look and view it in a happy, positive sense. People can only look like themselves, nobody else, and nobody else can look like them, so that is what should be celebrated - individuality.

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