In Reshaping the Female Body: The Dilemma of Cosmetic Surgery, Kathy Davis upended the common sense view that people undergo plastic surgery because they want to be beautiful or handsome. Instead, she found that most people sought cosmetic correction because they felt ugly or strange. They didn’t want to be great-looking, or even good-looking, they wanted to be normal, unremarkable, to blend in with the crowd.
I thought of Davis’ book when I scrolled through Zed Nelson‘s photographic commentary on beauty, Love Me, sent in by zeynaparsel. There’s a lot to see there, but here I’ve pulled out some of the pictures that I think resonate with Davis’ findings.
“I’m competing with men 20 years younger than me”:
“To be honest I never thought that I needed it [labiaplasty]. But I read about the procedure in a magazine.”
Leg Lengthening Operation:
“Men’s Health magazine (USA) hasn‘t had a hairy chest on it’s cover since 1995.” Post-chest wax:
At his great blog, Work that Matters, Tom Megginson highlighted a pretty stunning commercial. In it, a woman in a dilapidated mansion looks disgustedly at a mildly repulsive carpet covering a giant room. She resigns herself to pulling it up, revealing a smooth hardwood floor beneath. And she hauls the mass of fibers to the street, only to return to a room newly covered again.
It’s a metaphor for the Sisyphean task of hair removal, of course. So what’s the solution? Well, it’s not rejecting the obviously unrealistic task of being female and hair-free. No. The solution is laser hair removal.
There was a time when the idea of sticking needles into one’s face was something that was to be avoided at all costs. Then there was botox. And it didn’t take long before certain segments of society were flocking to the needlers, begging to be stuck. Face needling has become so commonplace — so desirable, even — that non-needly products have been disguising themselves as needles, so as to attract consumer dollars.
Of what am I speaking? A product sent in by Ella Dilkes-Frayne. Ella saw posters in a mall in Melbourne, Australia for non-injectable beauty products sold in containers that mimicked syringes. The product, hoping to capitalize on the new acceptance of and desire for botox, is a great example of how socially and personally acceptable bodily intervention is always changing.
Over the past few years, I have known a number of people who have gotten engaged, and I’ve noticed a clear trend: within days of getting engaged, many women go on diets, with the goal of fitting a particular dress size by the time of the wedding. We have posted ads for weight-loss products that reinforce the idea that women need to get their bodies under control by their wedding day. Of course, the diet industry tries to convince women (and men) to diet all the time, but there is particular urgency once a wedding is on the horizon, because of course, a wedding is a performance. Women are socialized to dream of their wedding day, and the point is not just to come together with family and friends to declare your commitment to another person. You are also putting on an event at which the bride is the star, and this event needs to provide beautiful photos of the bride and groom to memorialize their love and prove they had a lovely wedding. Dropping a dress size (or two) is presented as one way to ensure you’ll look stunning on your wedding day, and in the photos of it.
However, Kirsten E. and Laura K. sent in a trailer for a new TV show that takes this idea of the pre-wedding beauty regimen to a whole new level. In Bridalplasty, women compete…to win a full cosmetic-surgery makeover before their Big Day:
The report below, sent in by Happy A., is about the rise of labiaplasty in Australia. It offers some fascinating insight into why it is that porn stars have such “tidy” labia. It turns out that the aesthetic has nothing to do with the preferences of men, women, or porn producers. Instead, pornography features vulvas reduced to a simple “slit” because rating boards require that soft-core porn show “only discreet genital detail.” Brad Boxall, Former Editor Picture Magazine, explains:
The only acceptable vagina as far as the Classification Board is concerned is one that is ‘neat and tidy’ in their eyes. They basically consider the labia minora “too offensive” for soft core porn.
Accordingly, porn stars themselves sometimes have surgery and/or their vulvas are re-touched to make their labia minora disappear. This practice may have far-reaching consequences if non-porn stars all over the Western world are suddenly feeling like they have freakishly large labia… all because the ratings board has decided that the true range of bodies is unacceptably crass.
