Argument: Can plastic surgery make you feel free?

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Can plastic surgery make you feel free?

Danielle Leigh writes a feminist blog and Susan Hess makes films and was a model. They discuss the question.

Danielle - yes

I am a feminist. Our society is controlled by men and they want women to look a certain way. But there is nothing really wrong with plastic surgery for men or for women. Yes, plastic surgery can make you feel free. It is important that the person is sure that they are having surgery for themselves and not because they feel they must have surgery for society.

Of course, some people think surgery such as breast implants is the result of a society controlled by men and a society which sees women as objects for men’s sexual pleasure. But there is more than that to think about. With breast implants and labiaplasty is it not possible to feel freer?


YES: Danielle Leigh studied English Literature and Creative Writing at university. She writes about women’s issues from a sex-positive feminist viewpoint. She is working at Charee magazine. She also makes a radio show for

Of course, surgery to change your gender can make people free and people can live in the body that they feel is right for them. But I think all forms of surgery can make you feel free. Surgery is not very different from other ways of changing how we look, such as changing the colour of our hair or getting a tattoo. Also “feeling free” depends on the person. If someone thinks their surgery has made them feel free, then we must believe them.

Susan - no

Like you, I believe that everyone is different and has the right to be themselves. Also I understand how difficult it is to feel good with the way we look when society has impossible ideals of beauty and sexuality. You agree that some people have surgery because they feel they must for society, But you are not thinking about what happens to the body after surgery. The results can be very negative.

I had breast implants. And I know what it is like to have two hard lumps under my skin. I had good health insurance and I could have the breast implants removed. I did not have to pay $10,000 for the surgery and the night in hospital. Other women are not so lucky. Many women save money for years to pay for breast implants. But if there are problems, they don’t have the money to have the breast implants removed.


NO: Susan Hess Logeais makes films. She was a student dancer, a fashion model, and an actress. Her company Hot Flash Films PDX made the award-winning film Not Dead Yet and she is finishing Soar, a documentary film about two sisters.

Nose surgery can also be a problem. The nose can become thinner like Michael Jackson’s and then needs more work. If you google ‘problems with plastic surgery’, you will find many examples. We are not machines. When something is changed, there is always the risk of a negative result. Even Botox and fillers leave people looking worse if they are not continued. Muscles can suffer. Fillers stretch the skin and make problems. Breast implants , nose surgery, Botox and fillers make money for many plastic surgeons. Patients have to come back for more surgery. I don’t think that makes people feel free.

Danielle - yes

It is terrible when there are problems with surgery. There can be problems but there will not always be problems. With everything in life there is a risk. If you go on an aeroplane, everyone knows there are risks but most people take the risks because of the advantages. It is the same with plastic surgery.

A friend had breast surgery last summer to make her breasts smaller. Before the surgery she was [UK size] 34HH. She was sexually harassed when she left the house. She also had to spend a lot of money on bigger bras because the high-street shops didn’t have her size. She found it impossible to find dresses that fit because she had a [UK] size 10 waist but was size 14 on top. She had anxiety and was afraid to leave the house in summer because she couldn’t cover herself with big jumpers and coats. After her surgery it was easier to buy clothes and underwear that fit and now she is much more confident. Her back pain and her anxiety have stopped. For her it was a good risk.

It is true that surgeons can make a lot of money but a good surgeon will tell patients if it is possible that more surgery is needed. If the patient is sure that they want the surgery, it is surely their choice. We all have choices about how we spend our money. If somebody can find happiness and feel better by spending money on how they look, I see nothing wrong with that.

Susan - no

Surgery to make breasts smaller can be very helpful for women if their breast size gives them problems. But it is very different from breast implants. With surgery to make breasts smaller, nothing is put in the body. There are risks. A surgeon told me that when the patient is put to sleep is one of the most dangerous parts of surgery. And there can be problems even with making breasts smaller. I am saying that our bodies are not machines. After cutting the body, there are scars, which can make problems later.

Also our bodies are changing all the time. The nose we think is too big today might change as we get older. Breasts that seem small at the age of 18 may grow as we have children. The biggest mistake we can make is to think we are fixed all the time. This is why surgery doesn’t give the long-term results people want. It tries to fix us to a moment in time, but our bodies change all the time.

We live in a capitalist society which thinks that money is the most important thing. In a different world plastic surgeons would be more honest. But not many of them are honest. Look at their websites and try to find information about the possible risks. It is difficult to find information about the risks. Perhaps that is why you think that there are not many risks and they are not serious enough to stop someone having surgery. I think that most people are too ashamed to tell the truth. Surgery is dangerous and should only be for very serious problems, not just to make us look better.

Danielle - yes

I understand what you say about putting objects into the body and I agree that our bodies are not made for that. But you agree that other forms of surgery such as making breasts smaller can be helpful. So surely this means that plastic surgery can make some people feel free. I am not saying that all forms of surgery are helpful, or that there are no risks, or that surgery is the first thing to think about for somebody who is not happy with how they look. But I believe that in some situations such as surgery to change gender or make breasts smaller it is the best thing. For girls in strict religious families who think that a girl must be a virgin before marriage, hymen repair surgery could save them from losing their family or being killed. Women’s bodies can change when they have babies. They can have surgery to help their sex lives and make them feel sexy again. If only one of these examples is true, then surely it is true that plastic surgery can help people feel free. What you say about capitalism is interesting. Of course, it is true that surgeons want patients. But I think that is a problem with capitalism not with surgery.

Susan - no

Of course, there will always be situations when plastic surgery will change a person’s life for the better. Surgery for birth deformities, changing gender, and hymen repair are all useful and important. As for vaginoplasty or labiaplasty, I would ask if these women have thought about techniques for helping their vaginal muscles. There are many natural techniques to help sexual enjoyment and make a big difference, not like surgery with its negative effects.

We live in a society which thinks we can fix everything with western medicine. We don’t understand that there are safer, cheaper, and more long-lasting ways of treating health problems. And these ways do not make more health problems. When there is money, doctors will usually recommend surgery and will not think about other ways.

In our society we think that we and our bodies are machines. In my opinion we are more than machines and surgery is the last thing we should think about.


(This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed)