Beyond Botox, Part Three: This week Columbia University sociologist Joyce McFadden, author of the ongoing Women’s Realities Study, weighed in about the New York Magazine story “About Face,”  which examines the shifting aesthetic made possible – and, inevitably, nationally desirable by new developments in cosmetic surgery.

Pointing to the difference between the taut, dramatically altered visages of early boomers such as Cher or Michelle Pfeiffer (left) and the softer “improvements” for fortysomething stars like Demi Moore (right), NYM writer Jonathan van Meter quotes a friend to describe the result: “‘There is now a whole new class of women walking around with wiry little bodies and “big ol’ baby faces.” And they look, well, if not exactly young, then attractive in a different way. A yoga body plus the New New Face may not be a fountain of youth, but it’s a fountain of indeterminate age.” McFadden then quotes her study’s section on “Medical Procedures for Appearance and Aging,” which asked:

Click Below To Read the Poll and Responses

Generally speaking, do you believe women who have “had work done” tend to look (check all that apply):
A) younger and prettier
B) the way you imagine they looked when they were younger
C) basically the same
D) better in a way you can’t quite put your finger on
E) worse in a way you can’t quite put your finger on
F) weird
G) scary
H) like women who have had work done

78% of the respondents answered H. Tied for second place were D and F. Not a glowing affirmation of women getting the look they were hoping for.

I also ask in my study:

Do you see electing to have plastic surgery as a feminist statement in that women should be free to feel better about themselves in any way possible given how much youth and beauty are valued in our culture? Or do you see it as an anti-feminist statement in that it only perpetuates the value placed on youth and beauty in a way that does not allow women to be themselves and age naturally?

62% saw it as anti-feminist.

Whatever side of the argument you fall on, and whatever your personal beliefs, the premium our culture places on physical beauty is real and entrenched, and I don’t know if it’s even possible for women to escape its pressures. To enter into this argument means having to confront all the nuances of how we pursue “beauty”. How much of what we come into the world with is it acceptable for us to change? At what age? And from what motivation?

“Looking old” has true health hazards: Young ambulance drivers and EMT workers tend to refer far fewer patients to trauma centers for their injuries once the patient is past 50 – with the sharpest  dropoff for patients under 65:

A 10-year review of records for all transports of major trauma patients in Maryland found that people age 65 and older were less than half as likely to be taken to a designated trauma center than were those under 65…..[The study] found a lesser dropoff in trauma center transports for patients between 50 and 69 years old. “These observations suggest that currently young may be defined socially as those younger than 50 years, while old may be defined as age 70 years or older,” the authors write in yesterday’s Archives of Surgery.

In the Baltimore Sun, the study’s lead author adds that “People are operating on assumptions of what old is and what elderly patients need,” and that by 2050, about 39 percent of trauma patients will be 65 or older” Trauma is often seen as a disease of the young..But that’s changing. You have a fairly active aging population that is playing sports, being active and getting injured.” Newsmix respectfully suggests to Dr. Chang that he re-examine his own assumptions, and think about where and when he throws around the term “elderly.”

Showing those young call-center hipsters a thing or two: Having spend copious ink and millions of kilobytes on over-40 supermodels and celebrities, some newspapers in India are finding midlife heroines of a different sort in their own backyards:

Ila Trivedi was interested  in yoga but couldn’t pursue it because of time constraints. Her children are independent now. So at 42, she enrolled for a diploma in yogic education and became a yoga teacher. Now 10 years later, she’s happy with her decision. “I have plenty of time on my hands. Being involved with yoga feels good. I feel healthy physically and mentally. I also get the opportunity meet people,” she adds.

Sunita Ghosh, a painter, realised that she wasn’t doing much with her life. She zeroed in on a part-time course in early childhood education. She states, “I wanted a regular routine. Although I was busy with my painting, I did it only when I could. So I enrolled for afternoon classes. I finish my housework in the morning after which I attend my classes. I paint in the evenings or at night. I find this very relaxing.”

For all these women, it has been exciting to learn something new at 40. It has instilled a sense of confidence and given a new direction to their lives. Anandi Rao adds, “Once the children complete their education and become independent, our role at home is limited. So it’s better to utilise our free time effectively.” Ila feels it has nothing to do with monetary gains. One just wants to be mentally occupied.

By Chris Lombardi

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