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Feminists and plastic surgeons unite to ban plastic surgery ads

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Eleanor Davis
WVoN co-editor

Feminists have joined with academics, authors and senior plastic surgeons to call on the British government to halt cosmetic surgery advertising.

In a letter published in The Guardian the signatories asked the government to take responsibility for the “aggressive marketing tactics of some cosmetic clinics, whether they be in public spaces, in magazines, on the internet or on TV,” which prey on the insecurities of the British public.

They include Fazel Fatah, President of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons; Clare Chambers, senior lecturer at Cambridge University; Nigel Mercer, senior consultant plastic surgeon at the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons; along with representatives from Object and the Women’s Resource Centre.

Unlike prescriptive medicines, cosmetic surgery companies are currently free to advertise as much as they like, wherever they like.

Websites such as cosmeticcompare.com group together cosmetic surgery deals in much the same way as cheap flights or spa breaks.

Kat Banyard, director of UK Feminista, told the Independent:

“Cosmetic surgery ads are a public health hazard. They frame surgery as quick and easy, trivialising the risks, like blood clots, post-operative infection and, in rare cases, death.”

In the wake of the recent Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) scandal in which women with breast implants across Europe were revealed to have been given unregulated silicon with the risk of leaking toxic material into their bodies (see WVoN coverage), the cosmetic surgery industry has been the focus of some negative press.

With the Parliamentary inquiry into the causes and consequences of body anxiety in the UK due to report back in the early summer, it is likely to take another bashing.

Reports show that half of young women aged 16-21 in the UK would consider cosmetic surgery and over one in 10 girls aged 11-16 would consider cosmetic surgery to change the way they look. The average age for a girl to start dieting is eight.

The most common procedure is breast enlargements, which have risen by 200% since 2002.

The Harley Medical Group argues, however, that breast enlargement surgery results in increased confidence and femininity, assuring women they are not ‘alone’ in their body insecurities.

It’s the appearance of cosmetic surgery advertising in popular culture that Elli Moody, policy and campaigns manager at UK Feminista, finds so dangerous:

“One of the important points about cosmetic surgery adverts… is that they affect everyone, not only those already considering having cosmetic surgery, in the way that they normalise cosmetic surgery and shape popular attitudes.”

Body loathing, insecurities and a lack of confidence are all manipulated by cosmetic surgery advertisements to sell a false sense of self-worth.

But the reality is that plastic surgery can lead to depression and even suicide.

That is why UK Feminista are asking people to sign this petition.

  1. I would extend this to beauty product advertising that subliminally promote plastic surgery – for example that Oil of Olay advert which states “not ready for surgery yet?” I find that incredibly offensive, oppressive and a dangerous message to be sending.

    • vicki wharton says:

      And get rid of airbrushing and digital manipulation from beauty ads too – as well as the use of young models to promote ‘youth’ creams – they are all fraudulent practice and done to mislead women about the benefits of the product.

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