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 and a cheap trick, an appeal to irrational emotions and a distraction technique. Use of an ad hominem signals weakness in a person’s argument; if that argument was based on strong evidence and acceptable premises, there would be no need to resort to insults. In the Latin, ad hominem does not refer to a gendered attack on males only, but against 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.
Implicit in these ads is the premise that the question of whether or not to go under the knife is moot; the question for a woman is no longer “Should I get surgery?” That we should get surgery is taken for granted. 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. The commodified body can become a screen onto which other people, become projectors, run the films they want to see, the shapes that others want our personalities to take flickering across our bodies like shadows dancing across a pool. Of course we desire what makes us desirable, and 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. Purchases have become so personal that we don’t know the difference between the purchase and the person anymore. It doesn't have to be this way. 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.