Normalising breast surgery

This month's issue of Australian Vogue contains a ‘‘Cosmetic enhancement guide’’.

This month's issue of Australian Vogue contains a ‘‘Cosmetic enhancement guide’’.

To flip through the February issue of Australian Vogue is to be assaulted by breasts. Nestled in the folds of the magazine is a ‘‘Cosmetic enhancement guide’’, trussed up to look like editorial. It is full of silken prose and soothing medical euphemisms. There is much talk of ‘‘facial rejuvenation’’, ‘‘volume correction procedures’’, and of course ‘‘breast augmentation’’. There are two types of breasts pictured: the imperfect ones, too saggy or small, too wonky or flat. And then there’s the augmented ones. These are perky and plump. As close to perfect as possible. You could happily read the entire advertorial without once confronting the fact that what these people are asking you to do is seriously messed up.

They want you to lay down wads of cash to inject you with powerful drugs that render you unconscious. Then they want to take a scalpel to your nipples, cut your breasts open and insert a foreign substance, before stitching you up again like a cloth dolly.

When did plastic surgery become so normalised?  It seems like not so long ago that it was a fringe practice, considered a little tacky, limited to sex workers and ageing celebrities. Now it is considered so natural, and so easy, that it is advertised in the world’s fashion bible, a byword for elegance and sartorialism, alongside Chanel handbags and Lancome lipstick.

Victoria Beckham - not widely known for her natural shaped breasts.

Victoria Beckham - not widely known for her natural shaped breasts. Photo: Getty

This week an unlikely coalition of British feminists and plastic surgeons called upon the British government to end advertising for cosmetic surgery. They say cosmetic surgery adverts serve to ‘‘recklessly trivialise’’ invasive procedures that carry ‘‘inherent health risks’’. No one is more aware of these risks than the tens of thousands of women worldwide who had breast surgery using implants made by the French company Poly Implant Protheses (PIP).

Industrial grade silicon is the stuff you buy in hardware stores and use as a sealant. You weather-proof doors with it.
It ain’t supposed to go in your boosies. The French and German governments have announced they will pay for women with PIP implants to have them removed. But in Australia (where about 12,300 PIP implants were sold between 1998 and 2010), Health Minister Tanya Plibersek has refused to go that far.

The taxpayer will foot the bill for the MRI scans of women with the PIP implants, to ascertain if they are faulty. But women who want the implants removed will have to pay for the operation themselves, unless a doctor finds there are legitimate clinical reasons why they need the removal.

Many of the Australian women with these possibly-dodgy implants have banded together. There is talk of a class action, and some are demanding the government pay for their removal operations. But our government, unlike the Europeans, has obviously taken the view that if you elect to have cosmetic surgery, you take your chances. The risks you take on are yours to live with.

I am with the Health Minister on this one. If you can scrape together enough cash for a boob job, then surely you can scrape together enough cash for a removal op, especially if you think there is a real threat to your health. All surgery carries serious risk. It amazes me that the power of female vanity and insecurity is so great that women willingly offer themselves for surgical ‘‘improvement’’.

But then it also kills me that an entire industry whores itself off this vanity and insecurity. And that a reputable magazine like Vogue - a magazine I love and cherish - would lower itself to advertisements that send the message that major surgical procedures are no biggie.

Oh, I know it’s not fashionable to judge women who get plastic surgery. And I don’t, not really. I just hate that slicing and lasering and Botoxing and filler-ing has crept stealthily into the mainstream. I hate that I’m subjected to advertisements of this rubbish even though I don’t seek them out. So I’m gonna keep railing against plastic surgery. Well into my wrinkly, saggy and flabby years.