Plastic surgery has become very commonplace as the prices for procedures have dropped. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 91% of all surgeries for a total of 11 million procedures were performed on women in 2008 alone. We live in a society that constantly scrutinizes our bodies while imposing standards that have become increasingly unattainable. For women, the added pressure of sexism makes the failure to conform that much more problematic. From the dolls little girls play with, to the images in magazines, perfection is the only option that is effectively given to us.
According to US Magazine, Heidi Montag recently had an interview with Ryan Seacrest in which she discussed new details in her plastic surgery marathon:
“In addition to familiar-sounding enhancements — nose, cheekbone and chin jobs, eyebrow lift, breast enlargement, fat injections — Montag said that she also ‘had my back scooped.’ When Ryan Seacrest asked her to clarify what a ‘back scoop’ is, Montag replied, ‘I actually didn’t know. I might be the first one to try it. It carves out your back a little bit.'”
The fact that even after the surgery that Montag was unable to be coherent about the procedure reveals an issue with informed consent and her understanding of her body’s appearance. No patient should ever undergo any medical procedure without being fully aware of what is going to occur and what the risks are. Though plastic surgery has become routine, going under general anaesthesia should always be understood as a risk — patients have died on the operating table.
There is a tendency to dismiss Montag as someone who is unstable, but the American Society of Plastic Surgeons reports that in the year 2008, multiple cosmetic procedures performed at once increased 9% and repeat patients also went up by 7%. It would seem that Montag may be a bit more typical than we would like to admit.
In an interview with Good Morning America, Heidi had this to say about her surgeries:
“I’m not addicted; if I were addicted I would have had ten plastic surgeries. Well, ten times. I really had two different plastic surgeries. I had one three years ago and then I had one where I had several procedures done weeks ago. If you’re addicted to something you have to do it all the time, not once every couple years.”
Magazine covers have referred to her as addicted, but Montag has only technically had two surgical incidents, one of which one involved multiple procedures in one day, which has become a somewhat common phenomenon. Are we policing this situation due to Montag’s gender? Few will openly discuss the procedures that they have had, yet the number of plastic surgeries performed in the U.S. means that Montag is far from special.
When questioned about the message that she sends out to her young female fans, Heidi Montag had this to say:
“I’m living in my skin and it’s my career and my life. You only have one and I want to take advantage and be the best me in and out, every way.”
Montag’s statements get to the heart of the matter. Though her plastic surgeries were undertaken to fully comply with the disciplining of the female body, the fact that she is so criticized speaks to the way in which women’s decisions regarding their bodies are always open for question in our society. Consider that if Montag had not had any surgeries, there would still always be those who would be willing to alert her of what they viewed her physical flaws to be. How is it possible for Montag to win in this situation?
There have been allegations of sickness, and yet we know from the treatment of other celebrities that altering one’s body has become a necessary part of stardom. Whether with males or females, we demand an impossible standard. The fat-shaming of people such as Jessica Simpson, Kelly Osbourne and Gabourey Sidibe serve as an example of how badly the public treats female celebrities in particular.
Even if it were to be discovered that Montag suffered from body dysmorphic disorder, it would not be acceptable to cast her aside as a crazy woman run amok. In fact, the very idea that she may indeed be ill has been used as justification to attack her decision. Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a psychological disorder that often manifests in the form of conditions like anorexia, bulimia and even excessive overeating. It is completely debilitating, because those who suffer with it are obsessively worried about their appearance and the judgment of others.
When we consider that Montag makes her living in Hollywood, which is continually perpetuating an idealized female form, would her alleged sickness not be a matter of social creation, therefore making it part of our collective responsibility? We can only ridicule her as the weird addicted woman because ableism has become a normalized part of our discourse.
It would be easy to simply dismiss Montag as some silly young woman who doesn’t know what she is doing. Yet she, like every person walking this planet, was born into a society that both limits and shames us. We may not like her personality, or even how she makes a living, but we should seriously consider how the ways in which the discipline applied to her affects all women. If we are not free to make decisions about our bodies without being subjected to undue shame, we are not really autonomous beings.