Is plastic surgery better when a woman wields the knife?

Vogue shows us the kinder, gentler side of cosmetic surgery. Which is to say, cosmetic surgery performed by a woman.

Published February 17, 2006 11:10PM (EST)

Usually, looking to a fashion magazine to promote a healthy female body image is like looking to a playground bully for a hug. But every now and then, the glossies try to counter their reputation by running some self-acceptance feature, albeit one whose punch line is usually that "self-acceptance" may involve "accepting" your "self's" desire for couture gowns or cosmetic surgery. And here we go again: The cover of the March issue of Vogue shouts, "Female Plastic Surgeon Redefines the Body Beautiful."

Fast-forward to Page 538 (yep, you read that number right) for a profile of a very nice-seeming plastic surgeon named Haideh Hirmand. Hirmand is one of relatively few female plastic surgeons -- the article notes that while women made up 87 percent of the extreme-makeover market last year, fewer than 10 percent of the profession's practitioners are female -- and she pursued plastic surgery after a disfiguring accident in her teens required that she undergo facial reconstruction. Hirmand's approach is unique, Vogue says, because she doesn't go in for antiaging surgery. Instead of making women look radically younger than they are, which she says is "weird," she strives to surgically improve their appearances in a way that is "person- and age-appropriate."

The profile suggests that Hirmand's unusual approach is a girl thing. Hirmand's mentor, a surgeon named David Hidalgo, explains the plastic surgery gender gap this way: "Male plastic surgeons have more respect for beauty in women." Female surgeons, on the other hand, "tend to see things more matter-of-factly."

Which is great! Especially if the alternative is being Joan Rivers. If you've gotta do it, do it right. But wait ... we don't have to do it! It's a little weird to read an article whose total spectrum of options seems to range from antiaging plastic surgery to more natural plastic surgery, without glancing at nonsurgical, aging gracefully options. The profile does show Hirmand advising a patient against surgery when the patient admits she's mostly seeking an emotional quick fix after a painful divorce. But then Hirmand hits the article's author with a host of recommendations: a partial neck lift, filling in "tear troughs" and eyebrow wrinkles, removing some skin from the eyelids.

I mean, don't get me wrong. If women opt to go under the knife, I'd rather they saw someone cool like Hirmand than the creepy guy from "Dr. 90210." But still, something about this profile makes me want to tape a picture of Jane Goodall to my wall.

By Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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