And now for the Friday funnies. Macleans just posted a piece on the feminism of botox, or some such, that deserves at least a minimal riff. To wit, it reports on the ruckus that ensued when Sen. Harry Reid suggested that the new health care plan include a “bo-tax” on cosmetic procedures. Opposition erupted all over the place, McClean’s reported, including from this unlikely corner — NOW:
Opposition to the Bo-tax from the American Medical Association further muddled the matter. As did its denunciation by the National Organization for Women (NOW), the largest feminist lobby in the U.S. NOW’s president Terry O’Neill argued the Bo-tax unfairly targeted women, who comprise 90 per cent of cosmetic surgery recipients —especially middle-aged women facing workplace discrimination who rely on sometimes risky cosmetic procedures to “freshen” their image.
NOW’s seemingly pro-Botox stance was greeted as a jolting about-face from its long-standing opposition to the pressure on women to conform to rigid beauty ideals. Back in 1968, two years after its founding, the group famously burned a trash can full of bras, girdles and cosmetics outside of the Miss America beauty pageant.
Now middle-aged itself, with founding member Gloria Steinem admitting to having had cosmetic eye surgery, NOW’s opposition to the Bo-tax suggested resignation with the ubiquity of cosmetic work and acceptance of its new artificial norms. Older women’s aged appearance was holding them back, O’Neill told the New York Times: “I know a lot of women whose earning power stalled out or kicked down as they entered into their 50s, unlike their male counterparts’, whose really went up.
Oh, I get it. You can fiddle with your looks if you insist you’re doing it to feed your family. (Notice I did not touch “aged appearance”.) Then you can say you’re oppressed and you’re off the hook. But if you choose to go under the knife or — to go broad with this issue, which is where I really want to go — put on lipstick or color your hair or wear a pair of drop-dead stilettos just to feed your ego, you’re clearly a victim of the patriarchy. A tool of the sexist society.
Why else would you want to look good? Because, the wisdom goes, you’re only doing this to pander to the mythical male who not only dictates the definitions of beauty, but likes ’em young, too. (It’s beyond me why any smart woman would even care about pleasing some weenie who is much more comfortable with a starry-eyed girl ten or fifteen years his junior than a woman who is more or less his equal. But that’s beside the point.)
Anyway, hello? I’ve always seen this as a stupid and sexist way of looking at the way we look at our looks. Because let’s face it, vanity begins at home. In the bedroom mirror. There’s one big reason most of us futz with our hair, play dress-ups before we leave the house, put on makeup: It’s to please ourselves — and secondarily, each other. Significant others — or potential significant others — of the male persuasion don’t know Jimmy Choo from Jimmy Kimmel, wouldn’t know a low-light from a headlight, would rather your lipstick is off than on, and aren’t likely to pay close attention to what you’re wearing — unless it’s an old pair of jeans (and then they’re tickled, especially if it means they can dress in kind) or perhaps something Brittany Spears might or might not have worn to get out of a limo.
So I guess I don’t understand why we have to make up these silly rationalizations or apologies if we care about the way we look. We’re not going to lose our feminist card if we like flipping through the pages of Vogue, if we’re a sucker for the cosmetic counter at Macy’s, if we color our hair, or if, you know, we’re considering an eye job. We’re doing it for us.
What can be more feminist than that?