Posts Tagged ‘botox’

The other day, in the midst of a meeting of my paper’s editorial staff, I found myself waving my Feminist card in a manner reminiscent of when I used to referee kids’ soccer games, and had to deploy the whistle-yellow-card combo. (More often than not, the recipients of said cards were not kids at all, but the grown-ups coaching them. But I digress.)

Anyway, back to the meeting: that week’s cover story was about the local congressional race, which is hotly disputed, and heavily watched, as recent redistricting means the seat is decidedly In Play. The longtime incumbent is a woman, a Democrat, in her 70s. And the race has been a slugfest. Thanks to the flow of cash from corporations — um, I mean people? — special interest groups, the national parties, and the campaigns themselves, one can hardly catch a post-season baseball game (go Giants!) without being subjected to a slimy back and forth of ads. (Is this what it’s like to live in a swing state? My deepest sympathies.) So, long story short: this particular cover story was about this race, and the cover design, in lieu of photographs, used an illustration — two toylike robot bodies throwing punches at each other, with caricatures for heads.

Stay with me: point coming soon.

We were discussing the story when an editor, a man I deeply respect and tend to agree with on most issues, said, “I have a problem with the cover. She looks so young! It’s like we’re showing favoritism.”

It was at this point, dear reader, that the whistle was deployed. “Would you say that about a man?” I asked — at which point a chorus of rabble-rabbles erupted, ultimately resulting in my never getting around to making my point. (I should add: I enjoy a hearty rabble-rabble session as much as the next editor. In fact, I brought it up precisely because I love a good rabble-rabble. You know, and because I did have a point.) The caricatures made both candidates look cuter, more cartoonlike, and yes, younger, than their real selves (such is the destiny of a caricature), but what bothered me was the implication that to make a woman look younger is to give her an advantage. Not an actress or model, mind you: a politician. (Nor, I suppose it’s worth saying, a woman in a political battle against another woman. Her challenger is a man.) That, for women, what trumps everything is appearance. That age can only be a disadvantage; that to look old is the worst handicap of all. And that, if one wants to help an older woman out, give her the proverbial leg up, the kindest thing one can do is to deploy Photoshop’s airbrush tool.

Now, I don’t think this editor was actually saying any of those things, but I do think that within his off-the-cuff remark was crystallized the message women are getting, at all times and from every conceivable direction. There is an entire industry devoted to the “fight” against aging. (As though there’s a chance of winning that battle. And when you consider the alternative–um, death–do you really want to?) And that industry is a big one. And it is aimed at women. (For aging men, marketers offer Viagra, and pretty much leave it at that.) And it is insidious. Because, for all the newfound opportunity and the plethora of options women now have open to us when it comes to answering the rather significant question of “What Do You Want To Do With Your Life?” (a bounty which, as we’ve written, is generationally new, leaving us without much in the way of roadmaps or role models), we are left to figure it all out against what amounts to a soundtrack of a ticking clock. (Ask any game show or action movie producer how to create suspense, and the tick-tock is it. In real life, instead of suspense, we get stress. Which, you know, leads to premature aging. But I digress. Again.) As I’ve written before, I believe it all comes together in a most counterintuitive way: our fear of aging is almost worse the younger we are. After all, when we’re told that our value does nothing but go down as our age creeps up, every day that passes is a marker on a road to invisibility. Irrelevance. Tick tock.

Is it any wonder preventative Botox is a thing?

A couple of weeks ago, I was hanging out with a friend of mine, who was talking about how she’s taken to pointing out men who are aging badly–“dumpy looking dudes,” I believe were the words she used–to her husband, because it irked her how much pressure women are under to look good and “age well,” and she wanted him to share in the misery. While I wouldn’t say that’s the best strategy I could conceive of, it’s certainly… a strategy. But I’m not sure a redistribution of the pressure to Anti-Age is the best we can do. What is the best we can do? I’m not sure. None of us wants to look old; and I have no doubt we all appreciate a photo–or drawing–of ourselves that makes us look younger than our years. But it’s worth thinking about why. And surely blowing the whistle every once in a while can’t hurt.

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If a feminist worries over her worry lines, frets over getting fat, or lusts after lipstick… but there’s no one around to witness it, can she still call herself a feminist?

They’re questions we all ponder at one time or another, I suppose. Is buying Spanx buying into an oppressive ideal? Does dabbling in fillers make one a tool of the patriarchy? Does plunking down your VISA at the MAC counter mean you’ve forfeited your feminist card? Who among us hasn’t felt that guilt, that shame, keeping your head down while silently praying no one spots you–enlightened, intelligent, feminist you–shelling out fifty bucks for two ounces of eye cream? Who hasn’t wondered: Are a touch of vanity and an ethos of empowerment mutually exclusive?

Sure, maybe we can coast through a couple of decades, smug in our certainty that we’d never stoop so low. And yet. Once we start to age, once it’s our forehead that’s lined, our jawline that’s softened, the tug-of-war becomes urgent. As Anna Holmes, founder of the pop-feminist website Jezebel, wrote in the Washington Post:

‘Wow. You’re really looking older,’ says the voice in my head as I peer into the bathroom mirror. Then another, this one louder and more judgmental: ‘Who are you that you care?’

Who am I indeed. The fact that I can be so profoundly unsettled by the appearance of a few wrinkles on my forehead doesn’t say much of anything good about my sense of self as a whole. In the same way that I’m sort of horrified at the increasingly unrecognizable face that stares back at me in the mirror, I’m equally unsettled that I’m horrified at all.

Who couldn’t relate? Internal debating (and berating) aside, though, the thing I’m left thinking about is how much this sounds like yet another false dichotomy. Virgin/whore, pretty/smart, plastic/natural, young/irrelevant. As though a woman can be either a gray-haired intellectual frump or a Botoxed blond bimbo, as though there were nothing in between. As though any person could be so simply defined. One or the other. If one, then not the other.

