Now more than ever it seems that North America is obsessed with looking desirable. While the want to look pleasing in the eyes of another is something that has been happening for centuries, the recent idea of what beauty is, tends to be quite limited. Aging women feel pressure from media and mirrors to look a particular way, no matter how hard the calendar has worked against them. With new technology and the constant discovery of surgical procedures which can be performed on the human body, women are seeking dangerous and costly ways to “fix” their faces.
Anti-aging is not the answer and women need to stop hiding their real bodies with replacement pieces put together by medical professionals in order to pause time for as long as they can get away with. Reading Catherine Redfern’s article “The Beauty Myth”, I realized that there is much more meaning wrapped around a wrinkle than I had presumed. Redfern focuses on the “anti-aging” claims made by the Olay Company. Apparently there are “seven signs of aging” all women should look out for someday (Redfern pp. 2).
Given out by the Olay beauty company, they include lines and wrinkles, uneven skin texture, uneven skin tone, noticeable pores, age spots, dry skin and skin dullness (Redfern pp. 3). Of course Olay uses these signs to diagnose a woman with aging skin only to prescribe their famous Total Effects line of products, with a promised result to reverse the look of aging skin (Redfern pp. 4). This pointless process of using a lotion every night to keep the look of smooth skin is expected to start at a young age and continue for the rest of a woman’s life.
The companies making age defying products constantly put out negative images surrounding the thought of getting older, often using young actresses and models with naturally line-free skin to promote their products (Redfern pp. 7). Although profit is a Hopkins 2 large factor of having a successful company, the idea of beauty presented to women buying their products is truly what keeps these companies running (Redfern pp. 8). Since when did getting older change from the fear of dying to the fear of a wrinkle?
Somewhere women got the idea in their heads that at some mysterious time between smooth skin and wrinkles, femininity will be lost. Beauty is supposedly defined by youth, slenderness and flawless features by the countless images put out by the majority of large media companies. The problem is not that these women are beautiful girls, but that women who do not obtain this image are not considered universally good looking. Seeing commercials for beauty products myself, I am constantly seeing women who are apparently older than I am, but yet have more youthful qualities.
It is understandable that a woman entering her middle ages would want to achieve smooth looking skin, but what about the younger women who do not have perfect skin to start with? Are they some sort of defect in this society of perfection? Other than drinking plenty of water and performing my usually routine of daily hygiene, I do not obsess with a difficult skincare regime. Deciding to purchase facial moisture, I had hopes of waking up with perfectly smooth skin, glowing in just the right areas. By beginning with wrinkle-free skin it did not sound like much of a challenge to me.
Waking up the first morning after I used my selected product, the glow I was hoping for looked more like grease. It is hard to tell if these products actually help some women, or just create a placebo effect on their minds (“Opinion” pp. 1). Using something to help the skin stay moisturized when it is not an issue for me, but when beautiful women are going under the Hopkins 3 knife just to shave a couple of years off of their appearance it scares me to think of what some women are willing to risk. Hollywood glitterati keep looking youthful even though the public is aware that many years have passed them by.
Having walloping amounts of money and constantly being judged by the media poses a need for them to enhance their bodies. False teeth, perfectly aligned and gleaming white, are a must for even men, but the real focus is on the women and what they do to keep their bodies in mint condition. Too many people are trying to become someone they were not born to even resemble. Changing the colour of hair, injecting foreign substances into the skin, or even getting a fake bottom attached, are just a few ways women try to prevent the inevitable from happening.
The huge success of the cosmetic surgery business, it gets me to think if “anti-aging” actually means “anti-human”. It is true that mostly every woman would prefer not to get any type of surgery done to their bodies, but feel it is the only way of erasing their age from the outside. While there is nothing wrong with using a lotion to keep skin smooth and hydrated, how far are some women willing to go in order to look younger than they actually are? Cosmetic surgery in North America continues to be the number one corrector of age.
