A report this week proposed restrictions to the cosmetic surgery industry. This business is booming and currently worth £2.3 billion so it is incredible that cosmetic fillers can legally be bought online and injected by anyone; currently no qualifications are necessary. Fillers are used to smooth out wrinkles or bulk out buttocks or calves. They are injected under the skin. The report recommends they should become prescription only. There are also worries that there are no “sufficient checks in place with regard to product quality – most dermal fillers have no more controls than a bottle of floor cleaner. It is our view that dermal fillers are a crisis waiting to happen.” One only has to remember the PIP breast implant scandal to know that this is not just scaremongering.
The wider issue is why women want to have these procedures in the first place. Forty years after feminism and women are still so concerned about their looks that they will pay unqualified teenagers to inject poison into their faces in the vain hope of defying gravity and holding back the effects of old age. Celebrity culture and programmes such as The Only Way is Essex have contributed to the fact that 41% of girls aged seven to ten and 63% aged eleven to sixteen said they felt some pressure to look the way celebrities do. For youngsters with unformed opinions and pre-pubescent brains, it is almost understandable, if shocking, that they want to look a certain way. What is more distressing is that the likes of former Conservative MP Louise Mensch, very attractive at 41 years old, felt the need to have ‘work’ done. She went on Newsnight to put forward the case for having surgery and said she was pleased with the subtle result. She had, she told Jeremy Paxman, had it done for ‘maintenance.’ She was happy with the way she looked and wanted to keep it that way.
I was even more astonished today to read the (usually common sense) view of Virginia Ironside in my newspaper this morning. She defended Ms Mensch’s choice and admitted that she too had undergone the surgeon’s knife and fifteen years ago had a facelift. She claims, “it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. I didn’t have it to look younger. I didn’t have it done to attract blokes. I had it done, as I think almost all women do, for myself.” I don’t really buy this argument as surely it shows some sort of psychological flaw to have an unnecessary operation simply because you can, because you feel you are worth it. However it is wrapped up, it is nothing more than sheer vanity.
That women, and it is mainly women, feel the desperate need to retain youthful faces, have breast augmentation or vaginoplasty in a bid to look a certain way which they feel is culturally and socially acceptable is depressing and bordering on misogynistic. As Germaine Greer has highlighted, a woman is never more woman than before she alters her appearance because that is what the woman is, no more, no less.