June 26, 2011

Happy Graduation, Honey–Europe or Lipo?

“Kid, you’ll move mountains!
So…be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O’Shea,

You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!” – Dr. Seuss

Graduation gifts used to include things like jewelry, a hi-tech gadget, a trip abroad, or maybe even a new car if that’s in the budget.  These days, the question is, new breasts or a nose job, and which one is more appropriate as a graduation gift. When I was growing up, I was relentlessly teased, called every anti-Semitic name imaginable and even dreamed of having my nose reshaped into something less Jewish and more American. At the time, “Ethnic Rhinoplasty” wasn’t in vogue, and my delusional dream quickly lost its luster. A lot has changed over the years—these days it’s common to surgically refine or remove one’s ethnicity with plastic surgery. In some cultures, it’s even considered a rite of passage. The desire for teens to alter their looks isn’t new, though: In 2005, the NY Times wrote about the surge in Botox treatments among young adults. At that time, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS),

People from ages 19 to 34 had 427,368 botox procedures; 100,793 laser resurfacing treatments; 128,779 injections of hyaluronic acid (Restylane or Hylaform); 29,160 eyelid surgeries; and 1,094 face-lifts.

Though recent studies show a drop in procedures, there is a still a desire to be wrinkle-free in an effort to defy the inevitability of aging. In fact, a new survey by ASAPS shows “more than half of all Americans regardless of income approve of plastic surgery.” As disturbing as it is, this trend of parents giving their grads the gift of surgical “enhancement,” is really part and parcel to this growing shift toward homogenization.

Certainly, for some teens, plastic surgery can be positively life-changing. For example: a child who’s subject to excessive teasing because of an severely misshapen ears may positively benefit from otoplasty; a burn victim can return to relative normalcy with appropriate plastic surgery; a breast reduction can allow a young girl to exercise without neck and back pain. On the other hand, what lies beyond what’s necessary for some is the skewed perceptions of beauty and perceived normalcy inadvertently thrust upon teens through social and mainstream media.  The innate dissatisfaction with how we look contributes to how we meet the world. To really illustrate this, we can look at the recent uproar that came about when a mother defended her decision to give her 8-year-old daughter Botox injections. Makes you wonder: What 8-year-old has wrinkles? Better yet, what 8-year-old is even aware of wrinkles?

Now, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS):

Statistics gathered over the last several years indicate a decrease in the overall number of cosmetic (aesthetic) surgeries of teenagers (those 18 and younger) having cosmetic surgery, with nonsurgical procedures including laser hair removal and chemical peels being the most popular in 2010.

These statistics are both good and bad. I mean, the fact that less invasive surgeries are on the decline is certainly positive, but I am concerned about the remaining high numbers of girls seeking these procedures.  We know teens are up against extraordinary pressure to look and be a certain way–some of it is normal adolescence–but when parents start giving their kids gift certificates for a new nose or new breasts, the lesson becomes less about self-esteem and more about trying to attain the pop-culture paradigm of perfection.

If we start by parenting our children with this idea that they aren’t enough, we end up sowing the seeds of self-hatred and dissatisfaction. Instead of laying a foundation of confidence and positive self-esteem, we end up paving a rocky road to negative behaviors, which inevitably contribute to disordered eating and eating disorders alike. This is a wonderful opportunity to look at what messages we are trying to give our kids. Growing up is tough; let’s not contribute to the social tyranny by fanning the fires of social awkwardness.

Bottom line? There are far more appropriate gifts for your teen than going under anesthesia and accumulating scars, no matter how small they are.

Originally posted at Visions Teen and revised for Feminist Fatale.

Image courtesy of Sarit Photography

October 17, 2010

Surgical Mommy Make-Over From Head to Toe (Military Discounts Accepted)

Filed under: Body Image — Tags: , , , — Melanie @ 6:49 pm

Photo taken Sunday, October 17, 2010 in the Morongo Valley.

