The Trials and Tribulations of the Too Thin and Too Rich

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.

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7 comments for “The Trials and Tribulations of the Too Thin and Too Rich

  1. June 15, 2006 at 9:23 am

    It will never be enough – there is no objective standard of beauty. The most beautiful (agreed-upon by society) people will get “fine lines”, the older mothers will always get a stretch mark, there will always be something that someone can point to and say “not perfect”.
    My best friend obsesses because her thumbs are naturally slightly crooked. I think of that whenever Im tempted to obssess on some aspect of my appearance I dislike.
    If you love me you dont care and if you cant love me because of some perceived physical flaw then no thanks anyway.

  2. June 15, 2006 at 9:24 am

    Good questions.

    I’m not sure if the medical establishment has any ethical responsibilities. In the case of liposuction, they are providiing a service that customers are paying money for, which brings in capitalism – and what ethical responsibilities has capitalism ever followed?

    It would have to be a change in our culture/society, which would then reflect in the practices of the medical establishment. Going after the institutions does nothing when the center is shit.

  3. June 15, 2006 at 9:48 am

    I’m torn. On the surface, it looks ridiculous: Some people have way too much time on their hands, and way too much money, if they’re spending tens of thousands of dollars on . . . their elbows? Back fat?

    But here I am. I had liposuction on my neck and jawline because although very skinny (115 pounds) I had a hereditary double-chin that really, really bugged me for YEARS. Two years ago I came home from a family reunion thinking, “If I don’t do something about this NOW I’m going to look like a basset hound when I’m 50. I see what my relatives look like and frankly, I’m scared.”

    So, yes, the trend is ridiculous, but I’m the last person in the world who may judge it harshly.

  4. Peshna
    June 15, 2006 at 9:59 am

    Maybe American attitudes towards beauty aren’t always so bad?

    Here’s a comparison of the reaction between US teens and Italian teens to the concept of different kinds of beauty… (I’d post an excerpt of the article, but it is only a short commentary, so I’d be copying it in its entirety, and I suspect that would be an internet no no.)

  5. EL
    June 15, 2006 at 10:42 am

    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.”


    I’m glad you mentioned the pubic area lipo thing because that was the part of the article that really threw me. For one thing:

    “In Brazil, bikinis are very small, and she complained that a little bit of fat stuck out over her bikini,”

    Well, I’m having trouble picturing this.

    But another thing is that I find it interesting how women would be willing to actually forego sexual pleasure in exchange for “good-looking genitals”. I mean, I got a Brazilian wax once and it hurt while it happened and it numbed my genitals for two weeks afterward – I would never go do that again. Because I think of sex as for me, not as a presentation for my partner.

  6. Em
    June 15, 2006 at 11:29 am

    I don’t care much about plastic surgery provided it isn’t objectively harmful to the patient. Most implants are questionable in this regard. But moving your own flesh around until it’s in a shape that pleases you–go right ahead! If you get addicted to it and become a laughingstock, not my problem. If you are terrified of death and getting old, not my problem either. But I think the vast majority of plastic surgery patients have ‘one thing’ that has always bothered them and are very satisfied to have it finally off the radar.

  7. BStu
    June 16, 2006 at 10:23 am

    Blaming the people who feel these insecurities is just a way of belittling the results of cultural pressures without actually suggesting there is anything wrong with thos cultural pressures. The women getting plastic surgery isn’t ultimately the problem, only a sympthom. The problem is a culture which has established deeply unrealistic standards of beauty paired with intense pressure to maintain those standards. That women bare such an incrediably disproportionate brunt of this disfunction exposes it all as a deeply sexist system which serves to oppress women.

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