The following is a sponsored post brought to you by San Diego-area dermatologist Dr. Susan M. Stuart, MD.
No sooner had Hillary Clinton made it official that she wants to be the next face of the White House than the Los Angeles Times ran an op-ed on how wrinkled that face would be.
“Following in the venerable tradition of so many aging male politicians, Clinton is vying for the most powerful post in the free world with jowls, face creases and a less-than-Pilates-toned physique,” wrote columnist Meghan Daum, much to the chagrin of many readers, who quickly took to social media. The top comment on the newspaper’s Facebook post about the story summed much of the response up nicely: “Would this even be an article if she was a man???”
And with that, we’ve stoked the fires of feminism, what it means to age as a woman in the U.S., and the stigma around plastic surgery. None of these are new issues, but with Clinton at the top of the docket, things may be a bit different this time around.
The Changing Face of History
Women in positions of power have used cosmetic surgery as a tool to continue looking as youthful and vibrant as possible for decades, although few have been outspoken about it until recent years. A cultural shift that encourages a healthier female body image has spurred a number of famous women, such as Nicole Kidman and Jane Fonda, to open up about the work they’ve had done.
Coinciding with these cultural changes has been a wave of medical advances in the cosmetic enhancement field, leading to more effective “minimally invasive procedures.” These treatments, such as laser skin rejuvenation and BOTOX® Cosmetic injections, don’t require surgery and are hugely popular, increasing 508% since 1997, according to statistics from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
According to the website of San Diego dermatologist Dr. Susan Stuart, “Innovations in cosmetic skin treatments are rapidly changing how we address various types of skin damage, aging, and loss of volume. Injectable treatments and soft tissue fillers have created a new class of injectable cosmetic therapies that create a noticeable, lasting improvement for patients who aren’t yet ready for surgery.” They’ve enabled women to refresh their faces in a discreet, natural-looking way that they also seem more comfortable talking about.
A Conversation Opening Up
None of these trends, though, seem to have seeped into politics until now — at least not in a way that anyone is being open about. Any female politicians who have had work done lately have kept it conservative and hush-hush. Since Betty Ford’s much-criticized ’70s facelift, no one has dared tread onto that territory.
With Clinton stepping into the role of presumptive Democratic nominee, the issues of cosmetic enhancement and politics are intertwining in a changed landscape. The social media backlash was swift when the Los Angeles Times brought up the topic, with many readers questioning why the paper would let a columnist write on such an inherently sexist issue (i.e., “I have never seen an article about a man getting plastic surgery in his bid for the White House”).
However, Daum, the column’s writer, long respected for her published views on what it’s like to live and age as a woman in the U.S., took the position that it was empowering and impressively feminist for Clinton to head into an election with her real face forward.
“All of us who were taking bets on whether she’d get a whole face-lift or simply Botox herself into generic acceptability can eat our words,” Daum wrote. “While we’re at it, we should kiss Clinton’s feet. By unapologetically looking her age, she’s giving all women a license to stay in the spotlight even as they mature past their younger, dewier years. And with any luck, she just might put the whole concept of a female expiration date out to pasture.”
That this debate is happening at all is an important step for wide demographics of U.S. women, from the millions who choose cosmetic enhancement each year to the aging women in positions of power and the younger counterparts who want to be them someday. Expect to see more on these issues as campaign season revs up.