Column by Kelsey ’11
Sitting in Le Pain Quotidien with a friend, I pose a question and hesitantly wait for a response. I know the answer before she begins, and I prepare to be reprimanded.
“Would you judge me if I chose to get plastic surgery?”
“Kelsey Elizabeth Henry. How can you support plastic surgery and call yourself a feminist?”
She proceeds to outline how breast enhancement, liposuction and Botox are products of a patriarchal, consumerist culture. Don’t I know that capitalism thrives off of sexism, as women flock in droves to purchase male ideals of beauty, no matter the cost?
Yes, I have heard it all before. I have read Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex cover to cover. I secretly (and not so secretly) smile when I read “womon” or “womyn” in absolutely any context. My iPod is fully stocked with Ani DiFranco. Personal mantra: “I’m a woman. Phenomenally.” Here’s to you, Maya Angelou.
So tell me, why is it that because I am a proponent, or at the very least not an opponent, of plastic surgery, I am told that I am a problem, or less of a “good feminist?” A borderline antifeminist? Goddess forbid.
Before I wax Second-Wave on the subject of “choice,” please understand that I am well aware that the cosmetic surgery industry and the beauty industry have been conniving bedfellows for quite some time. In her 2007 Ms. magazine article, “How the pitch for cosmetic surgery co-opts feminism,” Jennifer Cognard Black intimates that “choice” has been repackaged to fit a consumerist agenda. Women are told that it is now their choice to remain Forever Young, cleverly stealing pro-choice feminist rhetoric for capitalist scheming.
However, is it truly constructive to criticize the women who go under the knife? Ultimately our bodies are ours. A woman’s relationship with her body is complex and constantly fluctuating, and the last thing we need to do as women is to scoff at those around us for approaching their bodies differently than we do.
Some women get plastic surgery to please themselves, making a decision for their bodies that shouldn’t be influenced by any other human being. The right to this personal decision reinforces rather than desecrates the feminist ideal of a woman’s body as a land all her own. It is the protection and preservation of our “self-governing” bodies that allows us to be phenomenal.
Women, surgery does not diminish this truth.
So in response to your question, dear friend at Le Pain Quotidien, I support a woman’s right to her body, whatever she chooses to do with it. Last time I checked, that makes me a feminist.