Well Being

Selfies, Plastic Surgery, And What’s Wrong With My Email Inbox: A Rant

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Blisstree Staff Selfies! Elizabeth on the left, Carrie in the middle, Sam on the right.

To introduce The Body Positive Month at Blisstree, Elizabeth wrote about how I've been getting a lot of plastic surgery pitches lately. This is true; there's been an onslaught as of late and I don't quite know why. I don't want to sound judgey about plastic surgery as a thing (it's important, amazingly useful, and has helped kajillions of people feel better about themselves and heal both mentally and physically), but the pitches I get from this industry are by far the weirdest, most tone-deaf, straight up off-the-wall (not to mention grammatically incorrect!) pitches I've ever seen.

Sometimes I write back and say that since Blisstree is a body-positive website, we really don't like to give woman information about what's wrong with their bodies, about procedures that will “fix” perceived flaws. Plastic surgery does a lot of good, but it's also an industry that exists largely because of people's insecurities, and that's not something we're trying to perpetuate here.

Yet they keep coming, these pitches. You've gotta admire the creative angles the surgeons, estheticians, and their PR people come up with. I got this one today and it seemed fitting to share, because I guess the new trend in plastic surgery promotion is pointing out the way that our obsession with our phones is affecting our beauty. And thus, I give you, “How To Take A Selfie:”

Has social media (Twitter, Facebook, Linked-In, Instagram, Google) put a whole new twist on the pressure to look good in photos? Never has our “Face” been more on display for our friends and family than now.  How can we put our best “Face” out there for photos and “selfies?”  Dr. Jeffrey Spiegel, world-renowned facial plastic surgeon, offers these tips to “put your best face forward” in photos.

Betcha didn't know you've been doing selfies all wrong, my fellow vagina-havers, because your “Face” can look a lot better if you follow some tips. What I'm really wondering about is why face is styled as “Face?” Since when is “Face” capitalized? Why is it in quotes? QUOTE UNQUOTE your “Face,” ladies?? I'm kind of boggled. Is it some kind of rhetorical gesture referring to the way the self is presented online (Nah, who am I kidding? Take off your humanities graduate degree hat, self.) Is it because the face we have in selfies isn't our real “Face?” I don't get it! Please enlighten me, someone?

Ok anyway, I know you're dying for the “tips.” Here are some of the better/weirder ones:

  • “Women should slightly look up towards the camera as it will make your eyes larger, and raise your eyebrows creating the attractive look of large eyes Men should slightly protrude your chin.  This creates a strong face and eliminates a double chin.”
  • “For Women – a minute before your photo, tap on your lips a few times (somewhat stronger than you'd think!).  This will send blood to your lips making them redder and fuller – both considered very attractive.  Similarly, you can pinch your cheeks a few times to get a little bit of a rosy glow.”
  • “Blink just before the camera goes off.  That is, if they are counting to three to shoot, blink deliberately on two.  This will help guarantee that your eyes are not closed during the picture, and importantly, will get you with the most open and bright eyes – and remember, bright eyes are critical to looking good.”
  • “Smile with your eyes!  A fake smile is just your mouth.  A true smile is when your whole face is laughing.  Think about sending energy to your eyes or smiling with your eyes, and your beauty will shine into the photograph.”
  • “Be relaxed.  Think about relaxing your face and trying to convey that to the camera.  And, consider botulinum toxin treatment (e.g. botox or dysport).  They've been shown to not only relax wrinkles, but to actually improve your mood and help you to feel more relaxed and confident.  That emotional change will show in your photos.”

Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with providing tips on how to look better in photos; I'll honestly say I might use the one about looking up at the camera because ok, yes, I wanna look good in my selfies, too! Amanda Chatel over at The Gloss did a funny post about how to take good selfies just the other day, if you want to pop over there; If I were looking for tips on taking selfies, though, that's the kind of resource I'd probably look at, too, not ones from a “world-renowned facial plastic surgeon.” (I'd freaking LOVE to see the selfies of Dr. Spiegel, though!) As you can see, the little plug for a cosmetic procedure doesn't even actually come until the very end. Sam and Elizabeth think the cheek-pinching tip is really weird (“Pain>blush?” Sam said), but maybe since I grew up watching Gone With The Wind, I don't have as much of a problem with that one, I don't know. I learned some of my beauty behaviors from Scarlett O'Hara, I guess, which is clearly an ENTIRELY different post.

But tell me the fact that I even get emails like this one isn't just weird. And bullshit. And sad. And indicative of how fucked up it is that we live in a world in which there are multiple industries that depend and thrive on making women feel bad about they way they look. There's people sitting in offices right now, brainstorming angles for PR pitches to writers like me, thinking up marketing campaigns that capitalize on people's insecurities. Selfies, fun, casual pictures teenage girls once took in their bedrooms for their MySpace profiles, or quick snapshots to show off a new lipstick or a fun hairstyle to your friends on Facebook and Instagram, are now a way for an industry to capitalize, to criticize, to push procedures and products women do not need and do not want.

I'm sure a bunch of y'all will comment and tell me I'm overreacting to this particular pitch. Go right ahead. I started writing this post and didn't quite know what I wanted to say. And I'm not sure what I ended up saying, either, other than I get a lot of weird emails that make me constantly think about what it “means” to be a woman in this world, how my and others' ideas of ourselves, our bodies and our hair and our skin and our nails and yes, especially our faces, are constantly being manipulated and commodified. It scares me and it makes me angry and I want to talk about it. Because I can talk about it. Because I have the platform to do so, because, as a writer for a woman's health and wellness blog, I have the power and privilege to choose which kinds of messages I want to disseminate.

Maybe that's enough. Maybe it's enough to just call out the idiocy and inanity of a pitch like this one more time, even though I feel like I call out this type of drivel every damn day. But if I and all the other, often smarter and more critical, female bloggers and writers that engage with this rhetoric don't, who will? But no, seriously. Who the fuck will?

Photos: The Blisstree staff's own