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Cosmetic Surgery for Vanity Is One Glaring Symptom of Our Toxic Culture.

Brooke Meredith


Notice the ironic message on her t-shirt. Image by Sandra Gabriel from

Cosmetic surgery does not exist in a vacuum. It is a direct result of pervasive cultural influences. Firm and subtle social directives, along with prescriptive imagery and messages telling women how they can and, thus, should look- if they can hope to be deemed of any worth to men or society.

As a culture, we teach women to dislike, even hate, as well as inflict cruelty and violence on themselves. This self-inflicted violence includes extreme dieting, eating to excess, binge drinking and other substance abuse, over-exercising, taking laxatives or diet pills, mental cruelty such as telling oneself “you are ugly”, “not good enough”, or that this body part isn’t up to par, self-mutilation, and paying someone else to cut open and essentially mutilate oneself in an effort to feel more accepted and desired.

Cosmetic surgery is a symptom of a culture that is toxic and abusive toward women. It’s a significant sign of disease within a society if an entire sex feels compelled to surgically alter their bodies and outer appearance to feel more aesthetically acceptable.

This is a catch-22 though because, within said culture, women are never acceptable. They are either too thin or too large. Too loud or too shy. Too sexual or too repressed. Their breasts, too small or too saggy. Their skin, too wrinkled or too blemished. They are either aggressive or weak, demanding or too permissive. No woman is ever enough exactly as she is. This message, with which we are routinely browbeaten, ensures that women continue jumping through hoops towards a figurative end goal. It is a means of keeping them distracted, controlled, and contained.

Cosmetic surgery is not even about “beauty” for a couple of reasons. Ideas of “beauty” as narrated by the mass media and consumer culture are ever-shifting and thus impossible to meet. Consider the idealized muscular female form with ample breasts of the nineties. The punk rock, bruised-looking eye makeup, safety pins through ears, the hard-sex-just-happened look of the eighties. The “Twiggy” look of the sixties. And the pornified, cartoonish body parts, airbrushed face, and sex-worker female fashions advertised…