Friday, January 11, 2008

Chop Chop

I mentioned briefly in my podcast on Jan 7th about the recent Which? survey that had revealed that cosmetic surgery salespeople were pressuring women in to surgery they really didn't want. Today Julie Bindel in the Guardian interviews cosmetic surgery guru Wendy Lewis and very politely refrains from pointing out that she looks kindof freaky. Not that a woman should be judged on her appearance but when one spends her life telling other women how great cosmetic surgery is - you would be forgiven a quick peek to see how well it's going for her. And Sadie Nicholas in the Daily Mail has a lengthy piece too - for some reason accompanied by a photo of a very glamourous model with dotted lines on her face - although whether that's supposed to be showing us, before, after, the ideal we're supposed to aim for or the ridiculousness of suggesting already stunning women could be put forward for surgery I do not know.

What all of the reports show is that cosmetic surgery is being sold in a false, aggressive and dangerous way. And not just a little bit, like the way double glazing people or dodgy estate agents sell things - lies, pressure, tricks. There is even a case where a saleswoman waits until a client is sedated for one lot of surgery and tries to sell her a couple more things while she is passing out. There are outright lies in the published before and after photos - which in one case are of different people. People are sold botox while they are drunk, with the procedure performed on the spot.

I'm not saying no-one should have access to surgery if they want it, that's up to them. However, we need a significantly better regulated industry. We need an end to time-sensitive discounts on surgery, bulk discounts and salespeople working on targets and bonuses. We need to regulate the qualifications needed by surgeons, the hours they can work and the complaint and problem-resolution system. We need our media to highlight the risks and downsides of surgery - such as the ones experienced by the women on this site - and sales people and adverts to be obliged to explain those risks. Given how out of control the situation is I think a cooling-off period is probably a good idea, just a couple of weeks to make sure people really want what they're being offered.

But we also need to create a society that puts less pressure on women to look "perfect" and to value themselves purely on their appearance. That means loads more "ordinary" women in the media, an end to air-brushing and an end to all that lad mag nonsense.

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