The changing perception of the american Body Image
What will the average person do to feel accepted? We compare ourselves to the appearance of the people that surround us. For example it has been said that the average person watches four hours of television a day. (Elliot 486.). With so much time spent watching people that seem flawless it is no wonder that most Americans feel inadequate. Plastic surgery seems to be one cure for these feelings of inadequatacy.. After reading about how Americans view their bodies I have concluded that humans need to feel accepted by their peers. The need to feel accepted is shown by the many ways people will change their appearance. The media exploits people’s needs to feel accepted by having beautiful people in television shows, the news, and in advertisements. It seems that everywhere you look there is another poster of a beautiful woman advertising a product. Does this practice reflect the mindset of consumers and the human psyche? Many people feel the need to get plastic surgery. Below I will touch on this and others as discussed by several authors in our text. The media may be convincing us that we need to achieve an unachievable standard of physical attractiveness.
Carl Elliot, in his article “Putting Your Best Face Forward”, points out how the media has exploited plastic surgery with the number of television shows on the subject. Examples of these reality shows include the Fox’s “The Swan” and ABC’s “Extreme Makeover”. These reality shows document the transformation of a contestant as he or she undergoes cosmetic surgery in the quest for beauty. Shows like these have brought cosmetic surgery, which was once the province of the rice and famous, to the mainstream public. That has changed in recent years because more people believe that cosmetic surgery is the answer to their problems. Cosmetic surgery is more common, open, and well accepted today; 8.3 million cosmetic procedures where performed in 2003 up 293% according to the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. In 2004 14.8 million plastic surgery procedures were performed in the U.S. By 2006 the number had risen to 16.2 million. (American Society of Plastic Surgeons) I believe the reason for the increase in surgeries is that people do not feel that their appearance is good enough. If we are comparing ourselves to people we see on television we will never meet their standards of beauty. This is because the people we see on TV have been selected because of their physical beauty. It makes sense to have a beautiful woman selling jewelry. People need to realize that everyone has their own personal flaws. Plastic surgery exploits people by making them believe that it is possible to fix these flaws.
“I wish I was taller”. This is a statement many vertically challenged people make. Does the height of a man improve his chances of living a successful life? The article “All to be Tall” by Joe Kita explores the answer to this question by following a man as he undergoes a surgery to add three inches to his height. The procedure breaks the patients limbs and then places 11 pins in each leg that are attached to frames that surround the leg. Then over a period of six months the bones are separated by tightening the pins in the metal frames that surround the legs. Its is during this phase of the procedure that the legs are lengthened and new bone is grown The cost of this surgery is around $80,000 dollars and is usually not covered by insurance. ( Kita 489). The physical cost of the surgery is immense amounts of pain during the lengthening phase and the three months after the surgery when the new bone is hardening. Complications resulting from the surgery include surgery site infections, nerve damage, and facture of the lengthened bone. Long term complications resulting from surgery are still not known. With all the negative side effects, including months of unbearable pain, and immobility why do people decide to have this procedure? They believe that adding three inches will change their lives. Former patients report an increase in confidence when dating and more respect from their peers. What are the other benefits of being taller? According to the article, taller people on the average earn a higher income. In the book, Stature and Stigma the author Henry Biller discovered that, when compared to shorter males taller males are seen as more mature, uninhibited, positive, secure, masculine, active, complete, successful, optimistic, capable, confident, and outgoing.( Citied by Kita 489) All of these adjectives have positive connotations. As a male of a shorter stature ( I am 5’7”) I can sympathize with how the shorter men feel. I often find myself wishing I was taller. I come from a family of short people. My grandfather is only 5’4” and my grandmother is only 4’11”. Being tall has its advantages, including a feeling of authority and power. Height also comes into consideration when you are chosing a mate. The saying goes women prefer the tall, dark and handsome man. If you take all of this into consideration adding two or three inches in height can make a difference in people’s lives. I believe that the people who have this procedure are more interested in the psychological effects of the surgery rather than the physical changes. After the surgery patients report an increase in confidence, which can indeed make a huge difference in their lives.
Kita’s article refutes the common misconception that only women are unhappy with their physical appearance. I would like to think of myself as a masculine male but I must admit that I notice the flaws of my physical appearance. I believe that this is true for most single males. Consider what males are being compared to. If you look at any magazine that is intended for young women to read you will find many examples of what the male physique should look like. Magazines like Cosmopolitan contain various pictures of attractive muscular young men. In turn, the girls have an unrealistic expectation of what a guy should look like. Appearance is the most important characteristic when meet someone for the first time. In the article “How Men Really Feel About Their Bodies” the author Ted Spiker states that men are becoming increasingly aware of the fact that women are able to support themselves. Thus they are free to find the man with the good looks and sex appeal. So the standards to which males are compared to have be raised.
One of the biggest body image issues is the size of one’s body. In the US today, we have a obesity epidemic that is widely publicized, but many people do not know that it affects the poor more than the rich. One in four adults below the poverty level is obese. (Cullen 503) There is a growing problem in America and it affects all of us. That problem is obesity. A trend in a sedentary lifestyle along with bad eating habits is the cause of the increase in the number of cases involving obesity. Obesity is worse among the people living in poverty. This seems like an oxymoron because if money is limited you can’t afford large amounts of food. The cause of obesity among people of low incomes is not the quantity of food but the quality of food. The article states the in terms of the cost of food the foods with the low nutritional value cost the least. In order to stretch the value of the money that they have to spend people are buying processed foods that have little nutritional value. I believe that families are not educated enough on diets and what foods they should eat. It seems so easy to grab a package of doughnuts and eat them as a snack. That is also the problem that people face. Most people don’t have healthy foods available to them at a reasonable price. The text points out how 28% of Americans live in what nutritionists call food deserts. ( The elements of An Argument 505). This means that supermarkets are over 20 minutes away.
Accepting your own appearance and its flaws may be hard to do in today’s world where looks matter. The article “Putting Your Best Face Forward”, describes the increasing pressure to be attractive. Surgery can also affects confidence as shown in the article “All to Be Tall”. The men report an increase improvement because they have more confidence as a result of the surgery to make them three inches taller. Men are not excluded from the pressures to be attractive this point is made in the article “How Men Really Feel About Their Bodies”. With all the pressure to have an attractive appearance there is growing obesity epidemic in the United States that affects the poor more than the rich. We should not put so much emphasis on appearance and over look other qualities that make up a person. The high standards of beauty are pushed by the growing influence that the media has over people.
Miech, Richard A, et al. “Trends in the Association of Poverty With Overweight Among
US Adolescents, 1971-2004.” JAMA 295.20 (2006):2385-.