This article in the Times today really highlights one of the issues which I feel really strongly about. There is such a normalisation of cosmetic surgery today and I find it really upsetting.
The study found that 46 per cent of girls aged 11 to 16, and 50 per cent of girls aged 16 to 21 would consider cosmetic surgery to make themselves thinner or prettier. The figures are even higher among under-16s who are not doing well at school. Only 19 per cent of girls whose performance was satisfactory or poor said that they would never have invasive surgery to improve their appearance.
I frequently get cross and ‘ranty’ about the multiple adverts for cosmetic surgery on the roadside, in the back of magazines, newspapers and the run of them in the shopping centre. My OH always tells me not to get ranty, if people want to have cosmetic surgery that is their choice. But this survey proves my point (which I have difficulty articulating) young girls (and I am sure boys too) feel pressured into having surgery – they are not happy with how they are. There have always been people who feel like that, but now there are options to get it fixed. And it is being pushed on us as a normal thing. There are television programmes offering cosmetic surgery as if it was the same as have a facial at the beautician. And this doesn’t even cover the general pressure to conform with the general beauty standard of what is in the media and how this can change young women’s perspective of what is acceptable and the extremes they have to go to attain this – eating disorders and cosmetic surgery.
It [the survey] found that dieting is prevalent, with girls as young as 11 saying that they have cut down on what they eat to stay thin. Almost half (42 per cent) of 11 to 16-year-old girls said that they cut out certain foods or control “to excess” what they eat, rising to 66 per cent of the 16 to 21 age group.
Wow, so nearly half of girls surveyed are on a diet. Not eating plentiful amounts of healthy, natural food, with a small percent of whatever they like (the eat well 80% of the time and whatever you want 20% of the time). If they are focusing on this now, I am fairly sure they will be focusing on food for the rest of their lives. They will never reach the standard they will want to get to – partly because nearly all images of women in the public eye have been manipulated beyond belief to an unrealistic standard.
I am very much of the opinion this is a form of oppression – this obsession with dieting. If you are obsessing about food you are unable to focus your energy on questioning why the world is working the way it is and if there is better ways we can do things. I just feel so sorry for girls growing up today, the pressure is beyond belief for them. I can say: fine I won’t read women’s magazines, skip adverts, not go to the shopping centre and not watch mainstream television. When I was working in an office this cut me out of a huge amount of conversations – I didn’t really care. But I can see for teenage girls not knowing who the latest X-Factor contestant is and how they are doing would be a social death.
I don’t have any answers. I can just rant and hopefully get others to change how they think. I’m not brave enough to do what Penny Red does with her big red pen, but maybe one day I will be.