Plastic Surgery Horror Stories

Plastic surgery is a complex issue in my opinion. On the one hand, I think individual control over your body is important and vital to control over your life in general. On the other, plastic surgery for cosmetic purposes (a.k.a. elective surgery that you choose to undergo for aesthetic reasons) often appears to be motivated externally by society or pressure from peers/family/loved ones. So, for example changing your body because your partner makes you feel bad about your body is not empowering or really expressing control over your body. It’s an expression of the social pressure women feel to conform to a certain body type. I have a HUGE problem with that.

Body modification can be a very empowering act – ask any 21-year-old with a new tattoo – but it can also have big ramifications for your health, body satisfaction, self image and how others relate to you. The complex consequences from plastic surgery are what make me especially worried about young people who want or get plastic surgery. For example, according to some studies, silicone breast implants have a 50-60% chance of rupturing after 15 years. That means that if someone gets the implants at 20, by 35 they’re not holding up so well. In fact, they could break inside you. Of course this isn’t always the case, but it is a legitimate health danger that is often not seriously considered by girls who want bigger breasts. Check out this horror story for a little more real life experience.

So, why to girls and women want bigger breasts? It’s a complicated question and I would be wrong to simply say that a woman can’t want it for herself. I would argue however that much more frequently, the desire for bigger breasts has more to do with others than a separate inner need: wanting others to find you attractive, hoping to please (potential) partners and be seen as beautiful/sexy/feminine, or even attract attention. Large, perky breasts are part of the “right” body that is popularly seen as beautiful and the allure of achieving the “right” body is powerful for many people (men and women). For some, having the right body means achieving acceptance, love, attention, sensuality, desirability, popularity, control and/or perfection. Almost everyone is interested in a few of these ideas. However, the notion that you need to create a new body to get these things is completely untrue. Society can brainwash us into thinking that there are diets or beauty routines or surgeries that can get us love or perfection or make us feel comfortable in our skin, but it’s simply not true. There’s no pills or procedures for self-esteem, confidence or happiness.

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Y57 Radio Chat

This Monday, I was on Youth in 57 Minutes, a monthly radio program organized by young people at Vancouver’s Co-op radio station. They are a great bunch of people and I had a great time chatting with them. Check out their related blog here and check out Y57 on the 4th and 5th Monday of every month at 102.7 fm. It’s great to see youth involved in highlighting their peers and spreading the word on local bands and events.

Challenging Ads and Making Progress

Feministing.com is reporting some good news about recent a Yoplait commercial. A commercial that depicted a woman trying to justify eating a piece of cake – bargaining, negotiating, promising to exercise – and finally choosing yogurt because it would be a “good” food that would let her lose weight. See the commercial for yourself here. It’s surprisingly accurate in its depiction of disordered eating: the constant self-conversation about what food is allowed under what circumstances, the calculations that have nothing to do with actual desires, needs or health.  However, the ad valorizes this thought process and provides its product as the most ideal food in this calculation. NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association) spoke with “General Mills executives Eric Galler, vice president of marketing, Yoplait, and Jeff Hagen, director of consumer services – the company agreed to discontinue the concerning ad campaign, which contained language NEDA says is a trigger for those most vulnerable.” See the NEDA press release about it here.

I really appreciate hearing about stories where people have seen problematic advertising and done something about it. If a company is trying to sell you something, they’ll probably be interested to hear how their advertising campaign is being received. They paid a lot to put it together, so if it’s getting you mad and not hungry for their product, they could be convinced to pull the ad – or at least realize that their strategy isn’t so hot and try something different next time. Consumers do have power to influence what is sold and advertised.

JK Rowling on “Fat”

In light of the upcoming release of the final Harry Potter movie, I’m delving back into the series that I have loved so much. I suggest other fans to do the same. JK Rowling’s website has a great rant talking about how girls treat each other, how we view “fat,” and what girls are told they should be. You’ll find it below, and it’s another reason I love this woman.

