In a world of advertised cosmetic surgery, who sets the standard of what we should all look like?
As it becomes more possible and acceptable to look less ‘human’, how do we prioritise our natural individuality?
I have a tendency to overthink things. It’s not too much of a problem but it means I have to put a lot more effort into articulating my thoughts. It’s half the reason I started this blog. Please bare with me…
Last night I saw an advert for boob jobs.
On TV. On a popular music video channel.
Immediately it didn’t sit right with me.
To clarify, the advert wasn’t medical. It wasn’t for awareness. It wasn’t even surgeons or professionals bragging about their abilities or highlighting the benefits of using their services.
There were simply half a dozen women in their early twenties smiling and enjoying their time in summer clothes and beachwear. It wasn’t overly sexualised or inappropriate but it was definitely selling a dream.
Most adverts are designed to play on our emotions and insecurities to make us spend money but I feel like there should be a limit.
Adverts affect us all. Like how the square jawed, chiselled male model will silently convince you to buy the aftershave they showed once at the end of the advert. Even though you have no idea what it smells like.
Instead though, these happy women were there to convince us that their boob jobs made them happier. If you had any reason to dislike your chest while watching that advert, the claim was not subtle. The advert didn’t even risk that message being lost on us, it openly said:
“These girls had breast enlargements with us and all feel amazing!”
While exaggerating and simplifying benefits has been used in adverts for years and doesn’t feel like new territory, it’s worrying that the same model can be applied to life changing, body altering surgery. Especially so directly.
All advertisements offer a solution to a problem. But a girl or woman of any age just shouldn’t have to be told that the fix for her not feeling her best is a boob job. If you can convince people that breast enlargement equals happiness, who wouldn’t sign up?
And where does it stop? What line would we not cross to sell something?
My intention isn’t to preach nor attempt to police nationwide ad campaigns. Truthfully, the advert is just the extension of a problem we have probably always had, but is threatening to get a lot worse. Quickly.
If you don’t like something about yourself, society allows requests you to change it. Everything except your personality can be upgraded, enlarged, shrunk, redrawn, sewn in, taken out or sadly, even bleached. Science is interested in the ability to improve our physical form but popular culture is obsessed with making these developments the gold standard.
As our abilities in this area grow we will fundamentally change our impression of what the norm is for humans. Beauty is supposed to be subjective, but if you tell everyone they should look a certain way, and then you make it possible, it very quickly becomes a fixed benchmark.
Cosmetic surgery is not the problem; it is how and why we us it.
I want to make it clear that I have no objection to surgery and do not think anyone’s motives for attempting to improve their appearance should be called into question. In this example, I do not doubt that a boob job is a valid, advisable choice for some women but I dislike the idea of it being seen as the only option. If you want to have work done on your body no one should even challenge that. You should always be completely able to do so especially if it improves your self image and body confidence. Of course.
I feel uneasy, though, with the idea that someone would go to these lengths just because they are given the misleading impression that it will definitely, magically improve how they feel, or even worse, to keep up with the crowd.
To highlight this point, lip fillers are popular with people who want to make their lips look and feel fuller. Many people use this procedure, instead, to continue to enhance their lips to the point where it is no longer an imitation of natural human beauty. To say they look good is to compliment them against a whole new set of criteria. They are no longer enhancing the size of their lips to fit a perceived standard of beauty, they have created a whole new one.
When you create a new benchmark for what a face should look like, you change the reasons people want to improve it in the first place.
Teenage girls will no longer want to look like their favourite pop star, they will want to replicate the face their favourite pop star bought.
As science and society continue to stretch what is possible and acceptable in terms of our body image, it makes the extremes alot more extreme. If it becomes normal to be encouraged to change their body beyond what any human actually looks like and instead chase a standard they have created for themselves, what will that look like when they can push that standard outside of the boundaries that we have right now?
I don’t have the answer and I actually think it is quite arrogant to assume we can do anything more than guess.
Instead, I would challenge you to think about how prepared you are for the shift that is inevitably on the horizon. Adults should have the rational ability to draw a line between what they will and will not tolerate based on their experiences. Anyone growing up now will have a very different reality to base their decisions on. More than anything the next generation will need Empathy and Self Esteem in order to continue to recognise less superficial qualities. Parents and communities have the responsibility to ensure our children are engaged in the world they live in rather than just passively involved.
If my daughter had been in the room when that advert was on, at her impressionable age, I would have genuinely worried about the impact it had on her. Despite the fact we are raising her to be positive, confident and proud of the person she already is. I know it is my job to prepare her for the world that she is being exposed to now and, most importantly, for the world she will grow into.
Please let me know your thoughts in the comments!