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Monday, 21 September, 1998, 09:43 GMT 10:43 UK
Making Cindy into Barbie?
Cindy Jackson
Is Cindy a feminist icon or a living Barbie?
Is transforming yourself into a glamour queen the ultimate feminist statement or more reminiscent of a scene from The Stepford Wives?

Some 60,000 British people a year go under the surgeon's knife. Forty-three-year-old Cindy Jackson is one of them.

She says she was "born in the USA, but made in Britain".

She has had 29 operations over the last decade to transform herself from what she saw as a plain Jane farmgirl to a blonde bombshell, living an "absolutely fabulous" lifestyle.

She told BBC1's Heart of the Matter that her life changed when, aged 34, her father died and left her an inheritance.

Tattooed make-up

Over the next few years, she had operations to remove the bags under her eyes, implants put in her cheeks, the space between her eyes widened and her chin bone whittled down.

Plastic surgery
Plastic surgery is pain
She also had make-up tattooed onto her face so she looked the same even when she woke up.

Cindy, a member of Mensa, says the operations have changed her life. People are kinder to her and pay her more attention.

She says she feels more powerful and in control in her new form.

"I used to seek pleasure from men and now they seek pleasure from me," she said.

"This is the ultimate feminist statement. I refuse to let nature decide my fate just because I missed out on the genetic lottery."

Old as the hills

Her plastic surgeon, Edward Latimer-Sayer says cosmetic surgery is nothing new.

"It is as old as the hills. It helps people fit in with the society they want to join. We live in a very visual world where people sum you up in a fraction of a second," he said.

Cindy thinks she deserves a few glory years, although she admits that she intends to go on having plastic surgery for a while yet.

A nation of American newsreaders

But writer Sarah Dunant accuses cosmetic surgery of narrowing women's options and representing "a kind of eugenics".

Sarah Dunant
Sarah Dunant: pressure to conform
She says New York women who have had cosmetic surgery look like "a nation of American newsreaders".

And she says cosmetic surgery is the death knell for feminism, which was about being valued for who you were not what you looked like.

But Philip Hodson, also a writer, says people should be allowed to do what they want with their bodies.

He believes beautiful people are more successful and it is wrong to pretend otherwise.

"It is a fact that beauty prevails," he said. Cindy Jackson agrees, saying: "I am a living indictment of the values of the society I live in."

Dread of decay

Another aspect of the ethics of cosmetic surgery involves ageing. Is surgery just a symptom of our fear of growing old and dying?

Sarah Dunant believes it is. "We are now living in a time where youth and beauty are fetishised, but when more of us will be older for longer," she said.

"People are scared of growing old and it doesn't help to have your skin pulled up to your cheeks so you can't smile."

However, she is not against other forms of "body art", such as tattooing and body piercing.

Body piercings
Is body piercing ethically better than cosmetic surgery?
She says the difference is that most people don't want to be tattooed or pierced. She believes tattooing and piercing ar about diversity and the freedom to be an individual.

Cosmetic surgery, however, is about conformity and pressure to be the same, she says.

But Philip Hudson accuses her of being inconsistent, saying it is up to each individual to decide what they want to do with their body.

Heart of the Matter's The Full Bodyworks on BBC1 on 20 September at 11.35pm BST.

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See also:

08 Jul 98 | Latest News
Media slammed over superthin models
28 Jul 98 | Health
'Do my pecs look big in this?'
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