This week brought us apocalyptic rainfall, Leveson megalolz, and the slightly quieter reporting of Miss Cosmetic Surgery 2012. The naming and the nature of this competition (‘there is only one criteria to enter – you must have had plastic surgery and you must want more’ says the Mirror) is so built for ravaging at the hands of the Vagenda that I very nearly considered not covering it at all. Because when the bar gets this low, what exactly can you say?The Mirror gets in the obligatory ‘it’s controversial n stuff’ sentence before launching into long swathes of dialogue by the head judge of Miss Cosmetic Surgery – weird! She’s a cosmetic surgeon! – and stories about women who have been empowered by silicone and liberated by liposuction. The pleas of the entrants are heartrendingly sad: ‘I’d love some liposuction or my Caesarean scar removed or maybe some fillers in my face to make me feel even better,’ says one Tewkesbury-based cleaner. Or a boob job or some Botox or some lip plumper or my jawline refined or a facelift or, or, or.
Of course this competition is just the extension of such predecessors as Extreme Makeover, a show that, according to previous contestants, encouraged family members to ‘go wild’ with slagging off the appearance of their mother/sister/cousin so that viewers would be especially dazzled by the resultant magic of the surgeon’s knife. And it reflects pretty exactly the culture that allows plastic surgery adverts up and down the London Underground system where a woman holds up a placard saying ‘I’ve just had my breasts done – but the biggest change you’ll see is on my face.’ As we have mentioned before on the Vagenda, these adverts now appear in issues of women’s magazines touting ‘body confidence’, lest not enough insecure females peruse the Tube network these days, since they’re probably sitting a home with a bag over their hand, clutching their 32Bs and crying.
The sob stories pulled out and paraded in the Mirror for Miss Cosmetic Surgery are an excellent example of how the tone has changed in the last ten years when discussing plastic surgery. No longer is it good enough to talk about ‘looking good’ – that’s not what our Tewkesbury cleaner said in her interview, after all – it’s about ‘feeling better.’ It’s about the psychological misery you might have to deal with if you’re just not as perfect as everyone else. It’s about how confident you’ll feel when you can leave the house without the crushing judgement of everyone around you staring at your flat chest or your flabby tummy. No longer will people assume that you’re a slovenly, revolting, probably mentally incapacitated witch because you have more prominent forehead lines than Kim Kardashian. In fact, you have no chance of emotional survival in the next ten years if you don’t start a ‘plastic surgery’ trust fund right now, so protect yourself from certain suicide and invest in your looks. Whoops, too far? Give it a few more years and then it won’t sound like so much of a clanger, because it’ll probably be written on a few cheeky billboards courtesy of the Harley Street Clinic. What are they like?
Being a woman has not only become increasingly aesthetically difficult, but economically unviable – that’s essentially what Miss Cosmetic Surgery 2012 shows us. The prize – £3,000 worth of cosmetic surgery to ‘top up’ your previous work done, which it seems you are heavily encouraged to supplement – is justified by the women who have come out in the Mirror’s article and spoken about desperately wanting surgery but not being able to afford it. They previously spent life savings on gastric bands or nose jobs, and stopped there. But Miss Cosmetic Surgery 2012 is there to encourage them to go further, do more, get back into a game that many of them have only ever encountered once.
I don’t oppose anyone who wishes to pursue the route of plastic surgery, although I don’t think it’s for me. You only have to watch an episode of Louis Theroux leaking tumescent fluid out of his sides after a minor liposuction procedure to be put off for life if you’re anywhere near as queasy as myself – but that’s not the issue. I oppose this cynical advertising that encourages the normalisation and the continuation of plastic surgery as a ‘culture’, something you can ‘get into’ like you can get into wearing a different coloured nail polish every day of the week for a while. And I vehemently oppose the technique of targeting women’s emotions and senses of self as a natural progression from concentrating on the merely ‘looking great’ aspect of cosmetic procedures.
I’ll leave you with the Sickipedia response to ‘I’ve just had my breasts done, but the biggest change you’ll see is on my face’: ‘Too many people coming on it, love?’ I think that pretty much summarises where we’re going with the ‘WOMAN = LOOKS’ thing. But maybe I just need to chill out and get a tummy tuck.
Image credit to ambro