Cosmetic surgery and feminism are often seen at opposite ends of the spectrum. The decision to “go under the knife” is a highly debated topic in the current women’s liberation movement. Some feminists view cosmetic surgery as bodily self-determination, while others see it as contorting the body to fit impractical and contrived standards of beauty. However, condemning individuals for undergoing plastic surgery in order compete in a cultural ideology they themselves did not create is both counterproductive and damaging.
Feminists have relentlessly been demonized as man-hating whiny women. Before delving into the subject at hand, it is important to define feminism in order to alter this misrepresentation. Feminism is classified as the belief in full social, economic, and political equality for both men and women. The belief that cosmetic surgery sets back the women’s movement is completely false and is a tragic reflection on the distortion of feminism and its purpose. This movement supports the continuing progression and advancement of women as well as women’s ability to make decisions for themselves.
Keeping the aforementioned description in mind, taking preventative measures to slow down the physical manifestation of aging does not inherently change a person or invalidate one’s life-affirming value of supporting the feminist cause.
In today’s society where sexism and ageism are existent stereotypes, cosmetic surgery acts as a way to refute this hierarchical societal matrix of patriarchal and youthful oppression. Taking away others’ power to define you is a staple principle of the feminist movement. Aging is a wondrous phenomenon and a simple nip and tuck does not signify an inability to embrace this late life stage.
One would be pressed to find a feminist bashing a breast cancer survivor, who had to undergo mastectomy, and decided to obtain a breast augmentation. However, a woman that chooses to get implants for aesthetics is criticized. Feminists state that the difference is the motive. In playing devil’s advocate, if we adhere to this concept of “motive”, a woman that has cosmetic surgery for her personal gain is precisely following the characterization of a feminist. Take for example, a woman who is obese and decides to go on a weight loss program. Most would agree it would be moronic to chide her for wanting to alter her appearance. In fact, most would support her and list the many benefits of weight loss, such as improved health, a boost in confidence, and an overall more physically pleasing appearance. Why then, must women who want to undergo cosmetic changes fear the stigma and judgment of selling out the feminist cause? And more importantly who gives anyone the right to dictate what is a necessary and unnecessary cosmetic procedure?
Cosmetic surgery empowers and inspires women. It creates self-assurance. Call it narcissism, if you will, but society as a whole undergoes other beauty regimens that can easily be labeled as vain. A prime example is braces, which painfully alter and push teeth into a more socially accepted pattern. No one has ever died from crooked teeth, so orthodontology, in itself, could be considered “unnecessary.” Creating exceptions is an insult to women as a whole and is a form of subjugation.
Interestingly enough, the amount of men undergoing cosmetic surgery is on the rise, and increased by 12 percent from 2011 to 2012. The latest surgery in demand by young men is, “high definition liposuction,” a body sculpting that gives a better delineation of an abdominal six-pack. This is convincing evidence that cosmetic surgery is not always an outcome of objectification or an eroticized procedure performed for the male gaze. Nor is it what second wave feminist, Laura Mulvey, refers to as the female gaze- a mere cross-identification with masculinity. As cosmetic surgery becomes more equally distributed, it tends to depoliticize the gender system in its nature.
Feminists believe women have the right to make their own decisions. This means that neither men nor women, particularly other feminists, can make personal decisions for others. Which adheres more closely to feminism? Refusing to get cosmetic modifications because of others’ judgments and views, or doing what you want with your body?
Feminists don’t police nor do we condemn. We enable women to be free and unrestricted in our decision-making process; whether it’s voting, marriage, or getting fat implanted into different locations. Consequently, women should not feel a need to validate their cosmetic surgery.