Ad Feminem is authored by Erika Szostak. Erika holds an M.A. in Rhetoric and Creative Writing, and is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Sussex, where she is pursuing research in the language of cosmetic surgery.
Whether it's through direct mail, radio commercials, towering billboards, or newspaper spots, cosmetic surgery advertisements, especially in Los Angeles, have become inescapable. These ads attack the customers they hope to attract, constantly assaulting any sense we might have that we're good enough as we are. Of course, if we believed were pretty enough, thin enough or sexy enough, the plastic surgery pushers would be out of business.
In Latin, the term ad hominem refers to an “argument against the man,” a personal attack "based on the failings of an adversary rather than on the merits of the case." It’s a logical fallacy, a cheap trick and a sign of weakness. In the Latin, ad hominem refers to an attack on man as in "human," male or female. Nonetheless, the term "ad feminam" is sometimes used to refer to arguments made specifically against women. It’s defined as “appealing to irrelevant personal considerations concerning women, especially prejudices against them.”
Well, we don’t think that the attacks in these ads are irrelevant, but we do think they're personal and we do think they're abusive.
That’s why we’ve changed the spelling slightly to Ad Feminem. And while these attacks affect men too, whether it’s through the rising prevalence of men now seeking cosmetic surgery or through creating generations of men suffering from the Centerfold Syndrome, it seems that their effects on women are particularly egregious.
The underlying premise of these ads is that the question for a consumer is no longer “Should I get surgery?” Instead, the fundamental question has become “Where should I get which surgery?” After that, it’s a short jump to see that once we become combodities, we can, like objects, be collected, possessed, returned, or relegated to a proper place in which we belong.
We’re told over and over again that injecting, implanting, peeling, plumping, tucking and burning ourselves will make us desirable. But once, through cosmetic surgery, we’ve transformed ourselves into identical figurines rolling predictably off an assembly line, we make ourselves look as if we are the things that can be bought. The ads, with their used-car and stereo blow-out rhetoric, reinforce this combodification process. The repetition of these damaging messages has served to normalize them.
We're not here to demonize women who've opted for cosmetic surgery; in fact, one of our founders has had surgery herself. But we are here to remind us all that people are not products.
We invite artists and consumers to create public service announcements that illustrate this idea. You create the campaign, and we'll publicize it through the same advertising channels that feature the ads feminem , from newspaper ads to billboards.