While my fear of needles (and, well, poison) precludes me from even considering Botox, I have no problem admitting that some of the hairs on my head have gone rogue (by which I mean gray)–and that I pay someone good money to make it look otherwise. I happily incur the expense of continued education, and of shoes. I giggle, and I engage in heated intellectual debates. I spend time pondering the meaning of life–and the size of my pores. I proudly call myself a feminist, and, yes, I shave my legs. What box do I fit into?

Perhaps the goal is not to worry so much over what one decision means for the label we’ve happily slapped upon ourselves, but to realize that a label is only part of the story. Maybe the goal is to forego the labels altogether, to open our minds, broaden our thinking, be a little more forgiving of ourselves, a little more accepting of each other–and do something a little more productive with all that reclaimed time and brainspace. Or perhaps the goal is simply to remember to think outside the box.

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That certainly seems to be the not-so-subtle message, when a quick scan of the ether brings headlines of Abercrombie’s latest foray into the offensive — the padded push-up bikini top for girls… like, 7 year-old girls — and this little item:

A San Francisco mom admits to regularly injecting her eight year old daughter with mail-order Botox… the mom stated:

‘What I am doing for Britney now will help her become a star.

‘I know one day she will be a model, actress or singer, and having these treatments now will ensure she stays looking younger and baby-faced for longer…’

Her daughter replied:

‘My friends think it’s cool I have all the treatments and they want to be like me. I check every night for wrinkles, when I see some I want more injections. They used to hurt, but now I don’t cry that much. I also want a boob job and nose job soon, so that I can be a star.’

Well, I guess we know who that padded bikini top is being marketed to. But here’s the thing: while the Botox story sounds over-the-top outrageous, in a world where seven year old girls are being sold padded bikini tops, it’s not that over the top. The more we absorb the message that our bodies are something to do battle with–that can always be “improved,” well, the more this sort of freakshow story makes sense. And here’s the other thing: how many seven year-olds do you know who drive themselves to the mall, or have a credit card to plunk down for a pair of “Cute Butt” yoga pants? Why are moms willing to subject their daughters to this?

Worse than the message that your body is wrong, worse, even, than the sexualization of ever-younger girls is the message that underlies it: that you are nothing more than your body. That spending your time and energy forcing your body into what ‘society’ — or, less face it, the media — deems acceptable is more important than, well, anything else. And hey, after years spent buying into that and struggling to achieve the cultural physical ideal, I guess it’s no surprise that some moms think they’re giving their daughters a leg up when they’re buying them padded bikinis and injecting their foreheads with poison Botox. But: doesn’t it seem that all of this distraction is a pretty effective way to dilute women’s energy? Who has time to fight for equal pay when there’s so much physical maintenance to be done?


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Hey there, boys, lookin’ gooood!

Two items that caught my eye on Wednesday made me chuckle at the ways in which tables can turn.  The first was a feature on girdles for men.  Yep, read that right.  But these “Ript Skinz” are not exactly benign man-versions of Spanx, nor are they silly derivatives of Kramer’s “mansierre”.   Nope, these babies are skin-tight compression garments that, says Skineez company founder Michelle Moran, are designed to smooth the gut, hug the butt and hide the man-boobs.  Right now, the line features thigh-firming bottoms, tight muscle shirts and, soon,  socks.  (Socks?  Pardon me? In the event you feel bad about your toes?)  They’re designed to be worn under everything from business suits to gym clothes.

Gym clothes?  Laughing, are you?  There’s even a bonus feature:  long-term wear promotes over-all skin-tightening:

According to Moran, the fabric in Ript Skinz, along with every other type of Skineez Skincarewear, is actually infused with a patented cosmetic skin-care formula that’s supposed to “rejuvenate, moisturize, tighten and tone the skin” as the clothes are being worn.

If this sounds to good to be true, plastic surgery specialist Dr. Drew Ordon from television’s “The Doctors” can vouch for it. He said Skineez gear “constricts the skin, stimulates circulation and smooths out the fat. If you stick with it, it’ll work.”

Ah, yes.  Stick with it.  Where have we heard that before?  But it gets better:  The girdles have been tested on NFL and MLB trainers and according to Moran, they’ve been wearing the undergarments to the gym during the off-season  “so they can still look as taut and toned as ever.”

“Ript Skinz will improve a man’s posture, give them better shape and enhance their upper body,” she said. “With all that, they’ll gain more confidence. It’s like having a spa wrap under your clothing every day that helps reduce those annoying extra 10 or so pounds that we all gain time and time again,” she explained.

All of which should build brio everywhere from the boardroom to the bedroom, right?  Which brings me to the second item,  a  little press release on Wednesday noting that, while cosmetic surgery procedures — including botox and lipo —  among men may or may not be increasing since its peak a couple of years ago, depending on where you get your stats, what is on the rise is men’s acceptance of getting work done.  Okay, that’s mildly interesting, but the pay-off was this little graf that suggested that one reason that men want to look their best is… feminism:

A third factor contributing to acceptance of plastic surgery for men is a by-product of third-wave feminism. Part of third-wave feminism is what is described as sex-positivism, where women are encouraged to make vocal judgments about sex and sexuality, including what makes men attractive. Statements of this type may make men more open about appearance-related concerns and what might be done about them.

You know where this is going, but let’s go there anyhow. Imagine, boys.  Having your appearance checked out by the opposite sex, at the gym, or even when you walk down the street, telling you to, you know, work it! Some of those opposite sexers might even be judging you based on your, um, abs.  Gee whiz.  No wonder you guys are  headed for the lycra and the botox.

Now, if only we girls could learn how to wolf whistle.


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