“This unfortunate girl has so much extra weight that no diet can help her. In our clinic she can go through a surgery called liposuction that will make her slim and beautiful.” These words are not the product of some trashy television show or even a somewhat nauseating cosmetic surgery leaflet. They come from the blurb of a plastic surgery app introduced for children aged 9 and over, the aim of which is to “fix” the “ugly” patient, Barbie, in order to make her “beautiful”. The App, which was a source of outrage worldwide, has thankfully been removed by Apple and Google, yet its unsettling aftertaste remains.
However, the App itself is not the problem here. The problem is a society, which sees a demand for such Apps, and allows them to be introduced. The problem is a society that teaches girls from early on that they are not good enough, and must alter themselves drastically in order to be accepted. A society which, through its depiction of stick thin, airbrushed and fake-tanned women in the media and the pressure it places on women to reproduce this image, promotes a highly destructive warped perception of beauty and of what is important.
Is this a message that we want to spread throughout our schools? That the key to happiness and social acceptability lies in a dangerous, extortionate procedure and in conforming to an appearance norm? That a woman’s value lies in her appearance? In a society in which such a message is promoted, is there any wonder that eating disorders and depression are on the rise for adolescents?
‘Plastic Surgery for Barbie’ may have been taken down, but ‘Plastic Surgery for Barbara’ is still available, along with a plethora of media and advertising, consistently reminding us that we are not good enough. Hopefully, if anything, this scandal will open people’s eyes to the pressures placed on young people, and indeed all of us, in what is a superficial, conformist society.