Related posts:

Stretch Marks Don’t Discriminate

The Cervix is The Seat of The Goddess

I’m Pregnant But I Just Feel Fat

Plastic Surgery: A Family Affair

Celebrity Fitness Trainer to New Moms: “You Can Have Your Best Body Ever.”

Kourtney Kardashian Flaunts Her Post-Baby Bikini Body

September 21, 2010

Heidi Yourself? There’s an App for That.

This is just creepy. Plastic surgeon, Dr. Michale Salzhauer, launched a new app for iPhones allowing users to “Heidi” themselves by choosing from a menu of surgical treatments similar to the 10 procedures Heidi Montag endured while under the knife last year. This follows his previous app, iSurgeon, one of several do-it-yourself-first editing tools used by plastic surgeons to promote their services. Apparently, the plastic surgery industry has been hit by the recession and the ability to see what you might look like post-op is a way to strike up business.

In an age when younger women are seeking cosmetic surgery and the new horror show, Bridalplasty, the show that Jennifer L. Pozner calls “a headline-baiting reality show combining the desperation and body dysmorphia of Fox’s cosmetic surgery competition The Swan with the unbridled hyperconsumption hawked by wedding industrial complex series such as TLC Say Yes to the Dress, and WeTV’s Bridezillas and My Fair Wedding with David Tutera,” debuts on E! and even Heidi Montag has expressed regret about her procedures, the last thing we need is yet another way to bait women and profit off their insecurities.

Thanks to Karina O for bringing this to my attention.

July 23, 2010

Mad Beauty

Filed under: Body Image — Tags: , , , , — Melanie @ 3:12 pm

I found Meghan Daum‘s latest article, ‘Mad Men’ shares a lesson on beauty, in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times fascinating.

The women of the 1960s and their ‘period bodies’ with normal proportions are rare today, and something to be envied.

The fourth season of “Mad Men” starts Sunday, and with it another round of opportunities to both marvel and gasp at how much things have changed since the early 1960s. Much of the genius of the show, of course, lies in its ferocious attention to period details. From the entrenched womanizing and nonstop drinking and smoking (even while pregnant!) to children who play with plastic dry-cleaning bags and family picnics that end with a flourish of litter shaken insouciantly onto the grass, “Mad Men” leaves no antediluvian stone unturned.

That includes body types. Watch some of the commentary features on the DVD editions and you’ll hear the show’s creator, Matt Weiner, refer to “period bodies.” What he means is that just as the show applies painstaking care to finding sofas and kitchen appliances exactly like those you would have seen in that era, it also seeks bodies — particularly female ones — quintessentially of the time. That means no ripped abs or fake breasts, no preternaturally white teeth. (A lot of people wear eyeglasses too — the horror!)

Read the complete article here. Thanks to Diahann for sending this my way.

May 17, 2010

Tabloid Talk, week 4

Week four of Tabloid Talk features more of the same:

Relationships rank high in the tabloid headlines: 5 references, including beginnings, endings and pregnancy.

Heidi Montag appears on both covers this week and the focus is on her lack of individual agency as related to her body project gone wild through the relentless pursuit of “perfection” by continuously modifying her body.

The “body,” focus on women’s beauty and their assorted body projects have been a leading theme week to week. Dina, of the Real Housewives of New Jersey, is featured to the far left of the Life & Style cover and explains “Why I got a breast reduction.” Juxtaposed next to Heidi Montag’s looming headline, “Forced into more plastic surgery,” Dina appears to be a claim to body sanity. After all, Heidi Montag has been turned into a circus freak, an emblem of the industry’s standard of beauty gone awry.

And, of course, in addition to body talk and a focus on heterosexual relationships, no tabloid would be complete without the girl feud. This week, the “nasty feud” is between Kate Hudson and Cameron Diaz. The main issue? A guy, natch, and Kate thinks its Cameron’s way of paying Kate back for Kate’s hook-up with Justin Timberlake.

