The concept of suffering for beauty is not a new one. The French say “Il faut souffrir pour etre belle.” One must suffer to be beautiful. Unfortunately, it is almost always women who have to go through extreme suffering, sometimes even disfigurement, to attain beauty ideals.
Image credit: bobster1985
Corsets were first worn during the 16th century and remained a feature of fashionable dress until the 1789 French Revolution. During the 1840s and 1850s tightlacing was first recorded. It was ordinary fashion taken to an extreme. Prolonged tightlacing has noticeable effects on the body. Internal organs are moved closer together and out of their original positions. The volume of the lungs diminishes and the tightlacer tends to breathe with the upper portion of the lungs only, creating a mucosal build-up that results in a chronic cough. The liver is pressed upwards. As it continually renews itself, it adapts to fit its new position, and in a long-term tightlacer it can develop ridges where it rests against the ribs. The compression of the stomach reduces its volume and causes indigestion, heartburn and constipation.
Photo credit: johnbullas
Foot binding was a custom practiced on young girls and women for approximately one thousand years in China, beginning in the 10th century and ending in the early 20th century.
In Chinese foot binding, young girls’ feet were wrapped in tight bandages so that they could not grow and develop normally; they would, instead, break and become highly deformed, not growing past 4–6 inches. As the girl reached adulthood, her feet would remain small and prone to infection, paralysis, and muscular atrophy.
The custom is commonly cited by sociologists and anthropologists as an example of how immense human suffering can be inflicted in the pursuit of beauty.
Photo credit: Monkeyji
A lip plate is a form of body modification. Increasingly larger discs are inserted into a pierced hole in either the upper or lower lip, or both, thereby stretching it. In Africa, a lower lip plate is usually combined with the excision of the lower front teeth.
Photo credit: babasteve
Women of the Kayan tribe wear brass coils that are placed around the neck. These coils are first applied to young girls when they are around five years old. Each coil is replaced with longer coils as the weight of the brass pushes the collar bone and compresses the rib cage.
Photo credit: Diliff
If the above practices seem to you like they don’t really matter, since they belong in ancient history or in far away cultures, consider this: these 21st century women from Los Angeles, California are going through extreme pain and mutilating their bodies in the name of beauty too:
A botched boob job. Photo credit: Malingering
A visible inflation valve. Photo credit: Malingering
Cosmetic procedures can – and have – killed many women:
It’s easy to scoff at practices such as foot binding or tightlacing and dismiss them as crazy practices of the distant past or of different cultures. But is plastic surgery really any different? Women today are suffering for beauty too, and their suffering is often extreme.