The Sexist

When Will “Aesthetic Plastic Surgery” Empower Men, Too?

Plastic Surgery

Dr. Val Lambros is five years into a 20-year study of how the face ages. Every five years, Lambros sits a group of study participants in front of a 3-D camera, maps out their faces, and then painstakingly aligns the images to see what time has wreaked upon their pores, wrinkles, and facial structures. Lambros’ “Longitudinal Facial Aging Project” culls its subjects from those who will most benefit from its results—aesthetic surgeons. “Plastic surgeons reliably show up to meetings every year throughout their careers,” Lambros explains. At the annual American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) conference, held last weekend in National Harbor, Md., surgeons dutifully filed into Lambros’ exhibit booth to face the camera.

Lambros’ sample, while reliable, has one major limitation. “I need beautiful women!” Lambros called out to one female surgeon passing by his ASAPS booth, who agreed to get mapped. “The problem is, the vast majority of them are men,” says Lambros, who estimates that less than ten percent of his aging faces are female. “It’s a guy-dominated field. And men don’t age in the same way that women do,” he says. Lambros chalks that partly up to cultural perception, partly up to biology. “Society will see a 60-year-old guy as looking better than a 60-year-old woman,” says Lambros. “But women’s skin is thinner, too.” And Lambros’ female sample is not necessarily aging naturally: “Typically, female plastic surgeons will do fillers on themselves—the Botox and stuff,” he says. “You’ll be able to see that in the photographs, and it will invalidate some of the findings, but not all of them."

Over 90 percent of plastic surgeons are men; over 90 percent of their patients are women. Aesthetic plastic surgeons do not seem overly concerned with why that is. Despite the recession, the business model is strong—cosmetic procedures only decreased by 2 percent from 2008 to 2009. The demographics are shifting slightly—last year, women’s procedures were down 3 percent, while men’s were up 8—but the industry remains focused on the ladies. At the kick-off of the ASAPS annual conference, four male plastic surgeons convened at the head of a large, U-shaped table to announce the launch of “Project Beauty,” ASAPS’ new editorial arm focused on the way women look. After airing a few sample video testimonials from women—“I wanted to look more feminine in my clothes, and have more self-confidence!” one breast augmentation patient claimed before breezing down the street in a revealing top—the men took questions from the crowd.

Plastic Surgery

When asked why the vast majority of plastic surgery patients are still female, there was an extended pause, followed by a collective shrugging of shoulders. Robert Singer, a short, balding surgeon who greeted everyone with a kiss on each cheek, took a stab at it: “There are a variety of reasons. Men don’t want to give up control. They can’t put aside the time. They have a resistance to change. They’re not like women, who change their hair all the time.” At least one consumer found fault with the idea of a bunch of men dictating beauty standards to a bunch of women. Joan Kron, an octogenarian Allure columnist who writes an aesthetic surgery column for the beauty magazine—and whose smoothed face reveals a personal interest in the industry—assessed the project from behind a pair of oversize sunglasses. “I would trust your opinion on plastic surgery,” she told the men. “I wouldn’t trust your opinion on beauty. And I certainly wouldn’t trust your opinion on fashion.”

The ASAPS conference was teeming with gatherings like this one—male surgeons discussing how best to fix women’s bodies. During the conference, a panel of male surgeons convened to discuss the importance of jowl management, illustrated by a collection of middle-aged female jaws; a panel of male surgeons demonstrated how best to mark up a (female) face before a face-lift procedure; a male surgeon clicked through a series of photographs of the lower halves of women’s bodies—all dressed in identical white thongs—and recommended the number of joules he’d apply to each one.

Plastic Surgery

But on the exhibit floor, where the surgeons are inundated with new products and procedures to help augment their practice, women were everywhere. The floor was bursting with photographs of them—their faces wrapped in the latest in post-operative garment technology; their eyelashes fluttering from the effects of artificial lash-grower Latisse; their heads thrown back in ecstasy as their augmented breasts faced the camera. Across the floor, dozens of silicone breast implants were served up on platters, ready for prodding and squeezing; videos of their bloody insertion into women’s bodies abounded. A couple of live ones in bikinis and wedge sandals were splayed out on exam chairs as a non-invasive body-contouring machine canvassed their asses and thighs. They were not the only pieces of meat in attendance: In the corner of the exhibit hall, a sweating slab of pork stood in for human flesh; a couple of Megadyne reps sliced away at it with an electrosurgical pencil.

