Claire Black: Women should know the facts and not the fantasy

HOW often do you linger at the back of women’s magazines? I’d like to make it clear I don’t do it often myself. But take my word for it, alongside the ads for snoring cures and psychics, another kind of service is ruthlessly punted.

You might have thought that leaking pouches of toxic silicon and the daily barrage of pictures of A to Z-listers looking as though they are in desperate need of an EpiPen would have dented the popularity of cosmetic surgery, but no. The slim and smiling women who beam from adverts seem to suggest that with each nip and tuck, every problem can be solved. And it seems huge numbers of women believe them.

The cosmetic surgery industry in the UK is estimated to be worth £2.3 billion. Around 100,000 procedures are carried out each year and 90 percent of them are carried out on women. Nose jobs, boob jobs, tummy tucks, liposuction, face lifts, brow lifts, lip plumping, cheek plumping, labiaplasty, blepharoplasty (eyelid lifts) – women’s bodies are being subjected to an increasing range of invasive procedures. And although terms such as general anaesthetic, scarring, infection and pain are never mentioned, there always seems to be room for “flexible finance”.

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So a hearty “hear hear” to UK Feminista, the campaigners who last week called for a ban on such adverts, claiming they “ruthlessly prey” on women’s body insecurities and “recklessly trivialise” the health risks of invasive procedures. And good on those in the industry itself – the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons – who are backing them. It can be done; France banned such ads in 2005.

You might, of course, say women should be free to choose whether they want to have bits of their bodies chopped off, sucked out or stitched up. But they should know the facts and not the fantasy. Advertising influences us, the smiling faces and perfect figures in the ads make us wonder whether things really would be a bit better if our bellies were flatter or our thighs a bit smaller. Why do you think half of young women aged 16-21 now say they’d contemplate cosmetic surgery? Banning the ads won’t solve the problem of women’s poor body image, but it certainly won’t hurt.

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Are there things that are guaranteed to make you buttock-clenchingly, knuckle-crackingly, frown-inducingly furious? The sight of two wealthy, pampered and plainly inveterately stupid men grinning beside the bleeding carcases of rare animals that they’ve slaughtered – for fun – does it for me. Donald Trump’s sons, Dumb and Dumber, are the latest to be pictured with their “trophies” while on safari in Africa last year. I honestly don’t know what makes someone want to shoot and kill a leopard or an elephant, but I do know I wish it wasn’t possible.

I AM not prone to swells of nationalistic pride, but the launch of the Edinburgh International Festival 2012 programme set me off. The entire programme is magnificent but there is a distinct thrill in seeing such a strong Scottish contingent – Nicola Benedetti, Craig Armstrong, James MacMillan, the SCO, Scottish Opera amongst others. I may even be tempted to get my trainers on for NVA’s Speed of Light that will see Arthur’s Seat animated by members of the public gallus enough to run it dressed in light suits. August is going to be fun.