While the plastic surgery area of medicine is controlled by mostly men, this trend of becoming beautiful through surgery was actually started by a woman (Davis pp. 2). Suzanne, or “Madame” Noel, as she was referred to, was the first respected surgeon to perform alterations on her patients strictly for physical enhancement (Davis pp. 2). Originally the purpose of these procedures was to allow aging women to appear younger in order to continue working (Davis pp. 10). Even in the early 1900’s the pressure to Hopkins 4 look younger was based on society’s treatment of older women causing them to seek out new ways of changing their physical age.
The type of surgery Noel performed on her patients was quite a breakthrough in changing appearance and is still used today (Davis pp. 54). The changes in cosmetic surgery and the growing need to make things drastic, the type of surgery Noel had been performing is now referred to as a “mini-lift” (Davis pp. 54). While beliefs of cosmetic surgery being superficial is denied by contemporary surgeons, claiming it is helping with the psychological well-being of the patient, Noel justified her operations as being done because of social and material reasons (Davis pp. 35).
Even if cosmetic surgery is supposed to be done for the patient themselves, the whole reason it began was to feel welcome into a society that has little respect for an aging female. Attitudes on the middle aged years of a woman’s life vary from one part of the world to another (Our Bodies pp. 5). Women experience age discrimination early than men do especially in Western civilizations (Our Bodies pp. 10). Setting standards for measuring the value of a woman on her age compared to her looks (Our Bodies pp. 10). Even a woman born with an undesirable trait is not a problem anymore because they can corrected the
issue after a few hours of minor surgery. The surgical lengths women go to in order to achieve their personal goals of becoming attractive are astounding and often in access of what they need (Gimlin 105). Debra Gimlin researched cosmetic surgery in the United States to uncover why American women are spending millions of dollars on cosmetic surgery alone (Gimlin 105). While men are also using forms of cosmetic surgery to reshape parts of their bodies, women make up for ninety percent of all Hopkins 5 cosmetic surgery patients in the United States (Gimlin 106).
The most common procedures include liposuction, breast augmentation, eyelid surgery, and face-lifts (Gimlin 106). Debra Gimlin’s research article “Cosmetic Surgery: Paying for Your Beauty”, describes erasing age or ethnicity markers as two very strong driving forces behind the phenomenon Susan Bordo refers to as “cultural plastic”(106). Cosmetic surgery is supposed to be a quick and permanent fix for genetic flaws women have struggled with for many generations (Gimlin 105). Living in an urban area where money is not an issue can allow for women to over indulge in their want for beauty.
It is expected of wealthy women to have the best of everything, especially a body. More rural area women are feeling unattractive and wish to be able to fix their flaws the same as wealthier, upscale women do. This can be extremely dangerous when plastic surgery is offered at a comparatively low price, often turning out as a botched procedure, ruining the patient’s life forever. Since I come from an area which is not fast-paced, I do not feel there is any pressure to improve myself through surgery from society.
Although the social pressures are not present, I still view media as a key indicator of how a beautiful woman should look which is not a self-positive attitude. I think like most women, I am able to see beauty in other women but I cannot find it in myself. Mirrors have been bashed for decades as being the enemy, but we are the one’s reflecting bad images onto ourselves, undermining the beauty. For my own personal research I conducted a short survey about cosmetic surgery and age groups. The women who completed the task were ranging in age from 18 to 76.
The differences between the age groups and how they felt about cosmetic surgery is Hopkins 6 definitely associated with glamorization of the female body in popular culture. The younger girls felt that they would someday get cosmetic surgery done to improve their bodies while the eldest women feel there is no need for any change to themselves (Hopkins). A woman who I asked to fill out a survey was approaching 50 said to me that, “It’s not that I feel old, it’s that I’m beginning to look like I’m tired and worn out. I don’t want to look younger, just fresher. More awake. “
The most popular type of surgery wanted among the women was liposuction to take care of their “fat” areas (Hopkins). While not many were interested in facial surgery a lot commented that they would have to wait and see how “bad” their faces got in the future. Only two women said they did not believe in cosmetic surgery out of the thirty who completed the survey. Quoting one 26 year old, “I don’t think it is important for women around [Nova Scotia] to have cosmetic surgery, it would be pretty sketchy to get it done by one of our doctors and too expensive to go elsewhere.