Plastic-6

Ronadró, a 75-year-old artist specializing in surgical art, has spent two decades casting the aesthetic surgery gender divide into bronze. On the exhibit floor, Ronadró displayed a dozen original sculptures specifically crafted for aesthetic surgeons. In New Dawn, a surgeon’s gloved hands peel away a woman’s wrinkled face, revealing a new, youthful visage. In Renaissance, a naked woman admires herself in a mirror as her discarded, old face piles on the floor with her robes. Art of Aesthetic Surgery depicts the aesthetic surgeon as an artist, creating a beautiful woman from a paintbrush; Magic Hands depicts him as a genie, conjuring a naked woman from a magic lamp. Ronadró’s masterpiece, In His Hands, situates the surgeon as God; in it, Jesus places his hand on a surgeon’s shoulder as the surgeon reaches out to touch the hand of his patient. “This piece was inspired by the Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel, where God is almost touching Adam’s hand,” Ronadró says. All of Ronadró’s surgeons on display in his ASAPS booth were men; all but one of the patients were women.

Dr. Laurie Casas, a Chicago-area aesthetic surgeon, was one of the few female surgeons who had a visible role in the conference leadership this year. Casas, who is president of the Aesthetic Surgery Education and Research Foundation, says the gender divide in ASAPS is easily explainable. “The number of women in surgery is low. The number of women in plastic surgery is low. The number of female plastic surgeons who can meet the rigorous requirements to be a member of ASAPS is even lower.” Why an estimated 94 percent of Casas’ surgery patients are female requires a more complicated explanation. “It’s not that men aren’t interested in looking good—they wear nice clothes, they groom their hair. But unlike women, they’re not conditioned into thinking about making a significant change. They don’t even think of surgery as an option for altering an aging sign like excess eyelid skin or hanging neck skin,” says Casas. “For women, over the years, we’ve watched other women have plastic surgery. We’ve seen other women go through major changes in the way they look. It’s on our radar as an option. For men, I don’t think there’s a lot of open discussion about this. I think sometimes men are uncomfortable even thinking about the topic.”

Plastic-2

Women, too, have suffered from a culture of silence surrounding their aesthetic surgical procedures. In the ASAPS exhibit hall, a representative for Innogyn hawked a laser employed in a form of aesthetic surgery that has finally hit the mainstream: “designer laser vaginoplasty.” “This has been going on for 80 years, behind closed doors,” says the rep, who declined to provide his name. “A woman would come in after childbirth and say, hey, doctor, while you’re down there, could you do a little tuck or a pull or a cut? Before, people thought that vaginoplasty was just for the Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous set, and strippers. Only now is it finally out in the open.” The representative referred to this development as “empowering.”

Finally, women are free to talk about our vaginas and what’s wrong with them. Someday, men, too, will be empowered like us.

  • pipi long stockings

    artlicles like these always make me mad. The beauty industry is so fucked up.

  • Jenny

    There is nothing like watching your mother go through having a mastectomy and subsequent reconstructive surgery to make a person vow never, ever to have elective plastic surgery. This article is an excellent affirmation of that decision.

  • Em

    Plastic surgery may be the culmination of years of the crazy shit women have been told they "should" do to fix whatever's supposedly wrong with their natural bodies. But that doesn't make it any less insane. Seriously, even minor surgery is dangerous--why would you expose yourself to that much physical harm just to deny how you are? If millions of years of evolution/god's hand (whatever you think) went into what we are now, what could be wrong with us?

    It is beyond time we stopped letting men dictate how we should look--especially men for whom women trying to change their bodies is lining their pocketbooks.

  • Ezequiel

    is there someone not certain that women are much more concerned since day one on their looks than men?

    Is it a lie if we say that women go into surgery because men want them to?

    Will men look women who doesnt have plastic surgery on their boobs and butts?

    no, no, yes.

    Men dont dictate fashion, nor beauty. We dictate what happens in the surgery room, even if we are bald or short, if we are the surgeons.

    and women are the main responsible for whatever they decide to do with their body. That is to say. We men would love to see healthy beautyfull women who doesnt need surgery to make a point on good looks, we do not demand only plastic women, that is entirely false. Thats a common assumption simply because, healty flesh and bone beautyfull women are just hard to find, even for women.

    They see plastic everywhere, jus as well as we do.

    Dont blame the short bald truth. The needle is your best friend, only if your last concern is your health and your top first is what we men look for (and u also dont have a f-- clue)

  • snobographer

    It's easy for me to resist plastic because I can't afford it. If I had money, things could be very different.

  • snobographer

    plastic surgery, that is.

