What’s an already-fit, already-thin woman to do when she lives in a society that demands unreasonable thinness and unattainable physical perfection from women? Get micro-liposuction to get rid of “bra fat” and “back fat.”
Now, the article naturally makes these women come off as shallow and self-involved. But I feel them. I work out fairly often, I eat well, my parents are both thin, I’m average weight for my height, and I generally feel ok about my body. I try to set a good, feminist example by being happy with the way I look. But I’m also a young woman who was born and raised in the United States, who read teen magazines and watched television, who understood from childhood that “You’re so pretty” was one of the best compliments a girl could get, and who learned quickly beauty and thinness were deeply intertwined. So even though I have a perfectly “normal” body, and even though I don’t think very many people would call me fat (although I’m sure they’re out there), and even though I have high self-esteem and I don’t buy into the idea that my appearance is anywhere near the top of the list of my best qualities, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I also obsess about these spots — I have fat knees, I have side fat, I have back fat, I have thick calves, I have chubby arms, I have weird pockets of fat on the outside of my thighs that no amount of running and exercising will get rid of. And in the moments when I’m obsessing about these things, I ultimately end up fantasizing about sucking them out.
Shallow? Sure. Are there thousands of other things that my time would be better spent thinking about? You bet. But the beauty standard is one which demands work and sacrifice from women. As Naomi Wolf emphasizes in The Beauty Myth (read it if you haven’t), beauty is an acheivement, not a natural state. What’s important isn’t simply being beautiful — it’s putting in the time and the effort to try to be beautiful. That much, I can understand.
The article uses generic words when referring to the “people” who get this sort of surgery, but it’s clear enough that the clientele is overwhelmingly female. Are there men who have had micro-liposuction? Sure. But I’d be willing to wager every penny in my bank account (which is only about $50, but still) that it’s virtually only women who are asking to have, say, their pubic areas liposuctioned. I just can’t imagine many guys walking into a plastic surgeon’s office and saying, “Can you help me, doc? My cock is too fat.”
The article raises the question of where the medical community has to ethically draw the line. But where do we, socially, draw the line? At what point do we say that this beauty thing is all too much, and we’re going to take proactive steps to shift our definitions of beauty?
I’m not holding my breath.