Monday, March 9, 2009


Photo: Source

In a moment of self loathing the other day, I found myself typing "cosmetic surgeons in Vancouver" into the search field of my Google homepage. A nose job would be nice, I thought. Maybe a little Juvederm? It seems like every time I turn around lately, somebody is divulging that they've had work done or that they're planning to have work done.

Beautifying one's image has always been a human tendency. Women over the centuries have used everything from powdered vermilion and ground up mother-of-pearl to black kohl and body paint to accentuate their various parts, always showing reverence to the idealized standard of beauty 'du jour.'

The worship of beauty, though, has reached its apex in our society today. Its temples are fashion runways, retail store posters, and glossy full colour magazine ads. They all feature airbrushed models with 'perfect' bodies, perky breasts and sex-inspired outfits, pushing a cruelly unreachable standard of beauty onto women everywhere.

Given our obsession with beauty and image, it is easy to understand the popularity of makeover stories. Long standard feature fodder in most women's and teen magazines, makeovers consistently feature a drab looking ordinary person in the "before"... followed by a glammed-up "after" shot of the same woman- or man- somehow so much more confident and "beautifully" appropriate to society's expectations.

Whereas in the past, makeover stories featured transformations facilitated by mere cosmetic enhancements; haircuts, changes in hair colour, makeup application, new clothing, or an exercise regime, today, the scope of makeover story possibilities has snowballed.

People are eager and willing to undergo every form of beauty enhancer that modern technology affords us: cosmetic surgery, breast implants, liposuction, dental re-work, eye-surgery, tummy tucks etc. etc. The list continues, and begs the question: what are the limits of human vanity and what lengths will people go to in order to be considered more beautiful in society's eyes? In truth, the lengths that I have considered going to, especially as I get older, kind of scare me. The fact that women will pay thousands of dollars to get the "perfect" pair of breasts, or that others are willing to inject something with a suffix meaning poison ("botox") into their natural bodies, puts our crazy world into a new harsh perspective. And yet, I find myself really struggling not to buy into it. I mean, who doesn't want to be pretty, right?

The impact of this continual objectification of beauty in our popular culture continues to grow, in subtle yet significant ways, and most of us don't even realize it. We have become so desensitized to the constant barrage of tempting images we receive each day that we learn to live with them- as if they were the constant stream of background city sounds. They mask our hunger for the intangible... for the peace that comes not out of looking thinner or more beautiful with higher cheekbones (or a perfect nose), but with the eternal peace that is synonymous with love and appreciation for who we truly are. For after all, isn't our power to feel good about ourselves the ultimate beauty? I sure hope so.


PatZ said...

im pretty sure you dont need any work done. ever. true story.

Jennifer Stoddart said...

You're far too kind, Pat :)

Phaedra said...

I agree with Pat. And interesting point on how the older makeover stories involved less invasive techniques, and alot more old fashion hard work. Nowadays it's all about the quick fix. Sad.