A new study claims that the ladymags downplay the emotional health risks of cosmetic surgery:
"Alongside beauty, clothing and diet advice, women's magazines present cosmetic surgery as a normal practice for enhancing or maintaining beauty, becoming more attractive to men and improving emotional health," says Andrea Polonijo, who conducted the research at UBC as an undergraduate honours thesis in the Dept. of Sociology.
We took a look at a few January issues, to see what kinds of advice was being dispensed. Cosmo announces that brides are giving their bridesmaids Botox:
It's almost like a suggestion, although if a "friend" did this to you, wouldn't you find it extremely underminer-y?
Marie Claire's "I Want Fuller Cleavage" story might gloss over emotional impact, but certainly doesn't neglect the physical feelings of Ning Chao, who is convinced her breasts are asymmetrical. She mentions something to her (now ex) boyfriend, who says, "Yeah, your left boob is slightly bigger, but it's no big deal." Chao deals with her "freakish secret" by wearing padded bras and then going to a doctor for Macrolane, a hyaluronic-acid filler for breasts. Even though 60% of women have asymmetrical breasts, Chao opts for the $6000 procedure, which goes like this:
[The doctor] injects the local anesthesia into my right breast using an instrument the size of a knitting needle. The pain is brutal. I can feel every push and prod, especially under the nipple, which feels like it's being sawed off.
Post-surgery, Chao's in so much pain, she writes, "I wonder if I've made a huge mistake." Now? "With my clothes on, I look the same — albeit without padding or pushup — but that's the point." Little is said about the emotional effect going from "lopsided" to symmetrical — or the fact that she'll have to do it all again in 12 months, when the acid gets absorbed into her body.
The December issue of Elle has fun, light-hearted story by Holly Millea about the new MiXto skin-resufacing laser. Millea offers up Beauty Director Emily Dougherty as a guinea pig for the procedure, which uses a "uniform layer of microdots" to burn off a layer of skin and renders Emily's face "awesomely grotesque." Emily gets hooked on Vicodin, so Millea decides she herself should try the laser, too — and drags her friend Liesl along. After a month, all three women all had sun-sensitive, marbled-red skin; after four months, one says, "I still have some brown spots, but they're fading." Liesl claims to look four years younger. Her proof? A guy tried to pick her up in Home Depot. Millea admits healing was "a long haul."
Never do any of these women stop and think: Do I really need to "fix" myself? If I'm so unhappy with myself, should I spend the cash on some therapy instead? Isn't it more important to be beautiful on the inside?
According to the study, "Magazines routinely present two "ideal" cosmetic surgery candidates… an unhappy, insecure, lonely woman looking to boost low self-confidence and self-esteem, and a successful, attractive, confident woman with high self-esteem who seeks cosmetic surgery to maintain perfection." The idea is that women view themselves as somewhere in between. But while the study found that only 18% of articles suggest cosmetic surgery may be detrimental to emotional well-being, none of the pieces we looked at even hinted at anything but happy ending. Oh, and here's an actual pull quote from the Elle story:
These women suffer for you, dear readers.