Looking at the pop culture landscape, women are rarely shown in authentic female friendships or in solidarity with one another. Women seem to be endlessly competing with one another in hot pursuit of the beauty myth, an unrealistic image of perfection sold to women as the primary indicator of worth, and men. Of course, I have stated time and time again, the former serves to nab the latter.

This article reinforces these ideas about “mean girls” waging war:

There’s plenty of bad blood between the two professionally. “Kate thinks that Camewron is an aging old-lady actress struggling to remain sexy and relevant,” the insider says of Hudson…

In a cultural environment that prizes female beauty, youth is a primary component in the way that beauty is constructed. Taking aim at Cameron’s age is a classic example of the way in which women are devalued as they age and the derogatory comments hurled at one another in spite, envy and competition.

May 8, 2010

What does a “real woman” look like?

The barrage of images of ideal beauty drown diversity, tout the unreal as real and leave us wondering, “What does a real woman look like?”

This is what real women look like (feast your eyes):

All photos taken by Melanie Klein, May 6, 2010, as part of a dual-part class project. The body collage and photo-shoot allowed students to compare and contrast manufactured images of beauty and authentic representations of beauty. Body collages were taped from floor to ceiling to allow students to “feel” the onslaught of one-dimensional images and place themselves in front of the mass illusion disseminated via the mass media and remind themselves that “this is what a real woman looks like.” Body image film to follow.

May 5, 2010

A letter to Hollywood and its beauty myth

Written by Dororthy Snarker. Originally posted at AfterEllen.com. Cross-posted with permission.

Dear Hollywood Dream Factory,

For decades you have been the Pygmalion to our humble lumps of clay. You have molded us, cajoled us, berated us and pretty much forcibly formed us into whatever shape you wanted. You have made us feel bad about our bodies, made us nip and tuck and enhance and suck ourselves to meet your standards. We’ve plumped and sculpted and even paralyzed vast swaths of ourselves to win your approval. Quite frankly, all this trying to look like Barbie is exhausting.

Now that some of us have reached the zenith of Plasticine perfection, are so taut and shiny that we stretch the bounds of reality, you decide you want something else. Plastic is out, according to a new article in The New York Times, and natural is in.

And so, for the first and possibly last time in my life, I feel bad for the Heidi Montag’s of the world.

Now, of course, I applaud any championing of normal and natural beauty standards. Women come in so many different and beautiful sizes and shapes that to expect us to conform to one singularly strict standard is not only absurd but unconscionable. Perfection is boring; flaws make us special.

Still this recent about-face from you, Hollywood, smacks not of an earnest belief in the underlying value of everyone’s true self, but a trend as fickle as flapper dresses and fake tans. While the Times article touts the “small but significant” wave of filmmakers and casting executives who are “beginning to re-examine Hollywood’s attitude toward breast implants, Botox, collagen-injected lips and all manner of plastic surgery,” if you read a little deeper you realize why.

It’s not that they suddenly grew a conscience. It’s that “the spread of high-definition television — as well as a curious public’s trained eye — has made it easier to spot a celebrity’s badly stitched hairline or botched eyelid lift.” Basically, the seams are showing.

So now instead of favoring the cookie-cutter American beauties you have so long demanded, studios has started casting overseas actresses – where there is less of a penchant to go under the scalpel – to pretend to be all-American girls. Over the last few years the influx of imported talent has been obvious including Anna Torv (Australia), Lena Headey (England), Rose Byrne (Australia), Yvonne Strahovski (Australia), Anna Friel (England – and as long as I’m ranting, I miss Pushing Daisies, dammit!).

And again, this is all fine and good. I’ve often praised our overseas counterparts for their fastidious refusal to futz with their faces. If you need to see what aging gracefully (and sexily) looks like, look no further than Helen Mirren. Wrinkles are hot, pass it on.

