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12th, October
Is cosmetic surgery the new acceptable face of womanhood?

It was once considered extreme, but cosmetic surgery has become normalised. In fact, writes , refusing to ‘have work done’ has made her unusual in many social circles. But is a more perfect self always a happier one?

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More women are turning to cosmetic procedures due to increased availability, a rise in disposable income and social pressure.

I have a bumpy nose that looks fine from the front, but makes me shudder if I see it in profile. I have a “well-defined jawline” – or a pointy chin, if you ask for my description. There are a few furrows on my brow, lines around my eyes, and the outsize bags beneath them. My complexion reflects more than three decades of suffering from acne. In short, my face is, well, my face. It tells an honest story of a life lived. My life.

And there’s the rub. There shouldn’t be anything unusual in that but, increasingly, I’m aware that I’m in the minority when I mix in certain circles. Arriving at some social events or work appointments, I find unfamiliar faces looking back at me from people whom I know well. These are women who appear one day with startled expressions, unable to smile warmly as they used to, their skin taught, waxy and translucent – like glassine paper.

Having “work” done is the new norm, you see, and I am conscious that, while I am content to look my age and confidently declare myself an intervention-free zone, I frequently stand out from the scalpel-ed, Botox-ed crowd as the one “who doesn’t”. This is not some self-indulgent plea for validation but an observation that the Stepford-style masses are becoming the acceptable face of womanhood. The insidious march of cosmetic intervention in everyday life has concerned me for some time and then last week I read a piece in the New York Times, confirming its alarming prevalence in the US.

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“You’re going to have to do it. And not all that long from now,” the article states. “Probably not a full-on, general anaesthesia bone-shaving or muscle-slicing. But almost definitely some injections into your face. Very likely a session of fat-melting in some areas and then possibly moving it to some other parts that use plumping. Not because you hate yourself, fear ageing or are vain. You’re going to get a cosmetic procedure for the same reason you wear make-up: because every other woman is.”

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No way, I thought to myself, and ploughed on, indignant. It proved sobering reading: in the US, doctors performed more than 15m cosmetic procedures last year, a 13% increase on 2011 and more than twice as many as in 2000. Dermatologists are no longer considered to be medical clinicians, but beauticians, with 83% of them providing Botox or similar treatments.

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What was once the preserve of Joan Rivers and a handful of Ladies Who Lunch in Beverley Hills is now accessible to secretaries in Salt Lake City, who nip into the local medi-spa in their lunch hour for a manicure and a facial filler. That quick “fix” offers a euphoric high that soon wears off and sees them coming back for a more. I believe that cosmetic intervention is addictive and, because we gradually lose sight of the person who once looked back at us in the mirror, all perspective starts to go.

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People chase compliments and once we start getting those, we want more. Most women come to me and their concern is that they look ‘tired’. They might not feel tired on the inside but they want the outside to reflect how they feel.

We certainly believe that anything that allows women to feel better about themselves is worth it.

 

Over a very short period of time, what is considered normal and required practice in terms of ‘routine maintenance’ has changed dramatically. The assumption that a beautiful, more perfect self is a happier, more successful self is deeply ingrained in popular discourse and the language used is exceptionally value laden: we are urged to be ‘the best we can be’ and to strive for our ‘best selves’. We should do this because we’re ‘worth it’ – the implication being that if we don’t, we are culpable and blameworthy for ‘letting ourselves go’.

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We believe that women have the right to choose and take ownership of their appearance.

I would say that at this point in time women are succumbing to cosmetic surgery because they have tried other forms of maintenance that are no longer working as they get older, and they want the results that non-surgical and surgical cosmetic surgery will give them.

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When we inject our faces with stuff, that doesn’t come from the same place as putting on a colourful lipstick. We are navigating a new world, where we are much more conscious of our image, and we must own it and delight in it, rather than do things because of social pressure. Appearance should be an extension of who you are, not about trying to be someone you think society wants you to be.”

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Here are some crazy findings:

*53% of those who have had surgery believe celebrity cosmetic treatments had made it more aspirational

* 45% felt there was social pressure to consider it.

Women are always  talking about the pressure to look good,in addition to leading a healthy lifestyle with regular facial massages and skincare regime.

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With the affordability of medical tourism and the subsequent pressure of reducing prices in Australia- the availability and accessibility of cosmetic procedures, the lack of stigma about having work done and the rise in women’s disposable income has meant the gateway is clear for this to become normalised. And it is only going to increase.