THE BODY CIRCUS: The body, surgery, and dysmorphia in 2024


We are living in a time where self-love has become more inaccessible than ever  before. As women, we have lived through body hair, loss of body hair, the corset,  the BBL, the nose job, the boob job and veneers. At this point in time, with beauty standards and rules populating our media and the ever growing industries of fast fashion and fast beauty not set to slow down, when will we stop treating our  bodies like a micro trend? When will we stop thinking we can pick and choose  our appearances like avatars in a game? Body dysmorphia is continuously growing. 

Our society is fickle when it comes to appearances; one year we are all  obsessed with curves and having a big bum and then the next we are taking injections to remove fat. Historically, bigger frames were idolized; Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty, is a curvy woman because Greeks and many other ancient cultures believed that fertility was the beauty standard. Further, in the Tudor era, being large represented wealth and health. Yet it seems in recent years, there has been an ongoing interest in lessening our bodies, and making them smaller. Body dysmorphia entered the chat. 

Culture certainly plays an influential role in directing beauty standards. The Kayan tribe in Thailand stretch their necks with brass plates. In China, women would bind their feet to keep them small. In most African cultures, women are expected to be curvy  in order to show good fertility. When doing research into beauty standards around  the world, I came across the Mauritian culture. In Mauritius, Fat is beautiful, these women are expected to eat 16,000 calories a day to attain the big and beautiful standard promoted to them by their community. In certain Ethiopian tribes, lip stretching to show maturity and reproduction within females. All are very different cultures fighting on opposite ends of the same war on the body. In our ever-growing, ever-changing culture we must plump, inject, dissolve,  shave down, reduce, transplant, and starve. It’s strange that plastic surgery has  such a prevalence in Western cultures. Maybe because it’s the quick and simple  solution, or maybe because it’s so normalised that by the time most girls are 16 they  are already putting money aside for their lip fillers, lash extensions, and nose jobs.  When I was younger, I remember talking about the procedures we’d all get once we  turned 18. “I want a boob lift, with a side of veneers, and for dessert a BBL, heck  maybe even a tummy tuck, I’m not driving!”. But what’s more interesting, I find  particularly with my peers and my generation (Gen Z), we are less judgemental of  plastic surgery procedures than we are of natural beauty. When a friend comes to  me to discuss how they feel insecure about the size of their lips, the first thing I say  is for them to consider lip filler and give them a contact I have. It’s like we’ve  become sick of persuading each other that natural beauty is the way to go, that  beauty comes from within. We’ve grown up through the birth of social media, the  uprise of beauty filters, the ‘porn star look’, and the Kardashians. We are tired. We  try a different diet every week, we give up, we get back on the horse, we edit our  photos, buy ‘flawless filter’ foundation, and look into anti-ageing at the cusp of 20.  We are burnt out. We have literally run away and joined the circus of our bodies. I  am not here to tell you to love yourself for who you are or to tell you to stop the  surgery, I am here to tell you to be authentic in yourself. If you want that nose job,  you get that nose job, but do it for you, not because the world told you to. 

I often think about diet culture, mainly because I have a love/hate toxic relationship with it. Why is it that I am told about 0% fat by a woman who in reality does not eat that product and visits her plastic surgeon annually if not more? When a slender influencer posts a paragraph on her story about self-love while advertising apple  cider gummies that we know don’t work, it infuriates me, because although we live in a world where we have accepted surgery as the new norm and solution to body dysmorphia, no-one ever seems to admit to getting it. We are aware of the shame that is still prevalent, there are still people left in the world who will fight the good fight and shame someone who had some work done, but not admitting to it is the reason why hundreds of girls made their lips burst from the Kylie Jenner lip challenge, or ended up in surgery because the waist trainer re-arranged their  organs. I believe that in order to stop this harmful torture on our bodies, we must as  women, as a society start opening up and admitting to plastic surgery because it’s okay to get it done, it really is. We understand why we do it, we do what we have to do to feel beautiful and instead of shaming each other and wasting breath on natural beauty in an unnatural world, the first step is acceptance and admitting. I’m jess, and I have lip filler, is what I will say at the first Plastic Surgery Anonymous meeting.  

Written by Jess Rattray a GLITCH Magazine Contributor


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