Controversies In CosmeticsBy Fiona Shaw, Giles Turner and Peter White
Aims and Objectives1. Summarise cosmetic surgery in the media2. Provide an evolutionary explanation of cosmetic surgery3. Outline evidence of a cultural phenomenon4. Evaluate these argumentsCosmetic/Aesthetic SurgeryDefinitionSurgery for non-medially explained reasons E.g. enhancingaesthetically the facial and bodily appearance. (Kisely et al, 2002)
Articles: BBC News Online, UK Edition 1. The Stigma of Plastic Surgery 2. Doctors Slam Plastic Surgery on TVSummary of Articles:• Media attention is growing e.g. I Want a Famous Face (MTV) Nip/Tuck (Sky One) Cosmetic Surgery Live (Channel 5)• Media creates unrealistic expectations (British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, 2004)• Source of ridicule and fascination on UK• Ethically neutral in U.S. with “Flaunt it” parties. (Lane & Duffy, 2004)
The FiguresBritish estimates per annum:• 25,000 surgical procedures• 50,000 non-surgical procedures (Lane & Duffy, 2004)Who’s Having What? What Women Want What Men WantBreast Augmentation Otoplasty (ear pinning)Blepharoplasty (eye-lids) BlepharoplastyFace/Neck Lifts Face/Neck LiftsLiposuction LiposuctionRhinoplasty (nose surgery) Rhinoplasty Source: British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (Land & Duffy 2004)
Cosmetic Surgery – A Modern Mating Strategy • Animals use their body to attract a mate • A Classic example is the Peacock • The human body also conveys messages • We have evolved mechanisms to recognises these signals • Through them we can assess: 1. Age 2. Reproductive status 3. Individual quality (Diamond, 1997; Ridley, 1993)
Sex MessagingIndicators of Reproductive Maturity Female MaleBreasts Increased muscularityHips Voice deepeningButtocks Beard growthHair Colour Penis size (Diamond, 1997)
Indicators of Health and GenesAn Honest Face• Facial beauty is a vital health indicator• One of the most sensitive areas of the body• Easily shows signs of age, disease and injury• E.g. Symmetry, averageness and hormone markersThe Body Beautiful• Women favour men with classic V shape• Men favour women with optimum waist to hip ratioWhat the Body Communicates• A healthy body is a costly investment• It conveys two crucial messages: 1. Good genes 2. Good Resources
Faking It• Cosmetic surgery provides a unique mating strategy• It cheats the signal system• Effectively change phenotype to suggest better genotype• Creates the illusion you are a better mate• Hides ageing (Diamond, 1997)The Benefits: • Access to superior quality mates • Improved quality offspring • Increases survival chances of offspring
Criticisms – Psycho-Social InfluencesIs Appearance that Important?Less emphasis on the body than we think in mate choiceMen look for Women think men look for1. Personality 1. Good looks2. Good looks 2. Good body3. Brains 3. Breasts4. Humour 4. Butt5. Good body 5. PersonalityWomen look for Men think women look for1. Personality 1. Personality2. Humour 2. Good body3. Sensitivity 3. Humour4. Brains 4. Sensitivity5. Good body 5. Good looks (Pease & Pease, 1999)
Beauty and Attractiveness as a Cultural Construct • Socially-Constructed ideals based on Western Culture Case Example – China (Watts, 2004) • Rise in men and women wanting surgery • Aim to westernise their features • Girls have legs broken to try and become tallerIts Fashionable • Free-Market Economy Globalises fashion-culture • Societal norms then dictated by market forces • Aesthetic Surgery becomes a fashion accessory
Is the Current Ideal Maladaptive?Weight & Reproduction• Recent cultural ideation favours thin females• E.g. decreasing weight in magazines, beauty pageants and pornography (Ridley, 1993)• This ideal is maladaptive• Skinniness reduces fertility• A “harbinger of lactational failure” (Diamond, 1997, p146)• Difficult to attain – promotes eating disorders• Serious health threat (Lindeman, 1998) How can this be an adaptive strategy?
Is it Abnormal to want Cosmetic Surgery?• Growing concern about those wanting cosmetic surgery• High prevalence of psychopathology• Women 13 time more likely to seek surgery (Kisely et al, 2002)• Many display Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) and Body Image Disorders (Sarwer et al, 1998; Sarwer, 2004)• BDD link to mental health problems: Attachment anxiety PTSD Identity problems Neuroticism Personality Disorders (Davis & Vernon, 2002)
Criticism of Debate – ConclusionProblems• Surgery only around for 30 years, lack of empirical evidence• Limited research in this area• Most evidence can be adapted to either argumentCrucially• “A Darwinian story is not Mendelian Evidence” (Orr, 2003, p18).Surgery is learned - Not innate geneticButBehaviour potentially evolutionarily advantageous
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