Plastic Surgery Makes It to the Vatican
People love to hate aesthetic plastic surgery. Print media, social media, television, and radio all tell stories of overdone or botched plastic surgery.
Even the Vatican is dishing on the subject. From February 4 - 7, the Pontifical Council for Culture assembled to discuss "Women's Cultures: Equality and Difference." Cosmetic surgery, they pontificated, "can be aggressive toward the feminine beauty." They further asserted, "Plastic surgery is like a burqa made of flesh."
Plastic Surgery a Burqa of Flesh?
OK, the media does show an exaggerated, clearly fake female anatomy. So maybe plastic surgeons are preying on vulnerable women, creating cartoons out of humans.
But do those images truly represent plastic surgery? Or are they simply being used to sell magazines?
Who's Really Victimizing Women?
To figure out who's really victimizing women, look at the photos of celebrities which are more likely to feature bad lighting, no makeup, or odd facial expressions than they are to show bad results. Besides, good results, like safe landings, aren't news; no one wants to write about them.
Let’s leave the aesthetic plastic surgery fringe and visit the mainstream. Who's the typical patient, and why does she want aesthetic plastic surgery? Vanity? That’s what a lot of critics say.
But that’s not my experience. In my practice, I see women whose large breasts prevent them from running without pain, or because they're tired of men ogling at them at work or on the street.
Then there are those with breasts so small, no bra fits, and their only wish is to look like a woman instead of “a boy.”
There are also the 100-pound weight-loss patients whose billows of loose skin restrict both their mobility as well as their wardrobe choices.
I also see vibrant women with jowls and heavy eyelids who want to look as young and energetic as they feel. And in the springtime, when I see a young woman whose large, masculine nose disguises her beauty, hoping to feel feminine and pretty when she starts a new life at college.
What bothers these women affects them every day.
How Does Plastic Surgery Affect These Women?
The impact of aesthetic plastic surgery is best described by patients themselves. This is what a few of mine have told me:
“I feel pretty!”
“Now I have the freedom to be myself.”
“I never thought it would be possible for me to feel womanly or sexy, but I do!”
“I looked so old before, I dyed my hair to look younger. Now I look good enough to go gray!”
“What a boost this has given my self-confidence.”
“Before all I thought about was my nose, even hiding my profile view from other drivers at stoplights. Now I never think about it.”
“This surgery has transformed my life.”
Plastic Surgery and the Everyday Female
Media critics aren’t the only ones shaming women about aesthetic plastic surgery. Husbands tell wives to tighten their post-pregnancy belly skin through exercise rather than a tummy tuck. Mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, and boyfriends can all make women feel bad about having plastic surgery or even thinking about it.
In my own practice I’ve noticed that patients who don't have support at home are more likely to experience depression during their surgical recovery, and they’re less likely to be satisfied with the results. Dealing with loved ones' opposition takes a toll.
Sometimes women themselves wrestle for years with their own prejudices before they finally realize, "This isn't about vanity. This is about feeling better about myself."
As a plastic surgeon, I would never talk anyone into having aesthetic plastic surgery, nor would I schedule surgery on a woman who's trying to please someone else. My job is to guide patients to help them reach their goals. Only the patient herself can decide if aesthetic plastic surgery is right for her.
However, if a woman really wants aesthetic plastic surgery, and she’s a good candidate, shaming her out of it has its own set of consequences. One of my patients, a widow, waited forty years to have the breast reduction her husband had always opposed. Her only regret was that she hadn't done it when she was younger.
Most women who've had aesthetic plastic surgery are regular women. They're inconspicuously pushing strollers in the park, shopping for groceries, teaching seventh grade, attending board meetings, driving their patrol cars, or making dinner for their families.
It's time we saw aesthetic plastic surgery for what it is. If the Vatican would interview real women who’ve had aesthetic plastic surgery, I suspect the Pontifical Council for Culture might soften its language.
Attacking women who’ve had aesthetic plastic surgery is destructive, and it's done out of ignorance. While I don't expect the media to hush up any time soon, if someone close to you is thinking about plastic surgery, do your research before condemning the idea. If the goal is to improve her self-confidence, as it has for so many others --is that such a bad thing?