In his book Love Me, Zed Nelson documents our cultural reaction to the social imperative to look good – by whatever means necessary.
“We have created a world in which there are enormous social, psychological and economic rewards and penalties attached to the way we look…. The body has, in a sense, become just another consumer purchase. Everyone can, in the spirit of our age, go shopping for bodily transformation. Banks now offer loans for plastic surgery. American families with annual incomes under $25,000 account for 30 per cent of all cosmetic surgery patients.
Americans spend more each year on beauty than they do on education.”
His photograph of Kristina Widmer’s foot x-ray records the results of her toe reduction surgery. According to Kristina, “I’ve had three toes shortened – a portion of bone removed between the joints and fixed together with metal rods. I like to wear Jimmy Choos, three-inch heels with a pointy toe.” Foot surgery was once typically performed to alleviate pain and correct deformities, but roughly around the time Sex and the City debuted in 1998, a new specialty emerged – cosmetic foot surgery.
Second and third toes that poke out beyond the big toe can be shortened, and crooked fourth and fifth toes can be straightened out. Toe-shortening is neither inexpensive nor risk-free. At a cost between $500 to $1500 per toe, the procedure is usually not covered by insurance. In addition to risks from infection and complications with anesthesia, poorly-done toe shortening procedures can leave toes floppy and sliding under or over adjacent toes.
The loss of a breast to cancer can be devastating for women. In addition to all of the health concerns and fears surrounding the cancer itself, there are concerns brought on by societal pressures – Am I still attractive? By losing my breast, have I lost my femininity? In a world where having a “perfect” body is revered, the decision not to undergo reconstructive surgery can be a bold choice. Photographer Lynn Johnson documented a group of breast cancer survivors, some of whom decided against surgery.
"This amazing woman lost her breast to breast cancer several years ago. The way she healed in body, mind and spirit was to join a Dragon boat paddling team called Pink Steel. They race out of Pittsburgh, PA and won the Breast Cancer Survivor national championships this past year. Paddling for the team gives these women a sense of community and self esteem that is robbed from them by the diagnosis and the way society treats those with breast cancer—as invisible or worse.”