In the video you will see actual footage of labiaplasty and genital re-touching, so it’s not safe for work or the squeamish. After the jump:
Davina A. sent in this ad from Today, a newspaper from Singapore. In it we learn about the horrible, terrible fate that befell Janet. The ad includes an image of a hunched-over, very sad-looking woman.
And what is her unfortunate condition? She has small breasts:
Text of the first paragraph:
Since young, Janet has always felt inferior about her small breasts. Constant teasing from her friends as a “washboard” totally destroyed her confidence and self-esteem. Things got worse when her boyfriend left her because of her small breasts. Subsequent failed relationships caused her to give up all hopes on herself. But thankfully, Slim Fit changed her life.
If you go to the Slim Fit website, they illustrate various types of breasts you might have that deviate from the perky, perfectly round ideal:
So what is Slim Fit? It’s a salon where they massage oils they call Propolis into your breasts to make them grow. There’s also a super high-tech version made up of “tiny nano-sized particles 2000 times smaller than the skin pores around the breasts.”
While this is a particularly striking and melodramatic example, you’ll find similar ads in many fashion/gossip magazines, promising women amazing breast enhancement by rubbing creams of various sorts into their breasts. All rely on the same logic: small breasts doom you to a life of spinsterhood, loneliness, and social ridicule. The problem isn’t that you have a shallow boyfriend who would leave you just because of the size of your breasts; the problem is that you couldn’t keep him interested. And the product provides an instant solution to your body’s deviation from beauty ideals, allowing you to buy not just the means to a “better” body, but ultimately to purchase love, happiness, and self-esteem as well.
UPDATE: Davina had a larger image and could read the rest of the text in the ad:
Thank you so much Slim Fit for giving me a pair of beautiful breasts which I’ve always wanted! Now that my bust is so voluptuous and shapely, I finally feel complete as a woman!
But it wasn’t like this before! Since young, I’ve always had small breasts with no cleavage at all. In fact, my breats were so flat that they were almost non-existent. Being constantly teased as a ‘washboard’ really upset me, making me lose confidence and self-esteem.
Things got worse when I started dating. I felt really insecure of my body. I knew my boyfriend minds my small breasts and it was ruining our relationship. I hated myself whenever I see him looking at other girls who were well-endowed. I felt really terrible deep down. I knew it was only a matter of time that I will lose him. And true enough, he left me shortly after. Subsequently, I had countless failed relationships. I felt really unattractive and ashamed of myself. I totally gave up hope and gave up on myself.
Months later, I came across Slim Fit’s advertisement on The Straits Times. I was quite skeptical initially. But I knew I had to do something about my life. I can’t go on like this. Thus, I plucked up courage to seek professional help.
Since then, my life has never been the same again! After just 5 sessions of treatment, I could see the difference! For the first time, I have a cleavage and my bust has never been more perfect! I met the guy of my dreams and this time, it worked! We have been happily married for 5 years now.
I want all women out there to know about Slim Fit Bust Enhancement! I will certainly regret it if I didn’t come to Slim Fit! Thank you Slim Fit!
- Janet Lim, Satisfied customer of Slim Fit
Are you facing the same problem as Janet? Why put up with your bust problems when Slim Fit can help you solve them? Be it enhancement, firming or contouring, be assured that you can trust Slim Fit for your bust needs.
He makes the following observations about what is “wrong” with “Asian” noses. Notice how he uses a language of deficiency that is completely contrived (“underdeveloped,” “poor,” “lack”) (all emphases are his):
…most Asians from Korea, China, Philippines, Japan, Hawaii, and Malaysia have underdeveloped nasal bridge. This makes their eyes appear to be far apart.
The nasal tip in Asians is often round, wide, bulbous, and of poor definition. The thickness of Asian nasal skin also contributes to the lack of nasal tip sharpness.
Nostrils in Asians can be flared and wide.
Lack of nasal bridge height can give the appearance of a short nose.
His language is negative, but also inherently comparative to an unspoken norm. “Underdeveloped” compared to what? Of “poor definition” compared to what? “Wide” compared to what? “Short” compared to what? Of course, in this context, the implicit ideal is a white ideal.