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A look into body image – is it really improving?

With cosmetic surgery on the rise this year, is the media really to blame?

At University, I was bombarded with theories of beauty in the media and the effect it had on the public. We went through realism vs. representation in advertisement to sexualisation in music videos. There was a mixture of far-fetched to downright obvious, yet, I don’t believe I know anyone who wouldn’t want to be perfect, but what is perfect and what will we do to become it?

The plastic surgery we have today is a more recent invention, however, the earliest nose jobs date back to BC. Even then they had a definition of attractiveness. But now you can rarely find a celebrity who hasn’t had a nip or tuck here and there. Most of whom would admit this; Jamie Lee Curtis told More Magazine in 2002 that “I’ve done it all, I’ve had a little plastic surgery. I’ve had a little lipo. I’ve had a little Botox.” We all know Sharon Osbourne and Dolly Parton wouldn’t be ashamed to admit their surgery, in fact, they’d probably be proud of how they look and what they did to get there.

But what once seen as a quick fix to look younger, as your body changed with age, has now turned into a young generation that is forced to believe there is a certain way a woman should look. There’s been a wave of reality TV shows such as ‘TOWIE’ and ‘Geordie Shore’ that almost promote boob jobs, nose jobs, fillers and Botox to young people. ‘TOWIE’ even went as far as to host a ‘Botox party’ in one episode, in which many of the girls had their faces injected on TV.

The BAAPS (British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons) have highlighted that in 2013, cosmetic surgery across the board had risen by 17%. This is the highest increase since the recession in 2008 and breast augmentation was still the most popular procedure, despite the PIP scandal in 2012. An interesting statistic was that liposuction had increased by 41%. Have we become lazier? Do we not have enough time to do it the old natural way? Does the media give us unrealistic expectations to aim for?

Recently there have been a lot of, shall I say, challenging authenticity of beauty. As I’m sure many of you have seen, Victoria’s Secret launched their new ‘Perfect Body’ Campaign. Although their intensions may have been different, all this has done is display ten slim, ‘beautiful’ models with the phrase ‘the perfect body’ printed on them. All this says at a first glance is that these women are perfect and that if you don’t look like them then you are not. What’s even worse is that these woman have most probably been Photoshopped, so even they don’t look like the perfect body. There have been celebrities who have openly been disgusted at how much they have been Photoshopped to get rid of flaws, make them skinner and look younger. We’ve even seen ‘Photoshop fails’ around the internet that have made models’ body parts look unrealistic and just plain impossible.

Kelly, 21 says, “I would 100%. I’d get my boobs done in a heartbeat, I would also get my tummy done if it doesn’t return to it’s normal state after children, because I’m not happy with the shape of my body and would love to one day look in the mirror and feel truly happy. I feel like I expect my body to look like celebs but it isn’t ever going to look like that”.

The problem is that it’s not just happening in magazines and on billboards, another recent story that has taken the internet by storm is the ‘Topshop’ Mannequin. In the image, the woman who is a size 8-10 is stood next to a mannequin that almost definitely promotes an unhealthy body image. We are surrounded by this controversial image, which makes it hardly surprising that young women want surgery.

Charley, 21 who has had her boobs enlarged told us “I’m glad I got mine done because it massively boosted my confidence. It wasn’t that I ever wanted big boobs, I just really didn’t like the shape. I wouldn’t have gotten them out in front of boyfriends before I had them done and I feel more in proportion with my body now.”

Despite all this negative media, there have been efforts to buck this trend. In 2004, ‘Dove’ launched ‘The Real Dove Campaign for Real Beauty’. They wanted to widen the definition of beauty, after a study showed it had become limiting and unattainable. In 2006, Spain banned overly thin models that would be seen as ‘unhealthy’. More recently ‘Debenhams’ introduced size 16 mannequins (the British average) in 2013. This year we have seen Meghan Trainor sing about being bigger and beautiful (although this is questionable, as it suggests only one body type is a step in the right direction).

These examples show there is a change in attitude in the industry, however its efforts are still overruled by the unattainable and unrealistic. I’m not suggesting that the media is entirely to blame, or that surgery is wrong, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a variety of people in the world and media? And if we wanted surgery it’d be because we wanted to look a certain way and that certain way didn’t have to be what the media told us.

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