By the age of 12 I had firmly decided upon my future self undergoing at least five cosmetic surgeries.
1. Boob job – I’m naturally small chested but at 12 so was pretty much everyone else.
2. Liposuction in my stomach – for pretty obvious reasons.
3. Liposuction in my legs – I was sporty so had muscular thighs which I believed to be ugly and fat.
4. Nose job – God knows why but for some reason I had assumed my nose was ugly and needed work done. Though I don’t claim to have a particularly attractive nose, a nose is a nose and were you to ask me to draw or describe this particular feature of my face I probably couldn’t due to how little attention I’ve paid to it in my life.
5. And Botox – I think I’d watched Amy Childs get it on The Only Way Is Essex at a Botox party when she must have been under 25 and decided that I must also prescribe to this anti ageing procedure as soon as possible to prevent the horror of being seen to visibly growing older.
That was when I was twelve. Luckily it turned out my future self didn’t actually want all these procedures and though not completely there (the boob job still sometimes tempts my small chested self in moments of doubt) I have pretty much accepted my body for all it is and come to love it. But at age twelve I was completely dictated by the expectations and standards that society set for me. I was the perfectly un moulded clay of youth open to being formed and manipulated by the world’s hands rather than my own. At age twelve I was the perfect example of what society is doing, and has done throughout history to women (and increasingly men) regarding their feelings towards their body. The media constantly forces down our throats what we should look like according to our gender, sexuality, age, race and everything inbetween. Everywhere we look we are presented with the ‘ideal’ image we should be aspiring towards: Curvy, yet slim, tall but not too tall etc etc it’s a series of juxtapositioning body types created from different people to create one amalgamation of the human body that I’m pretty sure doesn’t exist, at least not one that pleases everyone. Yet we are told that this is what we must strive to be, what we should strive to be. We are taught subconsciously by the media, as pointed out by Naomi Wolfe in the nighties, to constantly see our bodies as a project, in constant need of improvement.
From our first barbie doll (though that has now changed to some degree) being our play time representation of a grown women, to our favourite preened and perfect pop-stars on their posters to our teen mags telling us how to fix our hair and make up for the attraction of other, we learn that their’s is a standard set by others for us to try to reach, an unattainable one yes but no one teaches us that until we get older. To our young mind when we grow up we will look like that celebrity or that model and if we don’t then don’t worry because I saw it on TV you can just get a doctor to do it for you.
We also see the repercussions for those within the public eye if they do not meet this ‘standard.’ Tabloid magazines covered with bikini clad celebrities just minding their own business with two numbers plastered onto them instantly showing whether they’re weigh has increased or decreased. I recently saw an article in vogue, the irony of vogue commenting positively on a body type outside of the model form was not lost on me, about how designers won’t dress Orange is the New Black actress Dascha Polanco because of the perfectly, acceptable and healthy, weight is judged to be too high for high fashion. Go too far the other way however and you’ll be outed as anorexic and ‘skin and bone’.
It’s a cycle of too big, too small and that’s just the changeable aspects of our bodies. Should a woman be too tall or a man too small society/ the media deems them unattractive. Oh and by the way should you get plastic surgery to deal with the pressures placed upon you, you’ll most likely be harshly ousted as ‘fake.’
I’m not saying we need to hide ourselves from this outpouring but we need to be aware of what we’re being told and how that affects us so that we can at least try to defend ourselves against all the negativity that comes with not fitting the standard you’re told to meet.
However, we can also try to make the situation better as the introduction of new barbie doll varieties show, something is changing. The Internet has allowed millions of everyday people to present there varying bodies as beautiful (rightfully so). I follow so many Instagram account of beautiful women how don’t necessarily have society’s dream body yet wear their own with such confidence and pride that I’m left able to do the same, so inspired by their acceptance and unapologetic nature towards their natural form. And not only can they now present their bodies we have a huge platform which allows discussion of what is happening to us,how we feel about it and to demand better. Protests are now instant and worldwide and I’d like to think to some degree they’re working. As Bell Hooks put it, ‘until feminists go back to the beauty industry, go back to fashion and create ongoing sustained revolution, we will not be free. We will not know how to love our bodies as ourselves.’
By Eliza Caraher