The pressures to look a certain way and weigh a certain number aren’t so much significant as absolutely freaking enormous.
And when you’re 17-years-old and female the world seems to throw criticisms at your appearance every way you turn. Every billboard. Every TV ad. Every magazine cover. Every few testosterone-fuelled boys. They all seem to be telling you you’re not good enough.
But imagine how much worse it would be if it weren’t ‘society’ telling you that your looks weren’t up to scratch, but instead your family.
I for one? Would be absolutely crushed.
But that is exactly what now-35-year-old Orley Granot, whose father is a Melbourne-based cosmetic surgeon, has experienced her whole life. In op-eds for Fairfax published last weekend, Orley and her father Ashley Granot, discuss their mutual decision to have her undertake a liposuction procedure at the ripe old age of 17.
Yep, 17. Urgh.
In a wonderful example of Top Notch Parenting, Orley’s father one day tried to broach the subject of her appearance. Orley was (quite understandably) upset, and began to cry. Who could have seen criticism like this coming from dear old dad. She writes:
One hot day, aged 17, I was standing in front of the TV in my undies and a T-shirt when Dad asked me to turn around and started examining my legs and grabbing chunks. “We can get rid of this,” he said. “And some of that.”
Yeah. Cheers for that ‘advice,’ dad.
Almost equally disturbing is that Ashley seemingly implies that his daughter’s career as a successful New York based lawyer can largely be attributed to the liposuction procedure he performed. Rather than crediting his daughter’s intelligence or drive for her considerable achievements, he reckons it’s all because he helped Orley get super skinny and hot. Daddy Ashley says:
I believe we are all beautiful so long as we have a beautiful personality, but if you increase your advantage in the physical department, doors open more easily. I remember one woman who was turned down for job after job, even though she was highly qualified. She had impossible hips, as wide as a doorway. Once liposuction brought her body back into harmony, she was deluged with job offers.
That’s right girls, drop a few kilos through an unnecessary cosmetic procedure and you too can be a barrister!
Despite the backlash he has since faced regarding why he didn’t encourage his daughter to lose weight in a healthy manner (or butt out of the subject entirely), Ashley stands firm. He argues he was simply doing what all parents should do – help their kids be the best they can be:
When I look at my daughters, I scrutinise them, too, and have carried out liposuction on three of them. Other parents avail their children of their area of expertise. My area is cosmetic surgery, so why shouldn’t I do the same?
Well, here’s a thought Mr Granot: you shouldn’t impose your misguided beauty ideals onto your daughter.
Because she looks up to you. Anything you say to her will hit her a thousand times harder than strangers’ words ever could. Using your life experience, wisdom, wealth or career contacts to help your child is one thing. But convincing them they are less than perfect, and justifying it because you’re a cosmetic surgeon? Soul crushing.
The story reminded me of an incident that happened a few years ago, when I was still at high school.
“I’d give her a 6”… I turned around, wondering why people were yelling out numbers randomly in the street. It took a moment to sink in. The high school boys on the station platform were rating passing girls’ legs out of 10. Charming.
As if navigating schoolwork, family, rocky friendships and potentially relationships isn’t hard enough for the average teen, throw in comments like this and you’ve got yourself a genuine minefield.
Trust me. At 17 years of age, I have observed time and again, that all too often a girls’ external appearance can become inextricably linked to her self worth. And while comments like these were hurtful, and certainly made me more aware of how others perceived me, I was able to ignore them. I wasn’t about to let the words of perfect strangers change who I was.
But if I have that memory of those boys critiquing girls at the train station in Year 7 etched so clearly into my mind, imagine how a comment like that from my dad would have affected me? It would be embedded into every decision regarding food or exercise I subsequently made. And NOT in a good way. In a if-my-own-parents-don’t-love-me-f0r-who-I-am-will-anyone- kind of way.
Orley herself admits to now fixating on the appearance of others because of the lessons she learned from her father:
I have so often sat next to him and heard him quietly say: “Oh, she could do with a bit of work.” I’d say: “Dad! No!” but I’d be able to see it, and now I find myself thinking: “Oh yes, she could do with liposuction” or “He’s had a nose job.”
And perhaps that is the most devastating side effect of all.
The more we hear and are pressured to look a certain way and attain a certain physique, the more we are influenced to think that appearance is all that matters. Who can blame a girl who has been told her whole life that her physical appearance is the sum total of her self worth for giving into those feelings?
While Ashley and Orley are perhaps an extreme case, this is not the first and nor will it be the last time that a teenage girl is taught that how she looks it’s the most important part of who she is.
Once she’s sure of that, she’ll then impose those beliefs onto those she crosses paths with. Parents should certainly look out for the wellbeing of their children and point them in the right direction. But that doesn’t go so far as telling a perfectly healthy young woman that she isn’t good enough the way she is and that the only option is a surgical procedure.
That’s more than a little bit off.