Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Merge Between Feminism and Beauty

I work full time as a registered nurse in the operating room of a plastic surgery center. I've been working in cosmetic surgery for almost four years. Working in an industry where surgical body modifications is a "norm" pushed me outside of my comfort zone and into a feminist group while I lived in Norman, Oklahoma. When I moved back to Texas a few years ago, I started one of my own.

The Denton Women's Collective accepting a Certificate of Appreciation from the mayor of Flower Mound

If somebody didn't know me very well, they might question how I could be passionate about women's issues while assisting in altering women's bodies for a living.

First and foremost, I must say, I prefer working in a plastic surgery center as compared to my previous experience in a cosmetic surgery center. Plastic surgery includes reconstructive surgery, and cosmetic surgery is entirely elective. Most of our patients are cosmetic/elective procedures, but it is refreshing to have patients who have battled (and defeated) breast cancer. We also work with patients who have 2nd and 3rd degree burns, and children with birth defects. My favorite charity, Smile Train, operates on children in 3rd world countries with cleft palate, and it is one of my lifelong goals to go on a mission with them one day. Until then, I continue to support them monetarily.

With that disclaimer being stated, most of our patients are healthy, happy, and wanting a change in their appearance. Many people are open about the "work they've had done" and consider cosmetic surgery and/or aesthetic treatments a status symbol, similar to the car they drive or the purse they carry. Other people are judgmental of the industry, and assume it is an industry saturated with vain and superficial people.

I think I fall somewhere in between...

The reality is, unless you don't wear make-up, have never colored your hair, have zero tattoos, zero piercings, don't work out, don't take supplements, and have basically NEVER altered your appearance from your natural state of being...YOU have participated in a form of body modification. My question is, what's the driving force of your body modification? Is it a significant other that has encouraged you to alter a part of your image? Do you alter your appearance because you have a competitive nature and want to look better than somebody else? Do you wear a certain make-up because a celebrity you admire is the spokesperson for that particular brand? Have you been brainwashed by an industry that is degrading to women? (Think...Victoria Secret Fashion Show...and don't get me wrong, I love me some PINK! sweatpants, but seriously, that show is HORRIBLE for the average woman's self esteem!)

(Thought I'd throw in a pic of the VS models without make-up...and to be honest, I STILL THINK THEY'RE BEAUTIFUL!!!!!)

Or, do you just feel more confident when you look your best? Do you feel a NEED to alter your appearance, or a DESIRE? Do you like the person you see when you look in the mirror? There is a major difference between an ENHANCEMENT and a total CHANGE.

Many mothers have endured extreme changes to their bodies after carrying and nursing babies. There is a major difference between an 18 year old girl wanting breast implants to be a "D cup" and a 40 year old mother wanting a tummy tuck because despite a healthy diet and exercise, her abdominal muscles will never be reattached at the midline, and her loose skin will never go away without a surgical incision. Who is to judge the woman who gave up her body for her children, altering an image she sees in the mirror, which in turn psychologically alters her identity??? I'm not saying the 18 year old breast augmentation is any less deserving of the surgery, but I am saying the REASONS behind the surgery are without doubt, completely different. Another thing to keep in mind, is that a surgical modification is PERMANENT. If you wouldn't get a tattoo at 18 because you think "it might not be cool at age 80," ask yourself if you are sure you want the surgery!!!!! And also keep in mind that MOST implants need replacing in 7-10 years (saline) or 15-20 years (silicone), and you might have a different set of priorities at that point in your life. Be an EDUCATED consumer.

Many women purchase night creams and anti-wrinkle creams for their eyes, but cast judgment upon women who get BOTOX or other dermal fillers. Why? Don't both serve the same purpose? There might be slightly more pain (about a "2" on a 0-10 pain scale, lasting about 2 seconds), but without question, the BOTOX and fillers are more effective.

If you have purchased a shampoo that is "anti-frizz" and your hair naturally has some frizz, why did you want to change that about yourself? If it's to make yourself feel more beautiful, to enhance a positive self-image, and to feel confident, then more power to you. But if you're the type to cast stones at somebody who can afford a Keratin hair treatment, my feeling is you are judgmental out of jealousy, not righteousness.

There IS a problem, however, when somebody can't afford a phone bill or the rent, and they are getting their nails done, hair done, and countless other beauty treatments. But if priorities are in line, and the person can afford to look their very best, why do we have a tendency to bash other women for "what they've had done"?

I've heard many women (myself at times included) say "yes, she's pretty, but she just looks so fake." Well, some people definitely over-do it. The "Snookie tan" mixed with 3 inch long acrylic nails, caked-on make-up, breasts falling out of a shirt, and false lashes falling into their eyes in my HUMBLE opinion is not an attractive look. Or at least not one that I would want to have....but if we really want to empower women, we need to start by being less judgmental toward one another. I think that starts by looking within and being honest with ourselves.

But the awesome thing is, BEAUTY is not HOMOGENEOUS. Some people prefer blondes, some prefer brunettes. Some prefer thin eyebrows, some prefer thick. Some prefer fair skin, some prefer tan skin. We each define beauty for ourselves. We CAN'T let society dictate what "beautiful" means. Nor can we can't let our PARTNERS or our FRIENDS dictate what "beautiful" means. We have to individually decide what looks beautiful to us. That might be the "Snookie" look, for Snookie at least...and that's OK. It's also ok (and empowering to me!) for somebody to pass on beauty treatments, because they feel beautiful without anything! I think it's AWESOME when women don't wear make-up or get all fancy to go to the grocery store...it's like they have nothing to prove. But I highly doubt they've never put on lotion for dry skin...or never straightened their hair for a special occasion.

I see no harm in the cosmetic surgery world, when it is used for the right reasons, with people who can afford it, and with the will power and self discipline to limit themselves to a few treatments. The danger is when somebody starts down a slippery slope and wants every procedure offered, and no longer resembles a refreshed version of themselves. If you look in the mirror and you see somebody you psychologically identify with, you are beautiful and empowered. I think we need to do a better job, AS WOMEN, empowering other women and judging a little bit less.



  1. I loved every piece of this post and it really made me re-think about my harsh judgements of the Snookis and Real Housewives of Beverly Hills'. An eye opener for sure!

    1. Thanks, Adelaide. That's so sweet. I don't know if I would necessarily want to partake in their same way of living, but I do think I've been too quick to judge way more than once. Love hearing from you!

  2. Atta girl, Lindsay! You're incredibly honest and perceptive here. Made me rethink the way I define "augmentation" or "modification".

  3. The above comment is Porscha, btw.

  4. Thanks, Porscha. You know I care deeply about your opinion of me! So thanks :)