Pennsylvania State University, USA
Often confused with plastic surgery, cosmetic surgery has become a popular sphere of consumption in the United States and beyond. Plastic surgery is performed to reconstruct physical defects resulting from disorders, accidents, and disease. Cosmetic surgery is performed on areas of the head or body that work properly, but are felt to be lacking in comparison to an aesthetic “norm”; this makes it an elective procedure. Academically, the consumption practices of cosmetic surgery have been researched most often in the context of feminism, including critical debate as to whether procedures such as breast augmentation are meant to benefit one's own understanding of the self, or to fulfill the desire to perform for society in terms of physical appearance.
Women (who make up 90 percent of all procedures) are the main focus of the consumer culture that is cosmetic surgery, as voluntary procedures such as implants, tummy tucks, face lifts, and liposuction have become more normalized. Cosmetic surgery itself, and the consumer's desire for physical perfection, existed well before the 1900s, but the marketing and advertising of the surgery became apparent after World War I. As the physical injuries of soldiers led surgeons to develop new procedures for physical reconstruction of the body, another group of surgeons emerged that catered to the desire for beauty. This created the distinction ...
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