But instead of telling overly enhanced actresses the reason they’re being passed over for parts (and therefore stopping the cycle of unending alterations in its tracks), executives seem to be snickering behind these poor women’s backs. They are purposely not telling women with too much plastic surgery that that is the reason they aren’t being cast. Yet still they have no problem telling a newspaper that they think that “everyone either looks like a drag queen or a stripper.” This is an instance when being kind to someone’s face is really the cruelest thing you can do.

Look, Hollywood, you created this monster. This is your doing. You can’t just stuff it back into a box so simply. And you can’t pass value judgments on these women who were only doing what they thought you wanted in the first place without some serious soul searching. What is beautiful shouldn’t be based on the latest trend or the emergence of high-definition TV or anything but actual beauty. Is it good that you’re finally tired of the silicon and stretched faces? Yes. Is it your fault they exist in the first place? Big fat yes.

Gabourey Sidibe – beautiful. Meryl Streep – beautiful. America Ferrera – beautiful. Amanda Seyfried – beautiful. All different, all beautiful. Beauty isn’t a trend, it just is. Get it together, Hollywood.

Ms. Snarker

May 2, 2010

Heidi Montag: Pop culture fall-out

Filed under: Body Image — Tags: , , , , — Melanie @ 10:46 pm

Heidi Montag continues to be a tabloid focal point, prompting ridicule, cruel jokes and derision. After she unveiled her new self to the horror of many (including her mother), I  was impelled to blog on her surgical transformation in a way that didn’t simply chalk her up to a freaky circus sideshow or Franken-barbie, a name commonly used in the tabloids and blogosphere.

Lets be honest, she is not the only woman (of any age) to pursue multiple procedures at once or over a period of time. Unlike most women who keep these “beauty secrets” precisely that, secrets, Heidi exposed herself and helped fuel the initial media feeding frenzy in the pursuit of exposure and publicity. Clearly, Heid’s revelation wasn’t necessarily an intentional revelation to critically examine the truth behind women’s insecurities, beauty pressure and the often horrifying consequences of elective cosmetic surgery (she is half of the fame mongering duo formely known as Speidi, afterall). But she did pull back the curtain on a beauty reality for many women. That reality is the incessant pursuit of unrealistic and crippling images of beauty. This candid and uncomfortable reality doesn’t sit well with most of us. It forces us to confront the emotional and physical fall-out that the beauty myth leaves in it’s wake, a wake made large and wide thanks to the proliferation of streams of images that fan the flames of the all-consuming beauty norm. And, lets face it, most of these images are perpetuated in the seemingly benign environment of pop culture, a cultural environment dominated by mindless “reality” shows that depict women as stupid, superficial pop-tarts consumed with the reflection in the mirror and their relationships with men (the former used to secure the latter).

Perez Hilton recently blogged on the “Franken-Heidi” in training, the 15-year-old UK girl regularly injecting Botox as preventative maintenance.  Perez acts surprised but “botox babies” are nothing new. The New York Times published an article on this phenomenon in 2005 and this is the cultural landscape Montag came of age in, an era in which young girls seek extreme measures to maintain their looks before they’ve even developed a line. As much as her new face and enormous, overly-round implants make me cringe, I recognize her as a pop culture casualty that is held up as some sort of freaky novelty because it is too uncomfortable to admit that she represents the insecurities so many of us face on a daily basis (and the measures many are silently willing to take).

This recent Gawker post, articulates the toxic terrain Montag rides on and the frightening and sad result.

When The Hills premiered, in May of 2006, Heidi Montag was 19 years old. Which could very well mean that she signed her first MTV contract at 18. The network snared this kid, this real genuine kid, into their glossy trap and then just let her hang herself, over and over again, claiming some sort of documentarian remove when asked if they’d intervene. They simply couldn’t do it, couldn’t even acknowledge the swirling Oort cloud of Us Weekly frenzy that surrounded the cast, because then it wouldn’t be real. Only of course they do intervene, all the time, when it is convenient for them. It’s pretty much common knowledge at this point that the show is staged to within an inch of its life — nearly every look, conversation, relationship is false. So the audience at home is never quite sure what to believe. “Oh look how awful Heidi acts on this show, let’s be cruel to her. It doesn’t matter, it’s just a made-up show!” Which, sure, may have seemed, or been, true at some point. But now, with all of these surgeries, this willful and terrifying mangling of her body, Heidi has emerged as a deeply troubled and emotionally damaged lost soul, one who childishly offered herself up to a reality camera crew and watched, feeling helpless to do anything but not fight the riptide, as they stripped her bare, took everything off her, mocked her for taking what they’d offered her, edited her however they wanted, threw her family into the mix and tore them apart too.

