Menage a Trois

I just finished The Beauty Myth which, like Maxwell House Coffee, is good to the last drop. One of the final chapters is entitled Violence, and talks about how the Beauty Myth plays out in the medical and cosmetic surgery industries.

Overall, Naomi Wolf points out that, since women began to agitate for our rights in the Victorian era, and since the field of medicine was taken over by men and “professionalised”, the field of medicine has labeled many aspects of women’s minds and bodies as unhealthy. For the Victorians, this went on to the point where basically anything uniquely feminine was considered abnormal, something to be fixed by a treatment. As examples, Wolf pointed to the fact that everything from menstruation to childbirth to stubbornness was treated as a disease. We can see this play out today in the technoligisation of childbirth and other aspects of women’s health.

Wolf also compares these attitudes and practices with those in the cosmetic surgery industry today. This industry takes perfectly healthy, beautiful women and says that we need to be butchered and tortured in order to be pretty. There is nothing wrong with us naturally, and yet the cosmetic surgery industry demands that all of our boobs look like round, hard breast implants, and all our stomachs and bums and thighs have no fat or wrinkles or stretchmarks on them. (Wolf makes the good distinction between cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery, which includes reconstructive surgery for burn victims, etc).

I know that, at times, I have entertained the fantasy of having a nose job, a boob job or getting all the fat sucked out of my stomach. However, even if I would never actually let someone cut into my healthy body, I live in a society where the spectre of cosmetic surgery is always at the edge of my consciousness. We all do. All of us women are trying to feel confident, beautiful and healthy in a culture where drugging our minds and cutting up our bodies is perfectly acceptable.

Lately, I have been finding that this spectre is playing a role in my relationship with my body and with my partner. Whenever I am trying to feel sexy or be sexual, the spectre of violence mocks me from his position in the corner of my bedroom. I can be sharing precious, intimate moments with my partner, when suddenly the ghost forces his way into our bed, demanding that we heed his call to dissatisfaction and violence.

How do I kick this monster out of my bed? How do we, as women, convince both ourselves and others that all things feminine are not diseases, and that being a woman is perfect natural?

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One Response to Menage a Trois

  1. Claudia says:

    To answer your question: One word – acceptance. Until we (women) are capable of accepting ourselves in all of our feminine glory, no one else will. “I bleed without injury” doesn’t sound like ‘the curse’, now does it. Let’s start with menstruation, and follow up with birth and what we’ve been told about that. We must first tear down the idea that our bodies are somehow our enemies, and only then will we be able to love ourselves wholly.
    Good stuff, you’re writing here!
    lots of love,
    claud

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