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Sat Feb 9, 2013, 04:18 PM

Feminism and cosmetic surgery

I saw Marlo Thomas and Gloria Steinem on the Chris Hayes show this morning. When I was a little girl, Marlo Thomas represented independent womanhood to me. Though terribly dated from current cultural norms, That Girl showed in the late sixties an independent single woman--completely unique in television at the time. As a little girl, I wanted to be That Girl. By junior high, Marlo Thomas' Free to Be You and Me was the basis of music and theater performance instruction at the tiny Catholic school I attended. I loved it, and its messages had a formative influence. Marlo Thomas continues to contribute to work for reproductive rights and other feminist issues. I continue to value her many contributions to society.

As I watched her this morning, however, I was distracted and somewhat disturbed by her surgically altered face--her skin pulled tight against her bones and artificially inflamed lips.

I know that feminist views on plastic surgery vary. Some see it as an expression of bodily self-determination, while others see it as contorting one's body to fit unrealistic and artificial standards of beauty. I'm wondering how you all feel about it. I'm not asserting that women should not be free to make such decisions. Of course we must have full determination over all choices concerning our bodies. But plastic surgery makes me uncomfortable, particularly when it results in an appearance that is strangely artificial with facial character erased. I'm somewhat uncomfortable in writing this because it passes judgment on other women's bodies. While I can say I don't seek to do that, obviously that is part of what was involved in my reaction to Marlo Thomas.

The subject of plastic surgery gives rise to a host of issues regarding women, body image, agency, and choice. I'm interested in knowing what feminists on DU think about the subject.

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Arrow 21 replies Author Time Post
Reply Feminism and cosmetic surgery (Original post)
BainsBane Feb 2013 OP
kestrel91316 Feb 2013 #1
MuseRider Feb 2013 #2
JDPriestly Feb 2013 #8
jehop61 Feb 2013 #3
whathehell Feb 2013 #9
Sekhmets Daughter Feb 2013 #4
BainsBane Feb 2013 #5
Sekhmets Daughter Feb 2013 #6
Squinch Feb 2013 #7
whathehell Feb 2013 #10
Dollface Feb 2013 #12
Squinch Feb 2013 #13
Dollface Feb 2013 #11
monmouth3 Feb 2013 #14
gollygee Feb 2013 #15
BainsBane Feb 2013 #18
blue neen Feb 2013 #16
BainsBane Feb 2013 #17
blue neen Feb 2013 #19
BainsBane Feb 2013 #20
ismnotwasm Feb 2013 #21

Response to BainsBane (Original post)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 04:25 PM

1. I'm more interested in what women think and say than what their bodies look like

as a result of natural aging.

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Response to BainsBane (Original post)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 04:34 PM

2. I feel that if a woman is truly uncomfortable

with a part of her body or her aging process and if she has the means and the desire to make herself feel better when looking in the mirror then she should just get it done. Especially women who are in the spotlight, if they are uncomfortable it shows and in some cases can reflect in their manner of conversation. Many women are fine with aging and you can see them age very gracefully and confidently. As long as it is not something done to fit some fantasy driven fad I have no problem with it. If it is because of one of those fads I just feel sorry for them but still, it is not for me to criticize but have to admit to having my own little personal problem with it.

I would love to fix my ever wobbly neck! Will I? Dunno. I could care less what anyone else thinks about it but it torques me every time I look in the mirror. Arms not so much, graying hair is wonderful, wrinkles are coming but do not bother me but that damned neck! LOL, the chance that I would actually do that is pretty small but I can't say that I won't. It really really bothers me. lol

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Response to MuseRider (Reply #2)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 05:11 PM

8. As long as I don't look in the mirror, I like my aging face.

The moment of truth is tough. But, I like being looked at for who I am and not how I look. So my aging face brings me a lot of freedom. I can say hello to men who are perfect strangers without being afraid of being ogled or bothered. That is wonderful.

Maybe some women like to have that intrusion on your privacy when you are stared at. Yuck!

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Response to BainsBane (Original post)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 04:36 PM

3. You are so right

I too was very distracted by Ms Thomas' face. Both she and Ms. Steinam are about the same age (76 or so). But as a child of Hollywood, Marlo has fallen for that odd pseudo young image which looks ridiculous. Natural beauty is best. It's what is in our hearts and minds is what counts as beauty.

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Response to jehop61 (Reply #3)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 05:17 PM

9. Gloria Steinem is about 79. Marlo Thomas is 75.

I'm sorry...I like them both, but NO one looks that "young"

at those ages without surgery.

I thought Gloria looked good, although she HAS had work, no question,

but I thought Marlo looked particularly ridiculous...The woman

is SEVENTY FIVE and she's so "overdone" that she not only looks

literally, half her age, she looks like someone ELSE....I swear,

when I first saw her, I honestly did NOT recognize her.

