Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The final cut

In the past decade I have noticed that the number of cosmetic plastic surgery procedures have grown exponentially. In fact, it seems that every few years a new procedure is the must-have surgery. I have seen people in my neighborhood get everything from breast implants to eyelash implants. The most recent trend seems to be female genital cosmetic surgery. One type of these procedures is known as labiaplasty, which reduces the size of the labia. The labiaplatsy procedure was traditionally used for patients that had damage to the labia as a result of natural childbirth. However, this procedure is now being marketed to women under the guise of “vaginal rejuvenation,” a way of tightening the vagina.

Another procedure that has gained much popularity is hymenoplasty, which is also known as hymen reconstruction surgery. This procedure creates a “hymen replacement.” To my knowledge, I was not able to find a single health-related reason for this operation.

So what is the motivation behind these surgeries?

As with most cosmetic procedures, there can be many underlying reasons that are both personal and private, which can often times make any analysis on this topic very difficult. However, in a recent interview with Women’s eNews, two top surgeons suggested that negative comments from male partners are the number one reason women request these surgeries.

Why am I not surprised? Throughout history, in an effort to maintain control and dominance over women, men have created a multitude of justifications for their subordination of women. But why do we allow men to create such fiction? We cannot stand by and allow women to resort to such procedures to remedy a feeling of imperfection that is truly “man”-made. In fact, in some countries where males have placed a high value on a woman’s virginity, women are forced to secretly get hymenoplasty performed just to stay alive. I find this disgusting. We need to create awareness and find support through stronger solidarity among all women.


Micah-G said...

Of course, in the context of extreme sharia law societies where women are punished for being raped, etc., your comments are valid - but when women get "vaginal rejuvenation" (or whatever they prefer to call it) in the U.S., it's not necessarily all about men's subjugation of women. I imagine that in some contexts, you're right - it's about men controlling women. But could this not also be about (for example) corporations and private media outlets preying on women's (particularly baby boomers') fears about aging in order to make money?

Feminists have gotten a bad reputation for too immediately jumping to the conclusion that everything that they don't like about what happens to women in society is a product of male subjugation. Again, that's not to say that male subjugation doesn't happen because it most certainly does - and probably frequently. But it's a cop out when you start with that as your conclusion as if it's a priori - and without even considering other alternatives - then cherry pick the most extreme example from a foreign culture to exaggerate your point. Why not instead consider multiple explanations (including the one about male subjugation, of course) and look for evidence to find out what's really going on? Rarely are things so simple that only one explanation can account for all outcomes - especially when you're trying to analyze an apparently global phenomenon like this one - but you pretend here like a single explanation for a mass phenomenon is so obvious that you need not give even a passing thought to other possibilities.

You might think that what I'm saying is a rejection of feminist theory. Certainly feminist philosophers have made arguments in the past that they should not be locked into a male-generated model of thought and communication - and that's a fair argument in principle. But, at the same time, I say that to hold feminists to a lower standard in terms of logic and quality of argument simply because they are women is truly to give women no credit and to disrespect feminism and feminists. To the extent that feminist arguments are ignored because they generally come from women, that disregard is unfair; but to the extent that they are ignored because they are just analytically lazy - that is the fault of (some) feminists themselves.

hanestagless said...

After reading your post and the Women's eNews article, I have two thoughts that I wish to leave.

1. The article said that patients for cosmetic labia and vaginal surgery were as young as 15. I'm always disturbed when I hear about young girls getting cosmetic plastic surgery. Females in this age group seem to be especially vulnerable to the pressures of physical appearance. Yet, I'm greatly bothered by parents who allow their daughters to undergo plastic surgery.

I'm outright appalled by parents that urge their daughters to do it. A more recent incident of this is the mother who gave her daughter a voucher for breast implants for 7th birthday. Yes, 7th. Perhaps, the child is a victim of a mom who is actually addicted to plastic surgery--she's spent more than 500,000 GBP on herself. However, I can't help but wonder whether these daughters will someday suffer image issues because of perceived messages from their parents about their appearance.

Now, with cosmetic vaginal surgery, this goes to another level. This plastic surgery is intimately tied with sex. The parents seem to not only be damaging their daughter's self-image, but also her sexual self-respect. Instead of teaching her self-worth, they seem to suggest that she is worth what her future partner says based on her physical and sex appeal.

2. The last paragraph of the post touched on an interesting point about women's plastic surgery in other countries and cultures. It's a reminder how its causes and consequences can vary across borders. In the Middle East, there's the increased numbers of hymen replacements. In the United States, breast enlargements are still extremely popular. In South Korea, many women undergo double-eyelid surgery to have much coveted big eyes.

As commented, male subjugation likely at least partially caused each of these. However, it's interesting to me how even confined to the realm of plastic surgery, subjugation manifests itself differently across cultures.