Critique Essay: Cosmetic Surgery and Individual Identity

Essay by ChesnysGrlCollege, UndergraduateA+, April 2004

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Elizabeth Haiken, "The Making of the Modern Face: Cosmetic Surgery," Social Research, Spring 2000. The American culture that produced cosmetic surgery is the increasingly visual, psychologically influenced culture of the twentieth century United States. For those surgeons who perform cosmetic surgery, the relationship between the physical face and the construction of individual identity has always been and continues to be central. "In our modern twentieth century United States, our attitudes toward cosmetic surgery have been based on a series of assumptions: that inside every person who looks different is an American struggling to get out; that inside every homely girl a confident girl is trying to emerge..." These surgeons, often known as "beauty doctors," argue that well-being is dependent on mental as well as physical health, thus justifying their thoughts about cosmetic surgery being medical by assisting patients in their development of an identity. "If cosmetic surgery is only about changing external appearance, then it is not deep and meaningful but superficial; it may not be medicine at all."

At this point in time, as the number of Americans who perceive their identities as being largely defined by their faces and bodies increases each year, questions about the evolving relationship between identity and cosmetic surgery are significant.

Questions of Author:

(1.) The main idea of the article is that the modern society in the United States often pairs individual identity with exterior appearance. People wanting to improve their identity to fit the mold society has created often choose cosmetic surgery as a quick fix. Contrary to this fast "improvement," identity evolves through a complex social and cultural process of perception and reflection. (2.) The author's perceived "situation" and "strategic response" seems to be that she feels the common trend in Americans understanding their identity as exterior...