When Chris, in his introduction, mentioned Gloria as the co-founder of Ms., along with

another name I didn't recognize, then introduced Marlo, I saw her

and thought "No, that's not Marlo Thomas..That's someone else,

-- must be that other woman who co-founded Ms" -- Seriously.

As a feminist, I'm not a "purist" about cosmetic surgery -- I'm 63

and not happy about looking older either, but please,

going back TWO generations is just silly.

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Response to BainsBane (Original post)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 04:38 PM

4. I was struck by how much more attractive

Gloria Steinem looked.... I am not being critical of Ms Thomas, it is her choice and if she'd had a better plastic surgeon I would be very happy for her.

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Response to Sekhmets Daughter (Reply #4)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 04:42 PM

5. same here

Gloria Steinem is an unusually attractive woman, but so was Marlo Thomas.
Of course the plastic surgery in no way diminishes Thomas' life-long activism for women's rights.

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Response to BainsBane (Reply #5)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 04:50 PM

6. Agreed. n/t

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Response to BainsBane (Original post)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 05:11 PM

7. Maybe its an issue of where you think your success comes from. Steinem was from the written

media where her ideas became famous before her face did. Thomas is from the visual media where her looks were an entree into a position where her ideas would be heard and noticed.

I don't really have an opinion about what another person does "plastic surgery-wise" except this: the lips! That lip plumping thing has never looked human on anyone in the entire history of lip plumping! You gotta know that before you go into it!

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Response to Squinch (Reply #7)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 05:21 PM

10. Yep, the limp plumping on Marlo looked particualry bad. I like full lips, but, it's not something

that looks good on everyone, and I don't think it worked for her at all.

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Response to Squinch (Reply #7)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 05:34 PM

12. Lip plumping. It makes me think of the Joker from Batman.

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Response to Dollface (Reply #12)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 05:35 PM

13. Exactly!

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Response to BainsBane (Original post)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 05:32 PM

11. I was among the distracted also. I saw the same effect on Dolly Parton's face.

But I'd need surgery to sit next to Gloria Steinem too.

Perhaps its more acceptable in some places to look like you've had work instead of looking like you had aged. The need might come down to genetics. We age at different rates. In any case, I'm still saving up for a neck tuck.

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Response to Dollface (Reply #11)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 05:54 PM

14. Oh, me too. I want my neck back and Jane Fonda is the one success story I'd love to emulate..n/t

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Response to BainsBane (Original post)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 06:16 PM

15. I imagine women in Hollywood face a lot of patriarchal pressure

to not age. It's too bad when they succumb to the pressure, but it's also understandable IMO.

It makes me glad I'm not in Hollywood. She faces judgement either way. I suppose all women do.

Edit: not intended as a negative response to your post. Just lamenting the pressure she's facing.

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Response to gollygee (Reply #15)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 10:28 PM

18. No question about it

I often wonder how that botox and surgery impedes their ability to act. They lose the ability to use the muscles in their face and show the full range of facial expression.

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Response to BainsBane (Original post)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 06:40 PM

16. Marlo Thomas had cosmetic surgery as a young woman.

Her face was surgically altered before she ever appeared on "That Girl."

IMHO, having the freedom to make a choice about whether or not to have cosmetic procedures is part of feminism. We should be able to make decisions about our own bodies, no matter what part of the body we're talking about.

Those decisions do not always lead to a better appearance in our eyes, but if it makes the woman (or man) feel better, well then, that's their right.

Sometimes it gets a little tough to accept those "character lines" and other signs of aging....I just wish the remedies didn't sometimes make people look like a completely different character.

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Response to blue neen (Reply #16)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 09:16 PM

17. I didn't know that

Was it a nose job? I know her father had a large, ethnic nose. I believe their ethnic origins are Lebanese.

I suppose it is really about bad cosmetic surgery because that's the kind that is distracting. It's not for me to judge others' decisions.

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Response to BainsBane (Reply #17)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 10:47 PM

19. Yes, she had her nose done.

If you google pictures of Marlo as a youngster with her dad, you'll be able to see the difference.

I also loved "That Girl". It really was one of the first shows about a woman having options in life. She was a wonderful mix of smart, funny, and gorgeous!

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Response to blue neen (Reply #19)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 10:55 PM

20. I also loved Cagney and Lacey

Fantastic show. I still love it when I see it. It's how much one remembers positive images of women in the media, probably because there were so few.

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Response to BainsBane (Original post)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 11:16 PM

21. I don't care much

Other than the fact that if a women doesn't maintain some level of attractiveness, she is considered a little less human and is subject to some vile attacks. I hate that.


Pity what's aesthetically pleasing has to be so gendered. Old men and old women look much alike in a way. Beyond gender, ageism itself limits people. I think people sometimes aren't trying to maintain artificial beauty, as trying to stay relevant by not looking old. This, of course is harder for women than a man, but affects either sex.

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