By Emma Stydahar
Every morning I take the New York subway system to school. Before swiping my Metrocard at the turnstile, I am greeted by the friendly neighborhood Metro newspaper guy. These men and women are strategically placed throughout New York City’s subway stations aiming to pass out as many free Metro newspapers as possible. I usually look forward to this part of my day; scanning articles on Occupy Wall Street and Libya and the occasional puff piece, which is a much needed reprieve from my standard school reading.
The other day, just like any day of the week, I was leafing through my daily Metro. All was well until an advertisement caught my eye. Taking up a whole 3.25” by 12” panel (yes, I measured) of the newspaper page was an ad for a local cosmetic surgeon, thus taking my usually peaceful and serene morning ritual to a very angry place.
Upon first inspection of the advertisement, what was immediately apparent was the scantily clad, thin, well-endowed woman. Her puffy lips, bronze skin, thin waist and large bust made her the embodiment of society’s quintessential “beautiful woman.” Making things worse, twenty one little arrows protruded from different parts of her body, the other ends of these arrows naming procedures and treatments this woman had presumably gone through to achieve her look.
From the arrow pointing to her eye reading “BLEHPHAROPLASTY (EYE-TIGHTENING),” to the arrow pointing to her hip reading “BRAZILIAN BUTT LIFT,” to the arrow pointing to her crotch reading “Vaginal Rejuvenation,” this ad is selling more than just cosmetic procedures. This advertisement is selling society’s ideal version of “beauty” to all women and girls who see it. This advertisement contributes to the media epidemic that enforces conformity and objectifies women. This ad blatantly conveys the idea that a woman’s worth is her body, an exterior shell which should be cut away at, plumped up and thinned out until “perfection” is reached.
So ladies, according to this ad and health.howstuffworks.com, how much will you have to spend to achieve this “perfection”? That would be approximately $49,726.00. That’s right, just shy of fifty thousand dollars can buy you a body which our society’s popular culture has deemed sexually appealing.
Or we could as a society reject this idea that a woman cannot be attractive without surgical intervention. We could hold the media accountable for shaming us women into feeling the need to spend money on becoming sex objects, and concentrate on the good that cosmetic surgery can do. For example, the cost of repairing a cleft palate according to smiletrain.org is $250. That means that the money one could spend on these 21 cosmetic surgeries would cost the same as 199 children being able to eat and speak properly, and for the first time in their life, smile. I haven’t seen any ads for giving children the gift of smiles lately…
So you do the math. Twenty one cosmetic surgeries: $49,726.00. One cleft palate surgery: $250. One hundred and ninety nine children in developing countries get a second chance at life: priceless.