Kat Banyard: Ban surgery ads that prey on women's fears

It is legal for clinics to advertise medically unnecessary invasive surgery

Share
Related Topics

For a trade fuelled by the public scrutiny of women's bodies, the cosmetic surgery industry hasn't enjoyed recently finding itself the subject of the media gaze. It didn't take long for the PIP breast implant scandal to expose as a sham the carefully crafted public image of responsible professionalism the industry fosters. Unencumbered by regulation and accountability, the UK cosmetic surgery industry has ballooned into a £2.3bn business – and a public health scandal. But, unless action is taken to curb the aggressive advertising campaign at the heart of this expansionist project, perhaps the most widespread damage being wreaked by this trade will continue unabated.

Unlike prescription medicines, it is totally legal for commercial clinics to advertise medically unnecessary invasive surgery. And advertise they do. In public spaces, in magazines, on the internet and on TV. "Is cosmetic surgery only for the rich and famous? Not any more, it is a Lifestyle choice!", boasts a Right Choice ad in Cosmopolitan magazine. It's estimated that 10 per cent of surgical turnover is spent on advertising. This is spending with a purpose: it drives demand and helps normalise the idea of cosmetic surgery. So, while those undergoing the 100,000 cosmetic surgical procedures carried out each year are in the minority, half of young women aged 16 to 21 now say they would consider it.

But cosmetic surgery ads are a public health hazard. They frame surgery as quick and easy, trivialising the risks, like blood clots, post-operative infection and, in rare cases, death. In promising "affordable surgery with flexible finance options", a Harley Medical Group ad is typical of clinics' attempts to convince women, through special offers and discounts, that not even money is a barrier. Leading clinicians insist that one of the most important steps to reducing clinical risk is removing the profit motive. Yet that motive is the only reason cosmetic surgery clinics advertise.

The ads also ruthlessly exploit women's body hatred. "I've had my breasts done, but everyone notices my smile", reads a Transform ad campaign. Missing from the small print is that those who've undergone cosmetic surgery are more likely to have low self-esteem than those who haven't, and women who've had breast implants are three times more likely to commit suicide than the general population. Cosmetic surgery clinics like to say it's all about personal choice, yet we're forced to see their ads. To stop them implanting their toxic ideas, the Government should legislate to outlaw this advertising, as France did in 2005. "Confidence," claims Harley Medical Group, "starts with cosmetic surgery excellence." Wrong. It starts when we consign these pernicious ads to the dustbin of history.

Kat Banyard is author of 'The Equality Illusion' and founder of UK Feminista, whose campaign for a ban on cosmetic surgery ads launches this week.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Ashdown Group: PeopleSoft Developer - London - £45k

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: PeopleSoft Application Support & Development ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko prior to the start of the European Council Summit in Brussels last month  

David Cameron talks big but is waving a small stick at the Russian bear

Kim Sengupta
 

Isis in Iraq: Even if Iraqi troops take back Saddam’s city of Tikrit they will face bombs and booby traps

Patrick Cockburn
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003