Questions: Does cosmetic surgery go against my morals?

Monday, August 22, 2011

According to this news story in The Telegraph, Kate Winslet, Emma Thompson, and Rachel Weisz are three actresses who have publicly promised that they will never get cosmetic surgery. The story is sparse, but one quotation from Kate Winslet caught my eye:

"It goes against my morals, the way that my parents brought me up and what I consider to be natural beauty. I will never give in."

Saying that cosmetic surgery goes against one's morals is pretty bold -- not bad or stupid or anything, but certainly bold. It would be easier to say something like, "It's something I would never do personally, but it's a choice everyone gets to make for him or herself." And yeah, that's a little wishy-washy, but it's a comfortable stance to take.

As for me, I've wondered a time or two if I feel the same way that Kate Winslet purports to feel on this topic: does cosmetic surgery go against my morals?

Gut response: no, it doesn't. Though every situation is different, I think a lot of cosmetic surgery is frivolous, vain, wasteful, and possibly indicative of some inner emotional struggles, but those things aren't immoral in and of themselves. (... or are they? You could certainly make the case that in the world's current condition, wastefulness is immoral. Vanity too, maybe.)

Is the idea supposed to be that cosmetic surgery is immoral because it's superficial? If so, seems like makeup, curling irons, hairspray, padded bras, high-heeled shoes, and jewelry would have to be labeled as "immoral" as well, and I certainly don't feel that way. Though I'm 99% sure that I won't ever get serious surgery for cosmetic reasons, I use makeup frequently, and while it's a superficial ritual of mine, I can't say I feel I've abandoned my moral code by "improving" my appearance within reason.

Also, I have to say that these three women -- whom I admire as actresses and as people -- are all quite lucky in terms of genes and financial situations. While our society's obsession with youth is no joke and not doing these women any favors (Winslet is 35, Weisz is 41, and Thompson is 52), they do have the automatic genetic fortune of looking the way our society likes women to look (fair-skinned, relatively thin, proportional and "womanly") and the worldly means to capitalize on what their mamas and daddies gave them (through personal trainers, nice makeup, facials, expensive haircuts, healthy food, exercise equipment, flattering clothes, etc.). Put another way, these three are in a privileged position when it comes to looks; yay for them on the public decision not to have cosmetic surgery, sincerely, but the general preference for women who look like them does make it easier for them to make that pledge.

Related: It drives me mildly crazy when everyone falls all over themselves to applaud celebrities who refuse to have their photos retouched in magazines and such, because those celebrities are supposedly embracing "reality" and supporting a health body image. Yes, this is a move in the right direction and an admirable position to take (way to go, celebrities!), but how "realistic" is it to look at a person (typically a woman) who is wearing insanely expensive clothes, made up for hours by professional stylists, lit to perfection and photographed professionally from all her best angles? Even if the photos aren't retouched, is that reality? Especially when we're talking about actresses, musicians, and models who make their living partially from looking good and therefore have the obligation and opportunity to work out and take exceptional care of their bodies? Come on, everyone. The absence of PhotoShop doesn't make things realistic.

End rant. But anyway, for those of you reading, I wonder: does cosmetic surgery go against your morals?


  1. No. But, funnily, Winslet's assertion is almost the opposite in my case. I had a nose job when I was a teenager. Though my mother didn't make me do it, I was certainly persuaded by her. She also offered to pay for another cosmetic surgery, which I turned down. Am I mad at her? No. Will I do the same thing for my daughters? Decidedly not.

    I have entertained thoughts of getting eyelid surgery when I am older, which both my mother and my aunt have done. I have to admit, it made them both look a lot better.

    It's not against my morals, but I certainly don't think all of it is justified.

  2. It is funny that you mentioned this as I dreamt last night that I got a nose job! While I probably would never do it (I'm a chicken when it comes to pain), it isn't against my morals.

  3. great post, something i've been thinking a lot about.
    i agree, that if it is about superficiality, padded bras, hair dye, heels, etc... should be "looked down upon" as well as they are very superficial and succeed in altering our image at an (often) high price. while i don't encourage a person to get nipped and tucked and i believe there is an unhealthy obsession with looking ageless, it still doesn't go against my morals.
    and THANK YOU for discussing these actresses fortunate appearance, status and income. it seems oddly condescending.

  4. Well said Sara! As for me, I would have to say it depends on the situation. A lot of people use cosmetic surgery to repair damages to their bodies like scars and burns, and that is something to be grateful for. But if my morals include only having one set of piercings in my ears and not getting tattooed, then altering my body shape with surgery would fall into that category as well. So yeah, it depends on the situation for me.

    That being said, I do feel that more often than not, people use cosmetic surgery as an easy way out. They use it to get thin without working out or eating healthy, or in place of quitting the things that make them look bad like smoking or over tanning. And sadly, I think it is used most often as a crutch for one's self esteem. Rather than trying to find the true root of a problem and taking the time to heal from within, people turn to surgery for instant gratification and false happiness.

  5. Cosmetic surgery is one of our modern-day miracles, but just as everything else, can be used for unrighteous purposes. As Naomi said, some people use it to evade the true problem they won't face. In those cases they are not fully taking part of the Lord's love and atonement to heal themselves internally.

    As Saints we are called on to be presentable, even attractive (having the spirit with you makes you attractive, blah blah all that yes of course), and for my husband, friends, and family I WANT to be presentable and attractive (and for myself as well). For me, being attractive is, sure, enhancing my face with some eyeliner and mascara, showing a clean, clear, smiling face, accentuating my figure and outfit with heels on occasion, and wearing a couple sparklies or pearls.

    The problem comes when we use those things to account for what we feel we don't have. I don't mean wearing a padded bra if you've got nothing there. I mean getting all done up to hide yourself or cover some kind of insecurity.

    As for personal surgery - after I'm done having kids I would consider a breast reduction (if they don't go down on their own). I have nasty nursing boobs that make most of my clothes just look inappropriate and make it impossible to wear any bra attractively. Aside from that, running - my love - is painful. So those are my reasons. Maybe they're superficial, and maybe my ideas about it all will change.

  6. I've thought about this plenty -- ever since nursed a baby. Pregnancy didn't permanently alter my appearance, but nursing really really did. I went to a book group a few weeks back where a woman said that once she finishes having kids she's definitely getting a boob job to perk the girls up a bit. I could see where she was coming from, knowing that nursing really has been the thing that has changed my body more than anything.

    But having said that, it is against my own moral compass. I could never justify putting my money there when there are so many other needs in the world. And I have always felt quite strongly about not voluntarily permanently changing my body -- since I was young I felt that God made me this way and I needed to embrace and accept whatever that way is. So that includes that I've never ebven pierced my ears. Of course, I don't think that other people shouldn't pierce their ears, but it's just not something that has ever felt right for me. I guess what I would say is that a big part of my morality is that I have felt compelled to love and accept myself in whatever form God and nature dictate I become.

    Of course, Neal would like me to do some of those "superficial" niceties a lot more, so it's not as if my way is a perfect solution ;)

  7. I think what Kate was pointing out was accepting the beauty that you're born with. Putting on makeup doesn't revert the fact that it's still the face they were born with. These things only helps people to enhance their beauty and not change their whole being. Unlike with plastic surgery, you're masking your true self by undergoing this procedure. The big difference is plastic surgery is permanent and makeup is temporary. Celebrities dressed in fancy clothes and wear a lot of makeup may be superficial, but the mere fact that they embrace aging and working with what they have is something to look up to. We live in a world where morals isn't a big question anymore, and hearing her say that make things kinda refreshing. Shavonda Duarte


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