And then in a final act of desperation, the old innocent Heidi finally kicking out the chair, Montag got something like ten plastic surgeries at once, changing her entire face and body to something immovable and unrecognizable. She became some sort of version of Heidi as she imagined the show defined her — pretty, booby Heidi with her shallow, fake husband — and MTV saw it, they saw it, and said “OK, let’s roll cameras!” anyway. So we watched last night as she went home to Crested Butte (that name, that name) and her family tried to mask their horror, until it was finally too much. Until the presence of the cameras was so looming and demanding that her parents felt they had to try to sputter out words and just ended up hurting her feelings. Heidi tried to chew, she tried to cry, but she couldn’t. So she just sat there, her eyes wild with the recognition that she can never go back, and you realized that MTV ruined this kid’s life. They gave her a platform to indulge her greatest insecurities, to stoke her deepest unhealthy desires, and they encouraged it and filmed it and sent it out to world while saying Ha Ha.

Heidi isn’t any different than the girls watching at home, just worse off. She was watching the show, watching herself, and seeing something distant and faraway. And she wanted it, wanted desperately for it to be real. So she’s just chasing her tail forever, while MTV films and makes bundles in cellphone advertisements. They pried open that hole in Heidi’s heart, and they basically put that shit in her face. At least they certainly funded it [italics mine].

April 29, 2010

Plastic surgery, a family affair

Did you think this was a scary sign of the times? My Beautiful Mommy was written by plastic surgeon, Michael Salzhauer M.D., and published in 2008 to help children deal with the excitement and stress of mommy’s efforts to “achieve beautiful results.”

Well, what about this? Reported last year, this 50 year-old-woman in the UK spent 10,000 pounds to look like her daughter.

Or the reports that plastic surgery among married couples was and is on the rise? Reported here, here and here. And, apparently, it’s not just celebrities like Gene Simmons and his wife but regular folks like the couple in Atlanta that run a construction business together.

Or, the latest trend, mother/daughter plastic surgery, like Christie Brinkley and her daughter, Alexa Ray?

Picture, Star Magazine

April 15, 2010

For every Britney there are countless Kates

I was still reveling in Britney’s unaltered Candies photos circulating the feminist blogosphere, specifically, and the internet, in general, when I read at HuffPo that Kate Hudson celebrated her birthday with a new set of breasts (story at UsMagazine, too). As I was digesting this bit of disheartening news, @RevoltRealWomen posted the link on twitter (I told you information travels quickly out here).

Why am I disheartened? When a woman as beautiful and as “perfect” (by mainstream cultural standards) feels insecure enough to get breast implants, there’s a big fucking problem out there for women. It’s an example of how impossibly perfect, and utterly *unreal*, these standards are. I’ll be blogging more on this topic in the next few days.

This also explains my skepticism on the importance of Britney’s photos. As I blogged last night (full post here):

Do these efforts matter? Well, yes. Of course.

Do they represent “change?” Not exactly. Real change will occur when these images are not the exception but the norm and these images do not represent a handful of images and in a sea of millions of taken-for-granted but absorbed images that counter their positive message.

For every body image “victory” like curvy French Elle or Britney untouched, we have countless Kates altering their bodies and succumbing to the endless pressure exerted by a merciless industry, body snarking as sport and beauty standards that can only be reached through outrageous and dangerous body practices such as going under the knife for elective plastic surgery.

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