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11 Oct

‘Not ugly, just poor’: how the wonder industry is

Botox, fillers and cosmetic surgery have gotten increasingly mandatory to live as much as contemporary beauty standards, making a beauty tax that’s pricing many people out

In our latest Class Ceiling series, we unpack how class actually affects young people today – from our jobs, to the best way we’ve sex, to our general experience of the world.

Beauty and wealth have all the time been bedfellows. Throughout history, the wonder standard of any given period has served the ideological interests of the ruling class. In the course of the Renaissance, plump, pale skin was a prized signifier of high social status, while sun-darkened skin became synonymous with lower classes labouring outside. Today, nevertheless, that very same tanned complexion is desirable, coming, because it has within the west, to point leisure time, holidaying abroad and the posh of disposable income.

While the distribution of ‘natural’ beauty is a democratic genetic process, the wonder standard is sort of the other. Appearance has all the time been a vital source of differentiation for those with privilege, who use their wealth to speak their social ‘value’ and set themselves other than those without. Because of this, beauty reflects a category hierarchy and has long been a site of social struggle. While some people have the economic freedom and sophistication standing to interact in beauty work, others are left with the stigma of ‘ugliness’.

In 2022, beauty standards are making a beauty tax that’s higher than ever. With cosmetic procedures becoming available, there may be now an expectation not only of the same old roster of ‘maintenance’ treatments – hair, nails, eyebrows, lashes, teeth – but of ‘tweakments’ like injectables and surgeries. In accordance with the Aesthetic Plastic Surgery National Databank, the variety of botox procedures performed in America increased by 54 per cent between 2019 and 2020, and fillers were up by 75 per cent. The UK is the world’s fastest-growing market for facial filler, and British plastic surgeons reported a 70 per cent increase in consultation requests over 2020. 

Often, those that are celebrated for his or her beauty are increasingly individuals who have undergone various surgeries and coverings. The “I’m not ugly, I’m just poor” meme format is a mirrored image of this transformation: using ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures of high profile celebrities like Bella Hadid, Kylie Jenner and Simi and Haze, it demonstrates how money somewhat than genetics is all that’s mandatory to create a face that’s deemed as beautiful.

This is important because now, greater than ever, our faces have change into our most respected commodity. Because of social media, selfies and Zoom calls, our appearance is all the time front and centre and it has change into something we ‘should’ put money into. Middle and upper-class women have the financial freedom to view an expensive and dangerous surgery as a ‘treat’ to permit them to suit the wonder standard and reap the rewards of adherence. The result’s a benchmark for ‘beauty’ only reserved for those with disposable income, and a latest beauty class system during which there are those that can afford to participate and those that cannot.

Adhering to the wonder standard requires a privilege, but in addition generates privilege, making a vicious cycle during which those without the economic freedom to participate are heavily penalised, financially and socially. ‘Poorly groomed’ women stand to earn 40 per cent lower than their beautified counterparts, while attractive persons are over 20 per cent more prone to be called back for a job interview, and are perceived to be more socially expert, trustworthy, confident and competent. “In case you’re white, middle class and also you’ve got a superb job, you don’t need these items as much,” says Ruth Holliday, professor in Gender and Culture on the University of Leeds. “It’s while you’re marginalised that this beauty work becomes so way more vital.”

As the price of beauty increases – the jump between a manicure and a nose job is important – persons are being priced out and putting themselves in danger financially with a view to participate. A recent article for Refinery29 detailed how women are racking up hundreds of kilos in bank card debt with a view to get Botox and filler. In accordance with a recent survey of 900 salons by beauty booking software Pamperbook, women are spending a median of over £1,000 per thirty days on nails, hair and aesthetic treatments comparable to facials and injectables. The pressures levelled against women to retain and maintain the proper face, resist the results of ageing, remove their body hair and groom themselves to perfection, mean that beauty treatments are sometimes paid for over other ‘essential’ items.

It’s not only funds that we’re risking to get the proper face, but our health as well. Those that can’t afford reputable clinics cut corners by travelling abroad where prices are cheaper. In 2014, an estimated 41,000 medical tourists visited Colombia where breast augmentation plus two days in a hotel might be had for around $4,000. Nevertheless, lots of these ‘inexpensive’ procedures are done by unlicensed, untrained doctors – as much as as many as 30 per cent – and in 2016, 30 women died during cosmetic surgeries. As Naomi Wolf prophesied in her 1990 polemic The Beauty Myth: “The free market will compete to chop up women’s bodies more cheaply, if more sloppily, with no-frills surgery in bargain-basement clinics”.

“We present in our research on cosmetic tourism that most people who travelled abroad for surgery weren’t wealthy people, they were doing it since it was cheaper there and so they could get a deal,” says Professor Holliday. “Beauty technology was seen almost as an reminiscent of qualifications. For middle-class people, further education is seen as a necessity for achievement, but beauty treatments work in the identical way for individuals who are excluded from that culture. It’s all about investing in yourself to try to make a living.” 

While beauty work done well can act as a type of social advancement, when badly done these procedures can have the reverse effect, becoming their very own class signifiers. Whether it’s larger lips, poorly applied filler or too-white veneers, the best way beauty treatments are performed is adding one other layer of social separation. “For middle-class people, seeing any individual who has obviously had work done can evoke a little bit of disgust,” says Professor Holliday.

“Working-class bodies are nearly all the time marked as excessive, as an excessive amount of, and lip filler could be a classic example. Nevertheless, working-class people won’t see it in the identical way. Greater is healthier since it’s the obviousness of it that shows you might be a body of value, and that you have to be included in society. By working on your individual body, you’re showing your skill, your resources and your labour, which is more valued in working-class culture.”

In our individualistic, capitalist and patriarchal culture, the wonder standard is acting as a tool to maintain those with less privilege at the underside of the social hierarchy. Cosmetic procedures have change into a style of status symbol for aspirational women, the brand new designer bag. It’s a way for those with the privilege to maintain and increase their advantage, while those that can’t participate are given little alternative but to chop corners with a view to accomplish that.

Unless we work to vary things, we’re approaching a future during which our beauty standard evolves to an ever-expensive ideal, further increasing the chance gap between classes. “I’m not ugly, I’m just poor” could be a meme – but the truth behind the satire paints a terrifying vision for the longer term.

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