  • kza

    It might make sense that all of the surgeons are male and the patients are female. If for some reason I was going in for plastic surgery, I would want a female surgeon, not a male one. The only reason I would ever want to look good is for girls so why would I want a guy to be the one making me all pretty. He doesn't know how to make a male beautiful (unless hes's gay). I'd assume that a woman who gets plastic surgery is trying to appeal to males so it makes sense that a guy is the one making her beautiful.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    kza, I think it's because men don't have time to undergo plastic surgery, because they're too busy performing plastic surgery.

  • Liz

    I think a 60-year-old woman who has taken care of her skin over the years (sunscreen, etc) and who hasn't had any work done looks much, much healthier and more beautiful than a 60-year-old woman who has tanned and Botoxed and face lifted herself into a shiny, unnatural state.

    But that's just me.

  • kza

    Guys do like getting their hands dirty. Maybe we just like cutting people open?

  • pipi long stockings

    "We men would love to see healthy beautyfull women who doesnt need surgery to make a point on good looks, we do not demand only plastic women, that is entirely false."

    of course guys would prefer "natural" good looks. You would prefer us to look beautiful without makeup, without surgery, and without clothing. But the kind of good looks you want do not come naturally to most women, so that end result that you want, the flawless natural beauty, isn't really natural after all.

  • kza

    II don't think men are looking for natural beauty all the time. Just natural is fine. Maybe it's just me but every girlfriend I've ever had has looked the same just waking up or all dolled up. But they don't listen to me, a certified male, they listen to Cosmo or whatev.

  • Dan

    When more women become plastic surgeons, more men will want plastic surgery. Isn't it obvious? No man wants another man fixing his ass.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    Dan, so why are 94 percent of Laurie Casas' patients female? That's above the national average.

  • noodlez

    HESS YOUR COMMENT#8 WAS SEXIST.

    ALLOW ME TO RETORT.

    MOST WOMEN ARE LAZY WHEN IT COMES TO THEIR BODY UNTIL ITS TOO LATE. THUS THE FAD DIETS, THE UNUSED EXERCISE EQUIPMENT AND THE NEVER USED TO ITS MAX GYM MEMBERSHIP.

    THE "WANT" TO KEEP UP WITH THE VIDEO CHICK OR GLAM GIRL IS WHAT REALLY DRIVES THAT INDUSTRY. THE INNER COUGAR OF WOMEN WHO WANT TO LOOK HALF THEIR AGE IS ALSO A GOOD SOURCE OF INCOME FOR THEM AS WELL. IF THEY JUST RELIED ON REPAIRING WAR WOUNDS AND PATIENTS WHO ACTUALLY NEED IT IM SURE THE GENDER NUMBER OF SURGEONS V. PATIENTS WOULD BE A LIL MORE EQUAL.

    kza IS DEA ON WITH COMMENT #7.

    EVEN IF Em'S COMMENT #3 WAS TRUE WHAT MAN IN HIS RIGHT MIND WOULD WANT A WOMAN THAT IS THAT WEAK MENTALLY THAT SHE WOULD ALTER HERSELF FOR ANOTHER PERSON'S SAKE. HE MIGHT AS WELL BUY A BLOW UP! AT LEAST THEY DONT GET HEADACHES OR WHINE ABOUT DUMB SHIT.

    I BELIEVE MOST NORMAL MEN LOVE WOMEN WHO ARE 100% NATURAL.

    "THE FAST TRACK TO PERFECTION DOES NOT MAKE ONE PERFECT"-noodlez

  • kza

    Yea Hess is always posting sexist comments. And jokes. TROLL

  • J

    kza by calling her a troll your just as bad. shut up

  • kza

    J by not noticing sarcasm you're even worse

  • http://guyinism.com DirkJohanson

    Why are 90% of hookers female and 90% of their payahs guys?

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    Surely because women don't want their asses fixed by other women, Dirk.

  • http://strassgefuhl.wordpress.com J.D. Hammond

    I've considered plastic surgery before, as a gay man - which means I'm probably part of a very large wedge of the small subset of men who consider such things. But I've decided against it, and not only because I can't afford it.

    Not that I'd really know, but I think one of the reasons women opt for it more is that, for men, there seems to be a rather enormous shame in being seen as vain enough to alter one's physical appearance. Which is also true of women. But what is also true is that, in a patriarchal society, almost everything women do is a source of shame, and the shame of age and "ugliness" is greater than the shame of vanity and artifice. It's the physical economy of an oppressive set of standards.

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