LIZ JONESFASHION THERAPYSneering at women who have plastic surgery is plain ugly
Talk about coincidence. In the month when we look at our bulging bellies after festive overindulgence, the issue of plastic surgery is in the news.
As well as the scandal of industrial silicone being used, erroneously, in breast implants, the unregulated use of dermal fillers has also come under the microscope.
Fillers — a front-page story trumpeted last Monday on the very day we were all thinking about our failing looks — could be ‘the next timebomb’.
If, like me, you have had just about every treatment and procedure going, you will be feeling very worried indeed. What does plastic surgery say about you Should we no longer just feel ashamed, but also afraid
Enhanced: Katie Price (left) and Amy Childs (right) are modern-day poster girls for larger breasts. But women have always done shocking things to themselves, Liz says
There has been debate about whether or not the NHS should remove the industrial-silicone breast implants, which is insane.
No one questions whether a smoker or a woman on her fourth child, with money in the bank, should be entitled to a free hospital stay. But, as always, it is the supposedly vain, frivolous woman who is under assault.
Those of us who have had cosmetic surgery or treatments are deemed vacuous, accused of letting the side down and of having more money than sense. And we should jolly well take the consequences, they say.
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On the whole, it is women who assault
other women in this way. Sarah Vine in The Times wrote last week that
she felt the issue of plastic surgery was related to class.
‘Take, for example, Conservative MP Louise Mensch complaining that no one takes her seriously.
‘Mensch is 40 but has the face of a 25-year-old. Who knows, she may just have great genes. Or not.
‘Whatever, her look is typical of
countless women her age of similar social status and means: a smooth
face and clear complexion, pert but modest-sized breasts, a lithe and
toned body: pure Made In Chelsea.
‘At the other end of the scale is the
TOWIE look, as espoused by any number of orange acolytes. It’s fake
six-packs, trout pouts, arched brows, shiny foreheads and huge,
Sarah Vine adds that she has not had
work done, and she seems rather proud of this. She says cosmetic
procedures are class-ridden, but I think she is being snobby.
Being dissatisfied with how you look is not a class thing, it is a confidence thing.
Unless you have had invasive
procedures, you cannot know what a patient goes through when making a
decision to allow a scalpel near her breasts, or a needle to be injected
into her face. The truth is, I had no choice but to change the way I
Whether my feelings about my body were
genetic, or whether I had been brainwashed by images in the media, or
defined by my class, I felt I could not go on living with my body the
way it was.
Before my breast reduction aged 29, my
surgeon told me I might die during while under the anaesthetic and that
my nipples could turn black and drop off.
I didn’t care. For some of us, no amount of warnings about our health will deter us.
Condemnation: Is criticism of people like Madonna reflective of class
Of course, making breasts bigger a la
reality TV’s Amy Childs, from The Only Way Is Essex, is probably more
frivolous than making them smaller, but who dictates what is right or
wrong I wanted small breasts to look like Yasmin Le Bon.
Women have always done shocking things to themselves, from wearing corsets to give us 18 in waists, to foot-binding.
Some are self-imposed, others inflicted on us by men, the media or social convention.
But my breast reduction meant I no
longer felt ashamed of my humongous udders. Although my facelift was
painful and the filler expensive, I can now, on a good day and in a
flattering light, look at myself in a mirror.
I think the condemnation of women,
from Amy Childs to Louise Mensch to Madonna (pictured below) and Anne
Robinson, is in itself reflective of class: the privileged look down on
those of us who dare to spend money on ourselves. They’d be fiercely
indignant were we to question how much they spend on their house,
furniture or school fees.
So, maybe surgery is a class thing,
after all — or, at least, a money thing. If you live on a housing estate
with no prospect of getting to Oxbridge, maybe ‘renovating’ yourself is
your only option.
Even on my Facebook page, the only photo of me is one aged five — I cannot bear to look at images of myself after that age.
So don’t blame us for being so silly
as to have had surgery, or implants, or fillers. Blame society,
education, the lack of plausible role models, our parents and our genes.
All this disapproval has precipitated a
new trend for face work in Hollywood — leaving in place the occasional
flaw. When I last had Botox, my nurse deliberately left a frown above
the bridge of my nose to make it look as though I hadn’t had work done.
But the way forward is surely to be
more open about procedures. Since having a facelift, I can spot the
telltale signs on famous women, all of whom deny having had work done.
But, by denying it, they risk making young women feel like failures when
their natural looks don’t match up.
As well as honesty, health warnings
and regulation, we need to address the issue of why women feel the need
to look a certain way. Issuing procedures with warnings isn’t enough —
show photos, too.
My mum never dieted, never wore
make-up, never dyed her hair or exercised and had a full set of false
teeth by the time she was 50. Next to her, I feel like a different
We should look at the changes that
have happened around us first — from foxy children’s TV presenters to
the prevalence of 16-year-olds on the catwalk — before we condemn those
of us who have been taken in.
Perhaps looking younger isn’t a bad thing. My mum felt her life was over at 50; I feel mine has only just begun.