“It started in the car on the way to Leavesden film studios. I whiled away part of the journey reading a magazine that featured several glossy photographs of a very young woman who is either seriously ill or suffering from an eating disorder (which is, of course, the same thing); anyway, there is no other explanation for the shape of her body. She can talk about eating absolutely loads, being terribly busy and having the world’s fastest metabolism until her tongue drops off (hooray! Another couple of ounces gone!), but her concave stomach, protruding ribs and stick-like arms tell a different story. This girl needs help, but, the world being what it is, they’re sticking her on magazine covers instead. All this passed through my mind as I read the interview, then I threw the horrible thing aside.

But blow me down if the subject of girls and thinness didn’t crop up shortly after I got out of the car. I was talking to one of the actors and, somehow or other, we got onto the subject of a girl he knows (not any of the Potter actresses – somebody from his life beyond the films) who had been dubbed ‘fat’ by certain charming classmates. (Could they possibly be jealous that she knows the boy in question? Surely not!)

‘But,’ said the actor, in honest perplexity, ‘she is really not fat.’

‘”Fat” is usually the first insult a girl throws at another girl when she wants to hurt her,’ I said; I could remember it happening when I was at school, and witnessing it among the teenagers I used to teach. Nevertheless, I could see that to him, a well-adjusted male, it was utterly bizarre behaviour, like yelling ‘thicko!’ at Stephen Hawking.

His bemusement at this everyday feature of female existence reminded me how strange and sick the ‘fat’ insult is. I mean, is ‘fat’ really the worst thing a human being can be? Is ‘fat’ worse than ‘vindictive’, ‘jealous’, ‘shallow’, ‘vain’, ‘boring’ or ‘cruel’? Not to me; but then, you might retort, what do I know about the pressure to be skinny? I’m not in the business of being judged on my looks, what with being a writer and earning my living by using my brain…

JK Rowling signing a book

I went to the British Book Awards that evening. After the award ceremony I bumped into a woman I hadn’t seen for nearly three years. The first thing she said to me? ‘You’ve lost a lot of weight since the last time I saw you!’

‘Well,’ I said, slightly nonplussed, ‘the last time you saw me I’d just had a baby.’

What I felt like saying was, ‘I’ve produced my third child and my sixth novel since I last saw you. Aren’t either of those things more important, more interesting, than my size?’ But no – my waist looked smaller! Forget the kid and the book: finally, something to celebrate!

So the issue of size and women was (ha, ha) weighing on my mind as I flew home to Edinburgh the next day. Once up in the air, I opened a newspaper and my eyes fell, immediately, on an article about the pop star Pink.

Her latest single, ‘Stupid Girls’, is the antidote-anthem for everything I had been thinking about women and thinness. ‘Stupid Girls’ satirises the talking toothpicks held up to girls as role models: those celebrities whose greatest achievement is un-chipped nail polish, whose only aspiration seems to be getting photographed in a different outfit nine times a day, whose only function in the world appears to be supporting the trade in overpriced handbags and rat-sized dogs.

Maybe all this seems funny, or trivial, but it’s really not. It’s about what girls want to be, what they’re told they should be, and how they feel about who they are. I’ve got two daughters who will have to make their way in this skinny-obsessed world, and it worries me, because I don’t want them to be empty-headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones; I’d rather they were independent, interesting, idealistic, kind, opinionated, original, funny – a thousand things, before ‘thin’. And frankly, I’d rather they didn’t give a gust of stinking chihuahua flatulence whether the woman standing next to them has fleshier knees than they do. Let my girls be Hermiones, rather than Pansy Parkinsons. Let them never be Stupid Girls. Rant over.”

– JK Rowling

Comic Reality

I recently ran across a cartoon about a reality show that actually appealed for me, for once. Source

Reality Television Pitch, where winners get self-respectThe values of reality television are about as terrifying as it gets regarding body image, self-esteem, confidence and beauty. Everything from Beauty and the Geek, to The Swan to a recent show called Bridalplasty where brides-to-be competed for plastic surgery makeovers prior to their dream weddings. If I ever see botox needles as the prize again, it will be too soon. The idea of not humiliating, torturing or exploiting reality television participants seems like a pipe dream.