Women Don't Owe You "Honesty" About Their Bodies

Is Kim K lying about her butt implants? We analyze her body down to a microscopic level to find out! 

Since the conception of the social media influencer, there has also been the influencer watchdog. From tabloids to Instagram pages run by a teenager, holding women accountable for their plastic surgery has become an entire industry. And while many of these people eager to call out famous women come from good intentions, I have to wonder if this is truly a noble cause. 

Up until a couple of months ago, I followed an account called @celebface on Instagram. With the heading “WELCOME TO REALITY”: the page devotes itself to uncovering photoshop plastic surgery, or other kinds of editing that somehow alter natural appearances. 

One post about reality TV star Aubrey O’Day reads:

“Aubrey O'Day was criticized after the paparazzi published her photos. The difference between Instagram and reality is clear. She thinks the photos were retouched to make her look bad. But an insider said photos were only cropped. Photos weren’t even color-corrected at all. So, who's right?”

This post is troubling to me for a couple of reasons. First, though it is certainly plausible that Aubrey O’Day edits her Instagram photos, the idea of posting and scrutinizing photos that she did not consent to have taken feels a little...disturbing. Second, why is it so important to catch her in the act in the first place?

Accounts like this hold a certain air of self-righteousness. “If you don’t want to see the truth, leave this page,” the bio boasts. But monitoring and obsessing about the angles and airbrushing of a woman’s body feels no less invasive than tabloids or the industry that created these unlivable trends in the first place. 

Here, I think it is important to make a distinction: beauty standards in the age of social media are unrealistic and frankly outrageous. We live in a toxic culture where body types come in and out of style like they’re skinny jeans. It doesn’t help that major publications are still airbrushing celebrities’ cellulite and telling models to lose ten pounds if they want to make it. 

But, once again, the onus falls on the shoulders of women––not the makeup industry, the casting agents, the male gaze––to “tell the truth” about their bodies. Whether it’s plastic surgery or a Snapchat filter, women with a platform are relegated to an unlivable paradox: meet impossible beauty standards AND do it completely naturally. 

When a woman enters the spotlight, we place expectations on her to act as a role model. And in America, this means practically Puritanical standards with an understanding that they will still bend to the will of men. No sex, drinking, drugs, or short skirts. They must be pretty, thin, white, both modest and slutty. Naturally beautiful with no makeup. And absolutely no plastic surgery. 

In short, we ask famous women to fill in the role of mother for our society. While men can relish in checkered pasts and t-shirts at award shows, women are expected to present as ethereal and nurturing. Motherhood in America, of course, is rooted in Eurocentric beauty standards and devout and subservient female figures. 

Women in entertainment don’t exist to raise your children. They have lives beyond their careers and a relationship with their body that is far more complex than we will ever know. We are not entitled to their medical history or the ins and outs of their bodies. 

Our culture of surveillance has warped our perception of reality in this way. Somehow, we label picking apart women’s insecurities and, yes, even their “dishonesty” about their bodies under the guise of feminism. In a world post-#MeToo movement, we should have an understanding of consent that goes beyond sexual assault. Constant discussion about editing on a photo or possible plastic surgery feels like a huge breach of that consent. 

In an ideal world, nobody would feel the need to photoshop or alter their bodies. Young girls shouldn’t feel the pressure of a Hollywood standard they will never be able to meet. But famous female bodies should not be the unwilling canvas we paint our inspirational sayings onto. No matter what the intentions, this level of scrutiny is just another avenue of control and manipulation of female bodies.