Posts Tagged ‘New York Magazine’
August 3rd’s New York Magazine cover story by Jonathan Van Meter was on “The NEW New Face” women are buying from their plastic surgeons and dermatologists.
His article highlights the surreal visuals we now associate with youth and beauty, and the procedures women undergo to bear them. He writes:
Somehow the idea of maintaining, preserving, and restoring feels less like cheating. The New New Face promises to reclaim something that was lost. But does it? Even the most successful and beautiful result is something entirely different from what a woman looked like when she was 30. …The New New Face is a fantastic approximation! An uncanny resemblance! It is, at its best, a close copy of youthful beauty, not youthful beauty itself.
If the “old” plastic surgery look was an image in a circus mirror, the new new face is an image in a mirror with abstruse imperfections that puzzle the observer’s mind. Women who choose to have work done do so with the goal of looking better, and/or younger. But is that what they actually get?
In the questionnaire on Medical Procedures for Appearance and Aging in my Women’s
Realities Study, I ask the following question:
Generally speaking, do you believe women who have “had work done” tend to look (check all that apply):
A) younger and prettier
B) the way you imagine they looked when they were younger
C) basically the same
D) better in a way you can’t quite put your finger on
E) worse in a way you can’t quite put your finger on
H) like women who have had work done
78% of the respondents answered H. Tied for second place were D and F. Not a glowing affirmation of women getting the look they were hoping for.
I also ask in my study:
Do you see electing to have plastic surgery as a feminist statement in that women should be free to feel better about themselves in any way possible given how much youth and beauty are valued in our culture? Or do you see it as an anti-feminist statement in that it only perpetuates the value placed on youth and beauty in a way that does not allow women to be themselves and age naturally?
62% saw it as anti-feminist.
Whatever side of the argument you fall on, and whatever your personal beliefs, the premium our culture places on physical beauty is real and entrenched, and I don’t know if it’s even possible for women to escape its pressures. To enter into this argument means having to confront all the nuances of how we pursue “beauty”. How much of what we come into the world with is it acceptable for us to change? At what age? And from what motivation?
You know what the most provocative response to my questionnaire was? One of the questions asks women to go down a list of medical procedures and check the ones they’d had done. Among them are botox, thermage, tummy tuck, liposuction, nose jobs, and so on. The follow up question is: If you’ve had any of these procedures, please describe what influenced your decision to do so, and one 43 year old woman wrote:
I had buck teeth [and got braces when I was 11]. My looks improved greatly. I’d do it again in a minute. Why isn’t that included on your list?
How do we draw the line in our judgments? Is breast reduction accepted while breast augmentation is derided? Or is it the other way around? And where does hair color fit into all of this?
Do braces seem to fall into a different category because they’re gender neutral? Or do we not consider braces enhancing? Because with the exception of a severe cross bite, I can’t think of a dental impairment that would keep teeth from functioning well enough for someone to get by. If you can chew your food and nourish yourself, there’s no mechanical need for braces. It’s usually a cosmetic decision.
From the 11 year old girl who doesn’t want to be branded with a nickname because of her teeth, to the 55 year old woman whose altered face is unnatural enough that it can find no resting place in any age group, this much is true: The societal messages that confirm for girls and women their greatest value is beauty, are inextricable from the private worries of our individual psyches.
To what extent are we trying to protect ourselves in these ways, and to what extent are we complicit in making the problem even more complicated for ourselves and our girls? These are questions each woman has to consider for herself.
I don’t have the answers, and, at 46, I wonder if my thoughts on this topic will modify at all over the next 10 or 15 years. But I can tell you what soothes me right now when I’m facing some physical change due to growing older. I’m soothed when I look at my peers, and I see changes in their faces and bodies that reflect the changes in mine.
I can also tell you, that ever since I was a little girl, the woman I’ve aspired to physically model myself after is my grandmother.