I guess we’ll just have to raid Wal-Mart of its diet pills and face creams. ” While cosmetic surgery is not a high demand in rural areas of North America, there is still the feeling of natural inadequacy of our faces and bodies compared to other women, leading us down a destructive pathway into the aisle of wrinkle cream. With the fountain of youth not readily available, older women can easily feel worse about themselves every time one more candle is added to the cake. The wisdom and genuine beauty older women possess is overlooked by too many people, especially themselves.
Social expectations of women are built up around young women and their physical features, ignoring the personality inside. Overall beauty does not have any Hopkins 7 limitations on it and we need to stop seeing it as a small portion of women in the world. North America and Europe have the worst representations of beautiful women according to many concerned feminists. Many countries around the world consider different types of women to be very beautiful and gracious. Often age and wisdom are key indicators in societies of a woman having great worth as a person.
North America does not have enough respect for older women and it is hard for such a society to see the inner and outer beauty of something that is considered old. Companies who support healthy aging of women are considered leaders because of the severe lack of beauty people tend to find in older women. The Dove Company feels that aging women should be taking care of their skin rather than changing it. Their new line of Pro-Age products is a way to fight against the “anti-aging” dream (Dove).
If women can learn to accept themselves as who they are other women in generations to come will feel better about themselves. We could learn to see women as feminine no matter how old she may be. The lines of her face should be considered a beautiful calligraphy of deep thought, laughter and experience while a lifetime of love and kissing are accentuated around her lips as her features grow as strong as her heart is (Redfern pp. 26). By Dove taking the initiative to push for a positive outlook on aging women, it has inspired many people to cover stories about beauty and age.
Dove has been working on the Pro-Age product for awhile. Ninety-one percent of women interviewed by Dove said that there was not enough positive media coverage of naturally aging women (Dove). Oprah Winfrey picked up the Dove story on Pro-Age doing a show on healthy skin at any age. Being such a large influence to women all over the world, Oprah has given Hopkins 8 confidence to many women and now she is targeting the skin of her own age group in order to create self-positive role models for upcoming generations (Oprah).
Cosmetic surgery is not the answer to every wrinkle that may come your way and is only a cover up for who you actually are. Lines are there for a reason, and can guide your way through memories. Never having a good belly laugh and holding in your frowns may prevent some wrinkles you would get, but nobody wants a life without true emotion. There is some kind of female role model who is important to everybody, and when they think of how they have influenced their lives, I am sure a wrinkle does not enter their mind. Before going under the knife, North American women need to think of the real
reason behind their dissatisfaction of their bodies. In order for women to improve how society thinks of older women we need to all work at overcoming our on personal fears of getting older. Women who are looking a bit “aged” now, need to re-educate themselves on wrinkles and see the story behind those beautiful lines of life. Works Cited Davis, Kathy. “Cosmetic Surgery in a Different Voice: The Case of Madame Noel. ” Women’s Studies International Forum. 22(5). (1999) 473-488. 16 Jan 2007 Dove Pro-Age. Unilever. 17 March 2007 Gimlin, Debra L.
“Cosmetic Surgery: Paying for Your Beauty”. Feminist Frontiers. 7th ed. Verta Taylor, Nancy Whittier and Leila J. Rupp, Eds. New York: McGraw Hill, 2007 Hopkins, Ashley. “Cosmetic Surgery Survery 2007”. Survey and Results. 18 Feb 2007 “Opinion” The Tide Online. 31 Dec 2006. 14 Jan 2007. Oprah. com. “The 64-Year-Old Grandma Who Posed Nude”. Harpo Productions. 5 Feb 2005. 18 March 2007 Our Bodies, Ourselves. “Midlife and Menopause: Exploaration and Growth” Our Bodies, Ourselves. 18 March 2007 Redfern, Catherine. The Beauty Myth: The Signs of Aging. 14 Jan 2007.