i Editor's Letter: How has plastic surgery become “a thing”?


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The Independent Online


How has plastic surgery become “a thing”? That is, not just something people do on the quiet, but a national debate? Why does anyone care whether or not the pulchritudinous, opinionated ex-MP Louise Mensch had a little work done to her face? You may think it doesn’t matter, but it does, and not just for the reasons Virginia Ironside explains on p15.

It matters because women – not exclusively, but mostly – continue to be judged in part by how they look and not who they are and what they achieve. And women, particularly those who believe themselves to be physically imperfect or who are ageing in a manner they believe is undesirable or unacceptable to those they wish to influence positively, feel that in order to do so they have to project an image of more youthful, symmetrical, wrinkle-free femininity. Hence the surgery.

To disbelieve such pressure exists  ignores the vast commercial enterprises built upon playing on these  fears from the cosmetics industry to fashion magazines and the Mail Online. Men feel these pressures too - hence the recent rise in “moob” or “man boob” reductions, and the perennial concern with going bald or grey. However there are men in all echelons of society that prove it’s a surmountable handicap to not have a six-pack like David Beckham.

Instead, women in the public eye - having their outfits judged, or their wrinkles analysed – have to withstand everyday scrutiny of the sort most men could not imagine. Of course, the trickledown effect is that women in everyday life get judged by the same criteria. Until we all - women and men - stop judging women by this yardstick, the plastic surgery industry will continue to prey on such insecurities.