Can we say that Louise Mensch has had a facelift? It’s pretty heavily implied in this Guardian interview, but as Mensch doesn’t directly admit to it – and interviewer Decca Aitkenhead doesn’t phrase the suspicions as a statement – I suppose there’s just enough uncertainty between the lack-of-lines to stop us from saying, definitively, that Louise Mensch has had a facelift.
And even if she has, who cares? It’s her face – or, as she says in the interview, “It’s my life. I can do what I want.” Aitkenhead is even willing to countenance this brand of self-fashioning as a form of feminism, and Mensch turns to the F word in defending her right to have cosmetic surgery (if she has, which she won’t admit to):
“I don’t want to be focused on my appearance. Are you trivialising the sisterhood if you dye your hair or have your eyebrows threaded? I’d say the answer to that is no. But equally, it’s a perfectly valid feminist thing to say there is a certain amount of attention on a woman’s appearance, and I don’t wish that to be the focus or a distraction. I know if I specify [what I’ve had done], then that will be the story, and I don’t wish to be trivialised as a politician.”
Actually, I think Mensch is abusing the F word here: she’s applying a feminist analysis (“there is a certain amount of attention on a woman’s appearance”) to justify a non-feminist action (having your face sliced and tightened). She’s absolutely right that women are mercilessly scrutinised and savagely criticised for their physical appearance; she’s dead wrong, though, to present surgery as a politically neutral response.
It’s not just her face. It’s a representative face, the face of a woman in public life. And if Mensch has gone under the knife to ensure her parliamentary role is never undermined by a less-than-youthfully-radiant visage, then she’s allied herself with everyone who’d dismiss a woman’s words because they came from a mouth with a few crepey lines.
Instead of demanding respect on the grounds of intelligence or democratic function, Mensch (if she has had a facelift, which she hasn’t admitted to) is asking to be taken seriously for her prettiness – a surgically sculpted, impossible prettiness, painful and pricey to achieve. A female politician who has a facelift for the reasons Mensch gives isn’t trivialising the sisterhood, she’s using misogynist logic to cut right through it.
Text © Sarah Ditum, 2011; picture by William Selden for the Guardian, used for purpose of criticism