At the Breast Masters Symposium on Thursday 18 October, a dedicated session explored the issues of body image and whether or not cosmetic surgery is friend or foe.
The Scientific Convenor for the Breast Masters Symposium, Associate Professor Mark Magnusson said the statistics are well known about the millions of accounts set up and the hours spent on social media networks, especially by younger generations.
“This highly visually stimulated generation is bombarded with a filtered view of reality from Insta-celebrities all clamouring for their likes and comments.
“Social media grants teens a ‘first-hand’ peak into the lives of their favourite celebrities. Unfortunately, this constant exposure can lead to followers comparing professionally taken, lit and edited photos of physically ‘perfect’ celebrities to their own, unedited lives,” Assoc Prof Magnusson said.
An influencer’s overwhelming power is in their ability to reach a large audience regularly. Also, influencers are posting with a frequency that’s usually equal to the number of times users check their social media accounts.
“For some users, seeing evidence of ‘perfect’ lives and ‘perfect’ bodies can have significant effects on the way they perceive their existences and physical features,” Assoc Prof Magnusson said.
Assoc Prof Magnusson questions who’s to blame?
“Is it the influencers shaping what’s desirable, the Plastic Surgeons that can help people achieve them, or the people themselves who are demanding the surgeries? It is a problem and one that needs careful consideration.
“In the right hands, cosmetic surgery is safe and effective. Very frequently, there are measurable physical benefits in addition to the shape changes. Done for the right reasons, with realistic expectations it can have a dramatic impact on improving one’s quality of life,” Assoc Prof Magnusson said.
This, however, is the crux of the argument.
“Many opponents believe that Plastic Surgeons who perform cosmetic surgery are only further adding to the body image issues held by women (and men). Those in the other corner see it more as a chance to liberate patients who, often, have long contemplated the procedure and desired the outcome.”
Plastic Surgeons have a duty of care to patients and adhere to strict Codes of Conduct as set out by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, the Australian Medical Council and the Medical Council of New Zealand. These Codes outline the responsibilities of doctors and surgeons to ensure patients are mentally and physically fit for surgery.
“If a Plastic Surgeon feels the patient has unrealistic expectations, hasn’t the right motivations or is battling with more menacing issues, such as Body Dysmorphic Disorder, red flags will be raised, and the patient may be asked to seek psychological support before the surgeon agreeing to consider the treatment.
“This is the standard of quality care you can expect from a Plastic Surgeon.
“As members of ASAPS patient safety is ahead of sales. ASAPS does not condone the sweat factory-style set-ups that rely on large numbers of patients pushed through the door with little to no engagement with the surgeon. Instead, we pride ourselves on having members who operate with respect and strive for excellence in every facet of their practice,” Assoc Prof Magnusson said.
On the surface, the body positivity movement and cosmetic surgery appear to be in fundamental conflict. While one celebrates the unique physical traits of all types of bodies, the other allows for an avenue to change them. But, the two trends don’t necessarily clash when considered in a more collective context.
“Having a positive body image means accepting yourself, no matter what packaging you come in. When a patient comes in with a request to have Kim Kardashian’s bottom or Meghan Markle’s nose, then I start to get concerned. All patients must understand that everyone gets an individual result. We all have different body shapes, different distributions of fat, skin types and variable histories of pregnancy and weight fluctuations. What we start with is a significant influence on outcomes.
“Body positivity and cosmetic surgery don’t cancel each other out; in fact, the former can be inclusive of its supposed enemy. The movement declares that everyone, no matter their physical appearance or alterations to it, is entitled to self-love. Finally, no matter how good the surgeon and how good the outcome, if the patient doesn’t love what’s underneath the skin any surgery is destined to fall short of their expectations,” Assoc Prof Magnusson said.