"Cankle" lipo?

How a silly advertising stunt by Gold's Gym became a fake trend embraced by recession-addled plastic surgeons

Published July 29, 2009 2:29PM (EDT)

On the one hand, I don't want summer to end. On the other, man, August cannot come fast enough. Why? Because -- for those of you who've been distracted by health care reform, the Sotomayor hearings, or celebrity arms -- July is Cankle Awareness Month.

Yes, "cankle." (That's "c" as in "calf," "ankle" as in "ankle," and "cankle" as in no clear, desirably slender, definition between the two -- and no clear limit on specific body parts over which women are invited to obsess.) That's least according to Gold's Gym's tongue-in-cheek publicity campaign, SayNoToCankles.com, which has accomplished, if nothing else, to drum up a fair bit of publicity, outrage and, ultimately, plastic surgery business.

With the gym's stunt as its peg, the Wall Street Journal last week reported that, indeed, more and more women do appear to be waging epic battles with gladiator sandals -- and that "plastic surgeons are pushing $4,000 to $6,000 liposuction procedures to slim [cankles]." (Ankle lipo. Yes. No. Really.) To its credit, the Journal is not wholly uncritical, quoting expert assertions that "spot-reduction" is a myth and that such censorious micro-focus contributes to eating disorders and body image issues. ("Pretty soon it will be, 'Let's start strengthening our toes,'" said one specialist at an eating-disorder treatment facility that clearly bans Star Magazine.) But then it was ABC News ("Cankles: The New Muffin-Top"). And a segment on the "Today Show" almost as Underminer as Gold's advertorial. (Self magazine editor, paraphrase: "Cankles are really nothing to worry about." "Today Show": [remaining 2/3 of the story on spot-reduction and clothing camouflage.])

And finally, Jezebel:

You know what? There is no fucking way in hell that I should be worrying about the shapeliness of my goddamn ankles. I also should not have been worrying about "muffin-topping" or "thunder thighs," and I suspect most women wouldn't worry about such things either if these fucking trend pieces didn't insist upon drilling it into women's minds that they need to be physically perfect at all times or else. Are "cankles" the new "muffin-tops?" Sure, if you mean "a completely idiotic term coined in order to push diet plans and gym memberships while shaming women into feeling even worse about themselves." ...

Why are we talking about our bodies the way 7th graders would in the locker room? Why has the Universe decided to become a live-action version of Judy Blume's Blubber? Why can't we focus our attention on the things that matter when it comes to weight and nutrition, like, say, heart disease, the number one killer of women? Why must it always be about an idiotic obsession with one body part? If it's not your abs, its your ankles. If it's not your ankles, it's your arms. If it's not your arms, it's your thighs. If only we paid so much attention to our brains, eh?

Oh, and Newsweek. ("I know from experience that no matter how much yoga, walking, and gym workouts I do, these ankles of mine aren't budging (at least not without spending thousands of dollars on cosmetic surgery, and that's per ankle).")

Just when I thought the whole "cankle moment" was over, along with the month, a new email appeared in my inbox: Plastic surgeon Gregory Wiener, M.D., according to his PR shill, is happy to jump on the bandwagon by offering cankle plastic surgery to the tune of $4,000 to $8,000K, "depending on how extensive the ankle shaping is." (Meanwhile, "regular" liposuction is reportedly down 19 percent in the recession. The surgeon's cannula, like some slurping alien predator, needs another place to feed. Bwwaaahhaha!)

But here's what's most awesome about this press release. Read closely: "Many of my clients have recently been asking for ankle liposuction to get rid of their cankles," says Dr. Cankleplasty. "During the procedure, I remove a small amount of fat from the ankle because there is not much fat in the ankles to begin with. Although the end result is subtler than with other liposuction procedures, restoring the natural curve of the calf and ankle can create a very noticeable difference."

Not much fat to begin with? Then perhaps you won't be needing my 8 large.

Just for the record, July is also Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month and UV Safety Awareness Month. 


By Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of BreakupGirl.net. She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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