The Queen of My Self


The holiday season brings many parties and celebrations of all sorts. And lots of occasions for dressing up and wanting to look our best at any age.

Are we seriously still judging women for getting plastic surgery?
By: Frances Dodds 

…Continued from Friday, December 8th…

Cosmetic surgery (including noninvasive procedures like injectables, chemical peels, and chemical rejuvenation) is advancing to the point that the frozen façades that made punch lines out of many a Beverly Hills housewife will soon be a thing of the past. Already, unquestionably, more of your own acquaintances have had work done than you realize. Last year Americans spent $16 billion on cosmetic surgery; 11.7 million people had noninvasive procedures alone. If we can’t tell whether someone has had something done or we’re not quite sure, is that more acceptable to our feminist sensibilities? Don’t we dismiss a subtle nip or tuck as “her little secret” until it becomes evident—at which point her choices become public domain and within bounds to foist our philosophical tsk-tsks onto her face and body?

Laura Devgan, MD, a plastic surgeon in New York City, says she thinks most judgments about plastic surgery are simply made without much information or empathy. “Something I’ve really learned to appreciate in my daily job is that it’s very difficult to walk in another person’s shoes,” she says. “You may think that rhinoplasties are for vain, frivolous Hollywood types, but if you’re someone who has always felt bad about the way your nose looks, and you can’t take pictures in a certain way, and you’re always doing your makeup in order to camouflage it—then maybe getting your nose done is just the thing that enables you to come out of your shell and move forward with your life. I honestly think it’s very misogynistic and damaging to put people in a box and say that caring about this thing negates your intellectual capacity to care about all these other things.”

Chrissy Teigen is one of the most beloved celebrity ambassadors of “realness at this moment, and she’s jovially claimed, “Everything is fake about me except my cheeks.” Look no further than Joan Rivers, who once said, “I’ve had so much plastic surgery, when I die they will donate my body to Tupperware,” to know that going under the knife (… a lot) hardly slices away at your self-awareness. Neither Betty White nor Gloria Steinem approved of plastic surgery in theory, but both fessed up to having their eyelids done. Sheila Nevins, the longtime president of HBO Documentary, said, “I had a face-lift. I am vain and somewhat superficial. But I’m also complex and deep and wide.” And Mika Brzezinski herself acknowledged after the Trump Tweetmageddon that she’d had her chin “tweaked.” “The skin under my chin,” she said. “I’m pretty transparent about what I do, and I think it looks awesome.”

So who do we allow to be our role models as feminists? Who do we accept as aspirational, and why? Where falls a middle-aged CEO who decides to get a breast lift and liposuction so she can stop feeling insecure every time she lays down the law to a boardroom? Is she doing it for others or for herself? Does it matter? If that CEO opted not to have the procedure, would she be an even better role model—for white-knuckling it through the insecurity? Yes, some would say, because she sets an example of what it means to live in a real woman’s body at all stages of life. But do we really expect all women to make examples out of their own bodies? Aren’t we suggesting that what they’ve accomplished with their minds aren’t enough?

This isn’t about trying to normalize or encourage plastic surgery. No one should ever, ever, ever be made to feel like they should change something about themselves, and the proliferation of plastic surgery in our culture has many downsides. It’s expensive, for one, so getting work—and particularly “good work”—becomes a class indicator. For another, our culture’s beliefs about who is allowed to get plastic surgery are deeply entrenched in our views on race, like everything else. But when it comes to the principle of the thing, let’s be realistic: The desire to preserve youth and enhance beauty has existed since the first human caught a glimpse of their reflection in a rain puddle. Now that we have tools to actually do this in some capacity, do we seriously think this is going away? Talking about the issue honestly and openly is a way to take power back from men who believe they can cheapen our thoughts and exert control over our bodies by pointing out our insecurities and “fakeness.” Maybe the first step is to stop framing the choices that women make to change their bodies as “inauthentic” or even decisions made indisputably for men. As Dr. Devgan says, “Plastic surgery doesn’t need a public service announcement or a popularity campaign. It’s just a situation where people need to get off each other’s backs a little bit.”
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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to

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